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Kris and I recently attended the Progressive Education Summit in Baltimore, MD, and we had the chance to see dear friends, present some of our work on feedback, and hear an exceptional keynote from Shelley Moore (seriously, if you haven’t seen her speak, you should watch her TEDTalk). There were several instances over the course of the day when I found myself struck by an interesting thought or new idea. More than almost any other aspect of a going to a conference, I find that piece of it—the being surprised by a different angle—my favorite part. I’d had several of those moments listening to Moore’s talk at the beginning of the day, but the idea that I’ve spent the most time thinking about since flying home was a distinction that a presenter, Nikomar Mosley, made in the final workshop of the day.

The session was about being a social-emotional leader, understanding what brought us joy but also what aggravated us. We talked about how we decompressed and some regular habits that could be beneficial to create. But in thinking about a work/life balance, Mosley shared a new way of thinking that’s stuck with me: he encouraged us to think not about having harmony between our work lives and our personal lives, but rather balancing our work lives and our personal renewal. I could be an outlier, but for me, my personal life consists of a lengthy to-do list. Packing lunches, folding laundry, and tidying up feature prominently. Those things, however, don’t give me any space from the long list of demands in front of me each day.

It was interesting to think about in the moment, but it wasn’t until after I got home that it sank in. Usually, after my two young sons go to bed, my husband and I do some tasks to make sure the house is in decent enough shape before we watch tv or scroll our phones or, in essence, retreat. It’s our time of day to do whatever we’d like, but I don’t think I realized that I was doing a poor job of making that time count. I was squandering the time meant just for me on reality shows and ice cream.

It turns out that I’ve been trying to balance the wrong things because I haven’t been prioritizing what brings me contentment and rejuvenation.

I think this is a common thing that happens with parents of young kids. At almost every moment, you’re needed by someone who needs something, or who wants something in such a particular way that it feels like a need. When, in the past few weeks, I’ve reassured a friend with a baby that their lives will return to something that feels more normal eventually, I’ve also tried to remind them that they need to do something that feels restorative every so often. Maybe it’s a solo walk or a massage or reading something that has nothing to do with children. And it needs to start now, not at some future, less demanding date.

So, I’m trying to reevaluate how I spend my time so that instead of going to bed too late after an unsatisfying evening, I’m choosing activities that bring me back to my most centered, calm, and ready self. These past weeks have focused on walking and listening to my body for cues to rest. What’s next? I’m open to suggestions!

If you have an idea of something that’s worked for your own renewal, share it in the comments!


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