What Can I NOT Do Today? A Guest Post by Shawna

Sep 12 2014

What Can I NOT Do Today?
by Shawna of Not The Former Things

I have always, always been a planner person.

This has been true since a very young age – I remember when I was four years old, I wanted my mom’s written-in calendar so much, I would’ve preferred it to any toy. I begged to go to the office supply section at every grocery store, just to stare longingly at the pens and pads of paper. When I was in college, I spent way too much of my scholarship fund in the bookstore. Even today, when a friend pulls out her planner, I have to take a look. It’s been a part of me as long as I can remember.

Throughout my life, I have planned away, making one to-do list after another.

Then, I became a momma.

Then, I became a stay at home momma.

Then, I became a stay at home, homeschooling momma, to exceptional children with special needs.

Then, I became a very tired, overwhelmed, have no idea what to do next momma.

And then, suddenly, the to-do list and planner didn’t quite do the trick anymore. In fact, they mocked me. Instead of being the cherished friends I had grown to love, these tools became yet another symbol of my failure as a mom.

At first, I thought it was the type of planner. (I wish I was joking…) I seriously thought maybe I just needed a different type of planner – one more suited for a mom at home instead of a mom at work. Turns out it wasn’t having the wrong planner.

Then, I thought maybe I just needed to use it differently. I spent an afternoon recreating page after page to more accurately reflect my life – changing travel pages to meal plans, and lists of important numbers to therapist contact info. Turns out it wasn’t the way I was using the planner.

It wasn’t until our lives became so completely complicated with sleepless nights, violent, damaging meltdowns, and what felt like emotional trauma all over the place, that I finally realized – no amount of planning would change our circumstances

Somewhere, in that mess, I began to understand that there would be much, much more on the to-do list, but most of the list would be things I had never had to accomplish before. Things likemake it home safely after a car ride 15 minutes or more, or just make sure only things in this room are broken went straight to the top of the list.

At first I fought it. I was sure if I just tried harder, woke up earlier, stayed up later, and worked faster, I could accomplish every single thing on my list. What’s worse,  I thought my children should be able to keep up as well.

I am here to say, it was just not possible. It brought me to my knees (spiritually and figuratively).

I just could not keep up.

So, slowly but surely, I let go.

I asked my husband what was most important to him – turns out he could’ve cared less about 75% of the things I was freaking out over every day. Then, I asked the boys what they wanted. Playing with them (big sigh and mommy conviction followed) and feeding them were the top requests. In fact, they were the only requests (now that I think about it, my husband’s requests were not that dissimilar…). Suddenly, my list was getting a lot smaller.


A year later, I am surprised at how comfortable I have become with all of this. So much so that I worry sometimes that we are too relaxed. (I actually have a good friend who has promised to keep me accountable. If I completely lose it and start sliding down the slippery slope of sluggard-dom and total filth, she is the one nominated to put me in check!)

Now, instead of feeling like a failure when I see my huge to-do list, I am trying to mentally start checking things off my not-to do list each morning.

Silly? Yes.

But I find there is so much more room for grace and freedom, when I am not holding myself to my own unrealistic standard. There is so much grace in saying, “Oh well. A perfectly scrubbed kitchen floor is just not the season we are in.”

There is so much joy in living life with my family, my eyes and heart focused on them, rather than all the things that need to be done around them.

So, what are you NOT going to do today?


This essay was originally published at Not The Former Things.


Shawna is a wife to a wacky, voice actor husband, and a momma to two uniquely challenged little boys. She finds herself increasingly required to live beyond the limits of her crazy self, and serve a wonderfully complex family – where High Functioining Autism and Learning Disabilities are schooling her every single day. She blogs about the messy and the painful, the sweet and the laughable, and how Jesus is in the midst of it all at Not The Former Things. You can also find her on Facebook