Making time for a spiritual practice when you have young children

I could’ve titled this post “Aspirations for the year” because creating space for my own spiritual growth while staying at home with a two year old and one year old has been my focus for months. I don’t pretend to have it figured out, but I want to share what’s working for me in the hope that my suggestions will benefit others. Let’s jump right in.

Primary barriers

The biggest barriers in nurturing my spiritual practice are 1) having time and 2) having space. The lack of time speaks for itself…it’s hard to set aside blocks of time for meaningful spiritual experiences; put another way, it’s hard to have a spiritual breakthrough while your child is absorbed in a 15-minute episode of Trash Truck. Hey, it can happen, but it’s tough. It’s much easier to do a load of laundry and let your spirituality take a backseat.

In some ways, I think creating time is easier than creating space. By this, I don’t mean physical space. I think of creating space in energetic terms; I need a basic amount of calm and focus to be able to sink into a spiritual experience…both of which can be tricky to come by in a house with kids.

I’ve looked for ways to address these barriers in my life and made some small adjustments that have yielded big results for me.

First, reframe how you define “spiritual practice.”

For months, I was so hung up on wanting the perfect, deep spiritual experience — where I could set aside two hours for a reflection on self love for instance — that I missed out on having any experience at all. Don’t be like me! Don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good! Be honest with yourself about what’s realistic in this phase of your life and give yourself a lot of grace when expectations aren’t always reality.

Look for ways to incorporate spiritual practices into everyday life.

After months of trying and failing to make time for myself, I had a breakthrough: if I wasn’t able to make time away from my kids, then my kids would need to be part of my practice. My goal for these rituals is simple…grounding and gratitude. They’re easy to incorporate into our morning routines, and though my children are young, I think it helps model good habits for them as well as benefitting me. Here are a few habits to consider:

  1. Light a candle or incense and set an intention for the day.
  2. Play grounding music. I’ve been listening to a track called “Any Energy Still” by Beautiful Chorus on the Insight Timer app; it repeats the mantra “any energy I do not need may leave” and it feels so clearing. I do this while I’m tidying our kitchen and making breakfast. Side note: This is a concept called “pairing” that I learned from Gretchen Rubin, and it’s a great way to incorporate new habits. For instance, flossing your teeth while you talk on the phone; you don’t need to set aside extra time and the old habit (talking on the phone) is a reminder to do the new habit (flossing). Simple but effective.
  3. When the kids are fussy, I burn sage as a reset for all of our moods.
  4. Show gratitude and acknowledge nature. As soon as my children wake up, we sit on the sofa together and look out the window to our backyard. I say good morning to the sun, trees, flowers, insects and animals and thank them and Mother Earth for their protection, bounty and love.
  5. Prepare special baths on the full moon with Epsom salt, essential oils and a relaxing playlist.

Next, I want to implement some morning yoga with my kids and one page of journaling for me while they play with their morning baskets. Here are some other ideas for getting out of your head and into your body.

While these ideas are by no means groundbreaking, I’ve found that they help me keep a healthy mindset and inspire me to make more time for spiritual development when I can.

Plan ahead to facilitate deeper spiritual work.

Simple daily practices, while incredibly effective, likely aren’t a replacement for deeper spiritual work; that type of practice takes time, focus and the ability to really drop in to reflect and receive messages. This area is still a work in progress for me, but here a few things that are making a difference:

  1. Have a list of resources ready so that when unexpected free time appears, you don’t waste it by wondering what to do. Your list can include rituals, articles or podcasts you want to explore, meditations, local and online classes, journal prompts, etc. I keep mine in the notes section of my phone so that it’s always available.
  2. If possible, find a community in your area that shares your belief system and your schedule. I recently came across a teacher based in Atlanta who is the mother of two young children. Most of the people in the community she’s built are also moms, and the times they gather are much more aligned to my schedule than someone who appeals to single adults.
  3. Put it on the calendar. Gretchen Rubin coined the adage: “something that can be done at any time is often done at no time.” I found that by scheduling my spiritual work, I was much more likely to not let other things like housework get in the way. You could begin with rituals aligned with moon cycles since that offers a built-in structured framework.

You can always ask for support from the Universe…for a community…for more time in your day…for help prioritizing…for a new teacher to come into your life…to help you make space to learn and grow. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you might also want to adopt a time-related mantra. But most importantly, give yourself grace when things aren’t going well and acknowledge that this is a particularly busy season of life. If you’re feeling a little dormant, know that spring is coming.

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