This post is one of my all-time favorite blog posts. In it, the author Kelle talks about the difference between the fuel in your life - the things that keep you inspired and happy - and the filler, all the mundane little tasks that have to be completed but tend to deplete or, at best, have a neutral effect. Go read her post and then come back.
Before I quit my job, I was terrified at the prospect of filling all the hours of the day. I didn't really know how to entertain my kids, they were a lot less independent at the time then they are now, and my most recent experience with being at home had been maternity leave which, honestly, I hated.
It was pleasantly surprising, therefore, to realize exactly how easy it is to fill your days without going to an office job. There are meals to plan, shop for and cook, clothes to wash, messes to clean, errands to run, correspondence to write, small injuries to kiss better, school pick ups and drop offs and a thousand other small chores that tend to add together to far more than the waking hours available in a day (note: it is a wonder to me how even a percentage of this stuff got done when we both worked outside the house).
At first, completing all these "filler" tasks was my fuel. For the first time since I had kids I felt vaguely on top of things and like I was at least wearing all my hats somewhat competently rather than feeling like an abject failure on all fronts. Over a year later, I've got routines down, our days mostly planned out and a pretty good rotation of cleaning chores and errand running. It doesn't stretch my mind to complete my to-do lists each day, but the filler can, well, fill the hours effortlessly.
What I'm finding more challenging these days is pinpointing my fuel. I love taking photographs, but the weather is colder now and not enjoyable (for me) to be outside in. You can only take so many photos of the inside of your house and if we are out and about the kids tend to require a level of vigilance and/or manhandling that doesn't allow for my camera to tag along. I love reading, but that tends to be more of a mental escape for me than something to really rev me up. In the past I've found physical exercise to be particularly fueling but I've gotten out of the groove and haven't found the motivation to get back to it (so very many excuses available!)
Returning to the transition from working outside the house to staying at home, I'm discovering that I need a tangible feeling of achievement to be fulfilled at the end of the day. Sure, the over-arching achievement is the raising of my kids and I don't mean to minimize the importance of that. I love that I can do the things that make ME feel like a good parent and am not having to fit that in around a job with office hours. But it's easy to feel like you're just running on a treadmill all day long - making meals that may or may not get eaten, washing the same dishes day in and day out, endless loops of laundry and circuits between school-grocery store-drycleaner-Target.
I'm fueled by doing, by accomplishing. For the first 12 months or so after we moved into the house, I had endless lists of projects that went into creating our new home. That list has dwindled now to smaller, less satisfying chores and simultaneously I have fewer usable kid-free hours to sink my teeth into a project.
With all the holiday happenings throughout the next six weeks, I don't think I'll miss the fuel. In fact, selecting gifts for loved ones and participating in efforts to help others are two things that do fuel me and will keep me going. But I can foresee that come January I will need to have some plans in place to propel me through the second half of the winter.
What kinds of things fuel you?