I am a mom and a wife, as well as an artist. When I use the word ‘vocation’ in this case I mean family life. It’s my particular path and it comes with its own difficulties, as everyone’s path does. Here are five of the many things I think help me approach my vocation with more joy and presence of mind.
Coffee. I know, it’s probably *technically* substance abuse to creep, trembling, to the coffee pot and whisper to it, “hello, Joe; make sweet sweet love to my nervous system before I black out and fail this day entirely.” But there’s something about that steamy cup of buzzing liquid beans that really takes the edge off of what has turned out to be a fog of tired. It settled in right around the sixth month of my pregnancy and, even after my sleepless first year became a not-so-distant memory, it never left. So…coffee. I prefer a latte, but I’ll take gas station diesel juice too. Whatever you’ve got, pour me a cup of it.
Toddler Snuggles. These can be spontaneous on the part of the toddler in question (ideal) or, as is more likely, they can be achieved through wheedling, pleading, or the placing of candy on the shoulder. Either way, they are even better fuel than coffee because they actually make you less likely to yell when said toddler scribbles malformed pictures of what he calls ‘tree monkeys’ on the living room wall. And also, they melt you right into a puddle of love on the floor. Snuggles all dang day—yes please.
Alone Time. (*that is not for work*). This is a tall order, as I well know. It’s the one I’m least good at sticking to—hours are scarce for all mothers, especially if they are to be solitary. There is always something vying for your time, whether you run a household full time, work a second job at home, or work outside the home, or some combination thereof. I work at least thirty two hours a week outside the house, and while those hours probably qualify as alone time in some technical sense, I do not find them to be quite the recharge I sometimes need in order to approach motherhood with joy and full presence of mind. Once or twice a week, I need a solitary hike or an hour in a quiet chapel or a yoga session to feel at peace.
Journaling. This can, of course, overlap with alone time—but it does not necessarily have to. Dumping thoughts on paper (or into a document on my laptop), whether coherently or incoherently, whether cleverly or not, is sort of essential to my well-being. I stew over things. If my mind were a food it would be slow-cooked stew that I left on too long and accidentally burned to an inedible level. I have learned that if, instead of freaking out over one thing or another, if I take five minutes to toss my thoughts into a bound book or a note on my phone, I find the wherewithal to approach the situation more effectively and calmly.
Books. Again, this can overlap with alone time, but if it can’t, I sometimes get audio books and play them while my son and I putz around the house or while I do chores. Filling my mind with something other than my own thoughts is extremely healthful, especially when said mind is, as stated above, a burnt and evaporated pot of chili some days. I like to have a variety of books on my bedstand or in my Audible app—everything from spiritual reading (like Boundless God, by Adrienne Von Speyr, or Thomas Merton’s Into The Silence) to Tina Fey’s Bossypants.
There are many things I employ to help me walk the imperfectly perfect work/life tightrope that is having a family. These are just a few—but I hope that, if you’re looking for ways to thrive better in your life, at least one of these is helpful. What do you find helpful in your life’s vocation?