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Intentional Planning for an Intentional Life

How committing to staying committed is improving my life as a woman, a wife, a mother, and a member of my community

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IFirst Time Mom

My nature is organization. My nature is perfection. Neither of these innate skills of mine has ever been fully realized because my nature is also to be stubborn and to procrastinate.

When I left the working world in 2018, a few days before my expected delivery date for our first child, I had just wrapped up a year-long project that would gain statewide notoriety in its relative field. I knew this would translate into first-time motherhood. I knew I would be the best at it — that women would be envious of my ability to handle it all while still looking and feeling amazing. I knew I would return to work following my maternity leave because “I am a career woman”.

Needless to say, I was mistaken on everything.

Not because motherhood in itself is difficult to manage, but because one of my biggest hurdles in life was, and still can be at times, an inability to manage myself.

Along with all of the characteristics I possess that are perfect for being my version of the ideal mother, wife, homemaker, etc., I had to face that what I had also packed for this journey was poor time-management, impulsiveness, and an oftentimes stifling fear of failure.

Aside from hurrying to wrap up that work project, hanging baby clothes, buying/building nursery furniture and so on, I had no plan. I hadn’t prepared myself for the deeper realities of the major life event to come.

I was preparing myself to fail at motherhood, to fail my son, to fail my fianceé as our wedding date grew closer, and, ultimately, to fail myself by not being the best I could be for me.

That first month as a mother was a personal hell. I had no schedule in place, our son had no schedule in place. I didn’t expect it to be easy, but I certainly did not expect it to be so hard.

Why was this so damn difficult?

I had walked casually into motherhood as with most endeavors I took up in life, so in addition to the post-partum depression, anger and an urge to give in took root.

I resented him at times, our son. I resented what I felt I was being reduced to —a visibly exhausted, incapable wreck who was not handling motherhood well at all, reaching for wine and melatonin in the lowest times for escape. I wanted out. No, the truth was that I wanted in —in on the secret of motherhood. I wanted to gather all of my parts and mold them into something solid, something strong enough to withstand it all.

The secret was simple: Intentional Planning

What I learned from this and the months that would follow, and ultimately become easier, was that being intentional about my time would lead to a less stressed, purposeful life. Planning was not about restrictions or restraints on my life, it was an act of love toward myself and my family.

Fast forward to this January…

Here, we are a few weeks shy from meeting our second child — our daughter. I am hopeful because this time around I come equipped with motherhood experience and the gift of recency. I remember how difficult I’d made things for myself and I had to be prepared for her, for all of us.

Week 1 – January 1st – 5th: Developing Commitments

I used the first week of January to write out a list of 20 commitments to span the year; ensuring that they were actionable and measurable. This wasn’t my time to start, but to thoroughly plan.

Questions for Self:

  • What will these commitments look like in practice?
  • How would I measure success (or failure) by the end of the year?

Week 2 – January 6th – 12th: Put it into Practice

The second week of this year was dedicated to putting these plans into action. A test trial. It took a few days to get into the groove of this new system.

Questions for Self:

  • What worked?
  • What was unrealistic about the commitments I had set for myself?
  • What do I need to work on to stick to these commitments?

Week 3 – January 13th – 19th: Revise and Edit

This week was designed to revise, edit, and build on what’s happened to create a clearer focus for the rest of the month. This was also the worst week for me.

I felt drained and woke up hours later than my 7:00 AM resolution. I put off content planning and thought about throwing in the towel on personal ventures.

I was already giving in and hadn’t made it through the first half of the month.

Questions for Self:

  • Will I be able to do this?
  • Am I able to change?
  • Do I want any of this?

Week 4 – January 20th – 26th: Recalibrate and Try Again

Yes, the week prior was discouraging. This week was better mentally, but I still had not kept up with commitments to practicing yoga 3 days/week, and my virtual guru, Adriene, was not taking any days off, neither were her other 5 million followers. My resolution to make the bed daily had gone completely out of the window and although my mind was clearing up, I was still not back in the groove I had carved out for myself.

Somewhere, I found clarity. I recognized that this difficulty was a lesson. A gift. My biggest takeaway was this:

If there is no room reserved for patience, forgiveness, acceptance, or reality, I will not succeed on this journey —no matter how strict and outlined the schedule I make for myself.

I am days away from giving birth. The resolutions I’ve made for myself — to fast once per yearly quarter, to read a few chapters of the Bible each day and ultimately finish this year, to read 1 book per month, to lose x number of lbs before our September vacation — they are all at the whim of this pregnancy.

This is something I needed to face. My expectations for myself needed to be carefully reviewed and quickly adjusted. Always needing to appear strong, this would take time and some serious effort, but acknowledging it was most important in this journey of progression.

Questions for Self:

  • Will the occasional failure throw you totally off course?
  • Are you capable of extending grace and mercy toward your self?
  • Can you simply commit to staying committed?

Week 5 – January 27th – 31st

I’d reached the final week. It wasn’t perfect. I was still running from the reading repetition of God’s Law in Leviticus. I frequently stared down my unmade bed and determined it wasn’t getting done. 8:30 AM wakeups weren’t uncommon. So, I decided to revise some of the plans I’d made to more realistically fit my current state — my life as a full-time mother to a 1-year-old, currently in her third trimester, who was reconstructing her time and her behavior. This would take time. I had to accept this.

That’s the thing about plans. That’s all they are. They are designed to be reworked until they are practical and feasible enough to satisfy the intended outcome. Sometimes, we find that plans don’t work out and we find the courage to cancel them.

It’s February now.

Being Intentional with Motherhood

I am inching closer to that expected due date. Our bags are packed for the delivery stay. My husband has put the bassinet back together and found a spot he’s proud of. I am sleeping as long as I can so that I’m able to be present with our son for the rest of the time we have with him as the only child. I’m reading when I can, napping when I can. I’m working to treat myself and my time with respect. There’s still work to be done, but, perhaps, I can be more intentional with these commitments and even the failures that present themselves along the way.

I’ll be my own work in progress. I’ll let myself be my biggest commitment this year.

Maybe that’s what it’s all about, or what it should be about — persistence, not mastery outright, but practice until it’s a part of you.

If only good habits were as easily learned as the bad ones. The bad ones seem to introduce themselves and cling onto us and stay. If they were as easily learned, we’d miss all the lessons, all the understandings of and introductions to the parts of self we get to know along the way.

Admittedly, I’m afraid of parenting again, but I’m far more humble now. I can’t do it all — at least not alone. I don’t need anyone to be envious of me. I’m thankful for resilience and strength and being very good at things, yes, but I’d rather be someone people can relate to, someone people aren’t afraid to lean on, someone whose testimony can build up others in their lowest times.

I want to be a dependable wife, mother, and woman. One who isn’t worn thin and does feel amazing because she has been that way to herself. That’s where I’m headed. I’m committed to that.

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Sabreena Miller

Sabreena Miller and her family have made a home for themselves in Bellevue, Pennsylvania — a small, yet dynamic borough located just outside the city of Pittsburgh. Here, she uses her experience in public service, expertise in blighted property law, and her amazing personality to help revitalize and improve her neighborhood as a board member of the local community development corporation.

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