Daily Intentions

Daily Intentions

So it's a brand-new year, but for single parents, it might feel like we're stuck in Groundhog Day. What intentions can we implement to find a new and daily better rhythm? Today we're going to cover three main points. Number one, we're going to talk about the fact that Groundhog Day is real. And I'm not just talking about the actual Groundhog Day, I'm talking about the idea of Groundhog Day. Number two, how a daily schedule, routine, or structure can actually provide a place for your values and intentions to be fully realized. And number three, we're going to talk about some practical steps to bring daily intention to your life. So, as we're talking about daily intentionality, it's something that can feel impossible to single parents.

How can single parents live with intentionality while still juggling so much?

Let’s first of all identify the fact that Groundhog Day is real. It feels like the same day over and over again. Maybe a few things change, but you have to get up, do the routine, struggle through the morning, get them to school, and then work. It’s one thing after the other and you barely get through one day and bam—you're right into the next one with no time to recover. And then there's going to be some emergency or weird detour, and then it's going to be the next day again. It can be exhausting and feel like your roof is leaking and you're busy running with buckets, in survival mode. The only thing that changes day to day is baseball practice on Tuesdays or drum lessons on Wednesdays.

When my kids were younger, I felt like I was running a three-ring circus and that was my priority—just to make sure I could get everything done, check all the boxes. And in the busyness of my everyday life, underneath all that chaos and activity was a need for emotional safety and healing for my kids, to address the reality that their dad was gone. And I couldn't do that. I didn't do that. I wasn't being intentional with that. I just want to remind us how important that is because I missed that with my kids and that had repercussions.

And that's why it's important to talk about this feeling like it's a never-ending cycle. And you can't stop that cycle if you're not willing to stop and make a change. But the main thing I want to make sure people hear is: It's normal for you to feel like you're a chicken with your head cut off, running around. It's totally normal, but there is an undercurrent that we need to start paying attention to. How can we make this happen when we're juggling so much? How can we be intentional about making things a little bit less chaotic?

What’s so important about a daily schedule or routine and how can it help single parents feel less chaotic?

We know a daily schedule can provide a place for our values and intentions to be fully realized. A plan for the day or for the week will help you prioritize where to put your time and your energy. And it'll help guide the daily decisions and commitments and things that you have going on in the day-to-day and put value around those, so you know how you really need to be spending your time and being able to take inventory of it. There’s a quote by author Annie Dillard, let me read it for you all. “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives, what we do in this hour and in that one is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mockup of reason and order willed, faked, and so brought into being. It is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time. It is a lifeboat on which you find yourself decades later still living.”

I remember when Jax was little, we had a nightly rhythm—he actually thrives in structure and always has. I cooked dinner and we had dinner together. Then it was bath time. So we'd go up, play in the bath, and get him ready for pajamas. We'd play for a few minutes in his room and then we'd sit in the chair, read however many books we had time for, and I put him in bed, sing to him, talk, pray, do all the things. It was the same thing every single night. And there would be days where I was like, “I can't do this anymore. I'm going to go crazy.” The monotony and the structure is not how I thrive. It's not how my brain works. I get very bored very easily with it. And so, spontaneity is something that I had to have and have to have still in the day-to-day. Basically, what I'm getting at is: we are not all schedule people. But I do see the value and structure and at least having some intentionality around some things that are important.

And I really think it's also noticing what our kids need and we need and finding a balance there. I didn't do this well. I missed that emotional component in the busyness of the day-to-day routine. But I actually did the day-to-day routine really well. And so, it's those differences in how we approach life. We all need grace to do it the best we can a day at a time. And I think that an important part of scheduling is: can we do it today? Maybe I won't get it right tomorrow, but can I do it today? I think about S.Y.S.T.E.M.S: Save Your Self Time, Energy, Money, and Stress. And that appeals to me because if I decide something once, I don't have to figure it out again later. But I know it's not natural to everybody.

This is kind of silly, but I still do it today. I decided during my single-parent days that I was going to wear jeans and black shirts and that's it. So, I have a bunch of jeans and I have a bunch of black shirts. It sounds so simple and stupid, but I wasn't deciding what I was going to wear every day. And then I read that Mark Zuckerberg says he does the same thing. He doesn't have to think about what he's going to wear. And that's structure and plan. It’s something that I did then and still do now that takes a lot of pressure off. I used to buy my kids all the same color socks, the same color, the same type. There was no matching of socks. We had a basket of socks, that was it. And any sock you picked matched the other one.

What are some practical steps that we can take to bring daily intention into life?


Start with your values. What's most important to you? What can't fall off the plate? What are the non-negotiables? What ball can't you drop? Setting priorities according to your values can really help you sift through the negotiables. And you need to have flexibility with those. These things have to happen every day for my kids to thrive and for me to thrive. Everything else is optional. I’ve talked in the past about survival laundry, where we do laundry for the week. Those big sweatshirts and the big sweaters from last winter, nope, those stay in the back of the closet, and I will do what you need for this week. You just have to prioritize. And I think starting with values is important. What matters to you? What do you need to feel healthy and at peace? What do your kids need?

When there's so much going on and we’re trying to stick to our values, how are we making the decisions about extracurricular activities and things like that? I don't want Jax to miss out if he's wanting to try something. And so, I put some structure into those decisions. Jax wants to do everything. First of all, I don't have the money for that. Second of all, I don't have the time for that. So, he can choose one sport and one thing musically, and this is the season we're in right now. I know it’s not going to be a forever thing. As a matter of fact, just yesterday he kiboshed baseball for the spring.

I've let him choose different things, whether he plays basketball or baseball or flag football or whatever, because I know that at some point he's going to say, “Okay, here's the thing I want to focus on.” He's not always going to either qualify or want to play all the sports. So, I’m just letting him figure out where his heart is, and apparently baseball is not it, and that's totally fine. In looking at big sections of life, that's where I've been intentional with letting him drive the car on that and say, “This is what I want to do.” Obviously have some boundaries. You can't do it all. So talk about what you want to do in different seasons, then cut out what’s necessary, and just think before saying yes to every single thing, especially if it's something that our kids want.

Mornings were already chaotic for me having three girls on my own. I had full custody, so there was no time off. Mornings—for those of you that don't have girls—are crazy. “Zoe took my brush, Skylar's wearing my clothes.” I can't. Getting three girls ready to go to school was a nightmare. So, I always started the night before and it changed things. It helped me not have to deal with it in the moment. Just a little bit of planning, acknowledging those high-pressure points in the morning, making a plan and creating some structure, really helped me feel better about the days.

And I think it's also really important to not try to structure everything. There needs to be some spontaneity. Allowing some time that is open and actually being intentional about that on the daily. You could do anything you want with this time, You can scroll TikTok, take a hot shower, walk, whatever it is. But I think it's important to make sure you don't have to plan that time out. You've got to leave some room for spontaneity. Otherwise, it does start feeling like Groundhog Day: just rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat.

When I have set my mind on how I want the evening to go, and it doesn’t, it’s important to have the flexibility to say, “Okay, here are the things that can wait until tomorrow, or maybe I don't have to get that laundry done.” And it gives me that spontaneity and flexibility that if Jax gets home from school and he's like, “Hey, Mom, would you play with me today?” That I have the ability to say yes, because that is more important to me than anything else on the list, work included.

The day-to-day chaos can feel so overwhelming, but making that a priority and using your values to determine that is so beautiful. I started every morning with, “Lord, give me strength and help me know what my next right step is.” And just starting with a small specific intention. If it's one thing, two things, maybe three; ask God about it. Check in with other single parents or maybe in groups this week. Talk about what works, what doesn't, and start small. Think about an intention that could really change the course of your day and give you that space for flexibility, or plan ahead so that you're less stressed. We've looked this month at intentional ways to look at the year, to set a direction for the year with one word, how to reflect on the past and where we want to go next, and how be intentional daily in the same way.

Since I’m not very structured, one thing I’ll do is look at my week with more of a bird's eye view. I don't time block. I don't do all the structured things like we're talking about, but on either Sundays or Monday mornings going into the week, I'll look at what we have coming up for the week and figure out what nights I need to worry about dinner, when it’s covered, when we’re going to stop at Chick-fil-A. And so, I'll get a loose kind of idea of what the week ahead looks like without being so rigid and structured. And it helps me have a little bit of peace knowing that there's a loose plan. A structure doesn't have to be so rigid and so confining. It can be a general framework that really just brings life and health to everybody. We can define it in the way that works for our family. It helps take that off the daily list of having to think, “What am I going to cook or what are we going to eat?” It helped me feel like I had a little more breathing room.

One of our amazing leaders has told us before, she'll make a crockpot meal on two nights and then she'll have enough leftovers for a second night. So, it covers four dinners, basically.

Takeaways

1. Groundhog Day is real and it’s normal to feel chaos and like every day is just rinse and repeat but you can't change the cycle of Groundhog Day unless you're intentional.

2. Schedule and structure help ensure that our values and what's important to us actually happen. The only way we can actually start moving in an intentional direction with our kids is if we create some daily structure.

3. As parents, we can take concrete steps to ensure we have daily intentionality in our everyday lives. It's difficult, but it's important to pause and go, “Okay, here are some things I want to do differently.” And just picking one or two things.

Listener Question

Here's this week's question. A decade or two ago, moms might not let their kids play with the children of a single mom. Have your kids ever faced discrimination because of your marital status?

I think I might've been hyper critical of myself, but having three girls and being a single dad, sleepovers became a weird thing. We had them a lot, but I was aware of being in the other parents' position of going, “Okay, do I send my daughter over to a single dad's house?” And I think it's a legitimate question, but I can remember feeling like, “Gosh, I'm not affording the opportunity to my girls that if I was a single mom or if I was still married.” So yeah, I think there is. I was proactive. I would call the other parent and I would straight up just hit it head on, say, listen, “I know that Zoe wants to have Macy over and we don't know each other really well. Let me just tell you a little bit about myself, what's important to me, and what's important to us as a family and just let me know. I totally understand if you don't feel comfortable; I'll help explain that to the girls.” So, I hit it straight on, and I don't think I ever had anyone not come over that I know of.

This is such good input for our listeners. It makes a difference. Just be communicative and hit things head on and challenge the assumptions in ourselves about what other people are thinking or what we perceive as discrimination.

I don't think I've ever faced anything in terms of Jax being able to play or being invited over. I don't think he's ever faced that, but I think I've probably faced it. I've been friends with his baseball coach and wife for several years now. But in the early days when we first met, and I had to talk to him a lot about baseball things, she didn't know me. And I could definitely tell that there was a little bit of unease there because I was a single mom talking to her husband a lot. Anyway, I intentionally became friends with her and we're still great friends. She texted me today and asked about getting together soon. I never addressed her necessarily head-on or said anything about it. That would've been weird. I just intentionally made sure I was talking to her as much as I talked to him or saying, “Hey, I was just talking to your husband about X, Y, and Z “ and being cognizant and thoughtful.

We are continuing to bring you into these conversations with your questions. Please keep sending those in. We need more questions so that we have some for the next few months, so send them in. It can be anything!

And if you want to send in a question, go to our website. You'll find directions on how to email, call, or leave a voice message. I want to throw out something new here. Message us on Instagram or Facebook. Please join our community there. We'd love to have you.


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