Editor's note: This article was originally published on Power of Moms. It has been republished here with permission.
"The biggest mistake I made as a parent is the one that most of us make ... I did not live in the moment. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get to the next thing – dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less."
– Anna Quindlen
I've been making this mistake. Yep, I sure have. I treasure getting things done. I love the feeling of checking things off my list and progressing toward goals. I love the sense of accomplishment I feel when I finish writing an article, conducting a successful Power of Moms Retreat, or simply cleaning out a closet or folding a load of laundry. When we're not progressing and accomplishing things, it's easy to get down on ourselves and life can look a little bleak.
But maybe sometimes the "doing" IS the accomplishment.
When I sit and read books with my kids the goal is not really to finish the book. It's to enjoy the process of reading the book together and learning the lessons it offers. When I go to my Learning Circle meeting the goal isn't to get the meeting done. It's to enjoy the meeting and learn from each other and have fun together.
I need to apply this to more things in my life. The main goal of bedtime shouldn't really be to get the kids in bed (although some nights that goal is paramount!). Shouldn't it really be about snuggling with my kids, praying with them, reading to them, feeling a nice little end-of-the-day connection? And maybe the goal of cleaning up the kitchen after dinner with my kids should actually be to talk and laugh while we work together. April Perry's great article "What's the Point of Housework?" taught me this.
I need to work on enjoying the "doing" and accepting the process as part of the goal. It's the present that really counts.
My dad had us memorize this quote by the Sanscrit poet (whoever that is) when we were little and I need to keep it more to the front of my brain:
"Yesterday is but a dream. Tomorrow but a vision. But today, well lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well, therefore to this day."
Accomplishments are important. Progress is vital. But learning to enjoy and treasure the present and the actions involved in moving toward our goals is also very important. I know that when I take the time to cherish the "doing" in my life, I feel more joy. And it's an ongoing part of my personal progression to learn to enjoy the processes involved in progression more and more.
Saren adores her five energetic, adventurous, precocious children but doesn't totally adore the mess and busyness and bickering that comes with them! She grew up all over the world, did her B.A. at Wellesley College and her M.Ed. at Harvard, did humanitarian service in Eastern Europe, and conducted training programs for teachers and enrichment programs for kids. But after she got married and had her five children, the real education and work began! When she's not trying to answer five different needs and questions at once, she writes and puts together programs for moms for the website she co-directs, Power of Moms. She currently lives in Ogden, Utah and loves reading, hiking, and biking with her family (or by herself when possible!). She often struggles with balance but finds joy in being involved in many things that are meaningful to her.