Do you feel disengaged in motherhood and wish you could be “anywhere but here?” Hear how Brittney Smart, a mom of five, went from being apathetic and dispassionate about motherhood to a re-engaged mother her kids actually wanted to confide in and be around. Brittney shares how she changed her motherhood story with charity and five intentional minutes a day.
How to Listen
Read Brittney’s book The Five-Minute Time In
Scripture Brittney shared about charity – 1 Corinthians 13:1
SMM 047: Finding Beauty in the Hard of Motherhood || Melinda Peterson
SMM 049: How to Pursue What Will Really Make You Happy in Motherhood|| Richard and Linda Eyre
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Intro: You’re listening to the Spiritually Minded Mom podcast. This is episode 89: How to Let Go of Wanting to be Anywhere but Here in Motherhood with Brittney Smart.
Darla: Hi, this is Darla Trendler and welcome to Spiritually Minded Mom. My goal is to help you gain confidence in your ability to hear and follow God’s voice in motherhood and in life. Listen to hear interviews with all kinds of moms who are learning to navigate motherhood by partnering with our heavenly parents.
Darla: Welcome to the Spiritually Minded Mom podcast, this is Darla and I’m so happy that you’re here today. I’m very happy to welcome my guest for this episode. Her name is Brittney Smart and she is a wife and a mother to five children and they range in ages from four to 15 and she lives in Northern Utah. She is an author of several books and most recently, her book The Five Minute Time In and we’re going to talk about that and you’re going to, you’re going to love what she has to share about that. Brittney enjoys hiking, reading, eating treats, going to bed early and being done with her daily exercise. So Brittany, I am so happy to welcome you. Thank you so much for being on the podcast today.
Brittney: Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here, Darla.
Darla: This is going to be great. Okay. So I mentioned that you recently, you’ve written several books, but you recently written one called The Five Minute Time In, and this is what I really, I would really love to talk about because what you talk about in this book, which I have recently read, is about small dose intentionality. And so we’re going to dive in a little deeper in that. But, and I love, I love that. But, tell me the story of what your motherhood life was like before you wrote this book and what prompted you; you kind of did an experiment. So tell me, paint the picture. What was life like? You have five kids. What was going on at that time before you wrote this book?
Brittney: Okay. Well, before I wrote the book, I was pregnant with my fifth child, and so my oldest was about 11. And, I had always kind of wanted to be a mom. I was excited. I wanted, you know, when I was younger, I wanted to have like a van full of 10 kids and do the whole massive family thing. I come from a family of nine children and I thought that was in my future and plans changed and things didn’t work out necessarily that way. But I was so grateful to have each of my children. And we just, I mean everyone’s average, everyone’s normal looks different, right? Like we all, whatever is normal for me might be abnormal for, probably is, let’s be honest, probably is abnormal for others. But I would say that we were a pretty average family. We had pretty good health and happy times and sad times and we got out the Legos all the time, you know, whatever. We were, we were active. I worked freelance for a lot of years as a, as a young mom, doing some editing and writing from my home. My husband works out of the home. I resonate with being a full-time mom. And so, you know, things, whatever. It wasn’t like Pollyanna. We had struggles and stuff, but, but things were pretty normal life. Then gradually, as I, as I was pregnant with my last, it was kind of a difficult pregnancy. I had to go on a modified bedrest toward the end and I had some health problems before that and I don’t know, somehow, I just kind of got onto this weird trajectory of disengagement. I loved my kids. They were physically safe and I was never like diagnosed with clinical depression or anything like that. So I can’t speak to people who have challenges very different than my own. But what I can say is that I just found myself wanting to be anywhere but here when it came to being a mom. I was tired. If I’m being honest and I just wanted my own space. I was kind of on what I call in my book, apathetic autopilot, where I would do whatever it took to get them on their own, shoo them out the door, you know, like fine. Yes. Watch screens. I don’t care. There were times when they would come home from school and they pull stuff out of their backpack and they’d kind of look at me, you know, like normally that’s a time where kids maybe want to show their parent what they’ve done at school or talk about this art project or this test or whatever. And they would kind of look at me and just kind of automatically go to the recycle bin and put their papers in there just because they knew like, oh she doesn’t care because that’s behavior I had displayed for far too long. So that’s kind of where I found myself and that’s all described in much greater and gorier and more embarrassing detail in my book.
Darla: But it’s so relatable. Like so many moms, I know so many moms are out there going, yep. I mean I can relate, I’ve felt that way before. So was there, was there like a one point where you just kind of had your breaking point and you knew you needed to change or was it something gradual that happened? Because your book is writing about the change that you made. What happened to help you realize, I’ve got to come out of this apathetic state I’m in right now in motherhood?
Brittney: Well it was twofold. There was like kind of a gradual that I had a problem, first of all, that this was a problem that even though my children were fed and housed, they we’re still not being, like loved, you know, like I wasn’t providing that security, emotional security for them. So that was, I, I describe it as kind of like, I’m washing this window and you know, mentally I’m cleaning this window and every time I realized oh my kids are getting along without me, they don’t need me, or they’re sad or they’re only playing with each other. They’re not reaching out to me or they’re saying, oh, you better clean that up, Mom’s going to be so mad if she, you know, like when they’re banding together and I’m on the outside, that was kind of like a swipe of like washing this window and when I finally realized this is not okay, this is a problem, that’s like the window was clean but inside, it was a huge mess. And so like I had gotten, you know, to one step of like clarity, but there was still a whole room full of mess that needed to be cleaned up. And part of what helped with that ultimate switch like, like you talked about, yes I came to a, an experiment, but the reason why I think is I wasn’t doing anything spiritual or anything at the time it was more like, you know, my, my autopilot, like laundry, check, dishes, check, scriptures, check, you know like that kind of a thing. But, this one particular day I was in the Bible and there was a scripture and I don’t have it memorized. I probably should because it really did change my life. But it’s in first Corinthians 13:1 and it says, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.” And even now when I read that, I’m like, that’s so interesting that that odd scripture was the one that caught my attention at this time. But it totally did. And what caught me was charity. And I realized that I was not feeling charity and I was not displaying charity, the pure love of Christ, like just love in general. And like whatever I was saying, it was like sounding brass and tinkling, you know, cymbal. It had no substance. It didn’t mean anything because there was no charity in the love behind it. And so that’s when I decided like, Oh this needs to change. How do we go about changing this? So that was the moment.
Darla: That’s a great scripture. And charity, so applicable in motherhood, but we don’t always think of it in that way. But, yes, we need to have charity for our children and to love them. So, so you came upon this idea of having a time in. So explain what that was and how you got the idea and what, you know, what it looked like when you started implementing it.
Brittney: Yeah. I, once I realized, okay, I need to change and then my train of thought went something like how do I change? I don’t really care. I don’t really have time. I don’t have energy. How am I going to have this massive like kumbaya moment with my children that’s real and not contrived and superficial? And so I, I spent some time thinking and pondering about that and ultimately came up with an experiment that I was not sure would work, but that it was the best I could come up with at the time. And that was to like you say, do this time in, and that involved, my plan was to spend, commit to four weeks of time in with my children for five minutes each night individually. And so every night before their lamp out, I would go to my children one-on-one in their rooms and sit with them. Spend time with them. And I, yes I did, for those first few weeks, I did set an actual timer because my internal clock was way off at this point, but, and that was it. That was the whole bare bones of this time and the first night, so it’s kind of a, I don’t mean to mislead anyone. I did time in with my older three children who were at the time, seven, nine and eleven, I think. I did not do time in with my infant because, infant, and my toddler, because I was home with her all day, although I did make changes during the day so that I was more intentional with the moments that I had with her. Because let’s be honest, a lot of times, even though you’re spending a ton of time with children, it doesn’t necessarily mean that time is, is intentional or as high quality. So I did make those changes, but for the time and purposes, I just, I did my older three kids and the very first night I didn’t announce to anyone that I was doing this. I just kind of decided, okay, I’m going to do this and see what happens. I have no idea what will happen. And I climbed up into my, my seven year old’s bunk bed, she’s on the top. She was like, what are you doing Mom? Like so startled, like so appalled like-
Darla: Because this is kind of a 180 for them, right? They have not seen you engage that way.
Brittney: No, no it was totally shocking. And I’m like, well I just wanted to hang out for a few minutes with you if that’s okay, and she like threw her book aside. She’s like, yeah, like what are we going to talk about? And she kind of starts like doing this nervous laugh and she’s like, and I’m like, whatever you want. What do you want to talk about? And she’s like, oh, ah, I don’t know. I don’t know this. I seriously don’t even know. Like she couldn’t, like she was doing this nervous laugh and pauses and then you could see the moment where reality kind of sunk in and she’s like, I don’t know what to say to you. We have no, we have no foundation at this point.
Darla: So, what were you thinking in that moment? You’re observing them?
Brittney: I was, I thought it was funny a little bit. And then after the initial, like when she threw her book aside, it made me very sad. It made me very sad that this is my daughter of, you know, seven years. And she didn’t, we didn’t have anything to say to each other. So we started out with like, what’s your favorite color? What’s your favorite food? I mean, you know, all that small talky weird stuff when you don’t know someone because that was for us where we had to start from. So that was like the first experience and it was, I think maybe that was the most eye opening thing like wow. We really, I’ve really let this go a long way off the rails. So, good thing I’m turning, trying to turn it around.
Darla: So, you’re, so you’re initially saying, I’m going to do this with my three older kids for four weeks and I’m going to spend five minutes of individual time. What were some of the other eye opening experiences that you had during that four weeks?
Brittney: Okay. Well, so my seven year old was pretty excited once she got over the shock. She was pretty excited to chat with me and that became like, by the third day I was doing it, it was like part of her nightly routine. Like she expected me to be there. My nine year old, she was a little bit of a harder egg to crack. I would, I would go down in her room and she’d be engaged in something, a crossword puzzle or reading or drawing or something else. This is embarrassing. I didn’t know she even did all that stuff. Like I knew she read a lot, but, so that was eye-opening. Like wow, you have a lot of interests that I had no idea about. This is cool. She doesn’t even seem to care that I was there. Like she would keep doing her word searches or whatever and be like, oh, can you help me find this word? And inside I’m like, this is taking a lot of energy for me to even, you know, make it to your room. And I wanted some big like deep heartfelt like heart to heart, you know, mother-daughter bonding kind of thing. And it wasn’t that at all with her like It seemed to me she could take it or leave it that I was there like no big deal. And so that was a challenge for me to think, okay, so for her it’s gonna she’s, she’s a little icier like it’s gonna, it’s not going to come so easily as with the younger one. But even with her after like a week, she started saving things up. Stories or experiences through her day. She started saving them up to tell me them at our time in time because my kids could sense that that was a special time because that was different than any other time that we had had for months and, and it was every day so they could count on that, which was awesome. She’s also another one who, my nine-year-old, would, she would kind of freak out about things. And that would escalate my frustration and so a lot of times we would just, it just, we would have conversations that were, let’s say not productive and not positive. I remember one time, this was probably a week or two into time in that I had been doing this consistently, and one time she, we were all getting ready to go somewhere. I can’t remember exactly, and she couldn’t find her library card and she’s a big reader, so that was a big deal and she had looked everywhere and she was kind of starting, like on the verge of a freak out and I was like, okay Layla. I know, that’s so frustrating. I hate it when I can’t find stuff. I get why you’re frustrated because it really does bother me. Would you be okay if you use my library card? I’m happy to check out your books for you and then when we get home I can help you look for it because there was something else that we had another appointment or something where we did kind of need to leave at that moment. She did like a total emotional self-check and she was like, actually, you’re right. Yeah, that plan will work. And reflecting on that, it was so interesting to me because she had learned that she could trust me to look out for her interests and it wasn’t all about me and my schedule and we have to go now because I have to be at this place, you know, at this time. So that was really cool that time had kind of facilitated this level of communication but also of trust. And I attribute it to time and maybe other parents have that and, and I definitely, I know a lot of people are very good at this with their children, it hasn’t come naturally to me. And so that’s, I attribute it to time in as being like the shifting point of like, oh we can, you know, we can communicate in this way and we can trust each other. And even though the outcome is the same, like we didn’t, find her library card at that moment, the level of emotional handling of that was, was way better. Way better.
Darla: I can, I can totally see that scenario going on in my, and I would have been like, okay yeah, you know, freaking out. Just move on, get over it, and I think that’s the natural thing that a mom wants to do. So the fact that you were being intentional with this relationship was making a difference.
Brittney: It was making a difference and it was allowing me to to be way more empathetic to see things because you know, I was checking in with them every night and I kind of knew like I began to learn the things that would stress them out or the things that were important to them. And so that allows for a level of empathy that someone coming in blind, like I, I had been, doesn’t have. So, and then there was one time, with my oldest, I’ll try to make this brief. I had gone in I, this was maybe about, I don’t know, a few days in and we didn’t have that much to say. I mean it was kind of an average day and, we didn’t know what to say. And I was kind of doing you know the side-eye at my watch, like, okay, I got three more minutes here. I don’t know what do I do? Do I just sit here? And then I lasted the whole five minutes. I didn’t want to, but I did. And as I was getting ready to leave, he asks me this question about his friends and about something way bigger than what I thought he was capable of. And it was kind of this deep soul searching question. And it caught me off guard, but we ended up talking for almost a half an hour I think. And, and I wonder looking back if those five minutes, like if he was working up the guts to ask me that question, whereas it’s not a question, you know, opening up to someone know a lot of times you can’t just pop out a question, you know, it takes some kind of warming up to it. And I’m so glad that I stayed those five minutes. That was kind of like the warming period and then that the true meat of the discussion came later and that was very humbling for me. I was able to go upstairs and talk with my husband about how can we, as a team, how do we approach this issue with him and help him to feel good about his decision and you know, blah, blah, blah. So all that to say like even though the five minutes did turn into a half an hour, it felt as though during those five minutes felt as though this is not important. This is nothing, this is a waste of time. But ultimately it was completely opposite of that. It was so necessary.
Darla: Yeah. I love, I love all those stories. One of the things I was thinking as you were as you were talking is how quick to forgive and to have a relationship with us our children are, you know. They weren’t harboring this. Especially like look at your seven year old. It took her one time and she’s, she just, they just crave that they want that relationship with us. I think that that’s very hopeful that we can do something different and our kids will respond and, and be there and want to have a, be a part of having that relationship with us. They’re not holding onto these grudges, harboring bad feelings forever.
Brittney: No, I agree. And I think too, that’s part of the beauty of time in is it’s, it’s such a small, seemingly like superficially insignificant amount of time, but when, when I was consistent with it, which I was, that five minutes feels to them and to me it feels way bigger than five minutes. It really is like a gateway to a whole relationship. And I think, I think to what you’re saying, like they’re so quick to forgive, and they’re also so quick to begin trusting again when you, when you show up every day with this small dose intentionality and your, I’m here for you. We’re here face to face. This is your time. What do you want from it? And that’s such an easy way to, to provide that olive branch if you’re coming from a place like me. This is so useful for people who are already like, my kids and I are pretty great. Like you don’t have to be riding the train of disengagement as I describe it. It can be any, it can be and should be probably most parents just as a, as a full-time mom, I spent so much time with my kids, especially, you know, especially now we all do, right?
Darla: We’re all there together.
Brittney: Yeah. With how the coronavirus is right now and everything the world has changed, but even that does not equate to a relationship. Just, just being in the same house doesn’t, doesn’t mean that you’re getting closer. And so I, I’m a, I’m a huge fan of five minutes and being intentional and being consistent. And it really is a race. It was for me and it has been for many that I’ve heard who have read this book and started implementing changes in their own lives. It has been so key. Those, those three things, have changed lives so anyone can do it. One thing my friend shared with me, she started, she started doing time in after reading and she texted me the second night and she said, all day long I’ve been asking my daughter, her oldest is in second grade, and she’s been asking her, you know, after school, how was your day? Oh it was fine. Anything happen? No, not really. And just kind of went about their day. And then when she did time in, and this was only the first or second time that she had done time in, the daughter just opened up and she had had this horrible day and she had these big feelings and she needed somewhere to go with those, and it was, it was so healthful and therapeutic and such a beautiful moment as described by my friend for mother and child, both to experience this sharing of big feelings. And, and when you think of like how that sets their relationship up for the next years, you know, you have to continue it obviously, but what an amazing thing. And she has a great relationship with her kids. She’s close to her kids. She was not like me, disengaged, but still she has, this, this, provides a vehicle for closeness and clarity and charity.
Darla: I really, I really love that. I love the intentionality, but also acting upon that intentionality and doing something, you know, about it. And it’s just hopeful that it doesn’t have to be some huge thing. I mean, it’s five minutes. But it’s just intentional five minutes, and that will make a huge difference. So this, this happened several years ago when you started this and you only did it for four weeks, right?
Darla: So, what happened at the end and what has been the result since then in the, in the years that passed since, since you did this?
Brittney: Well, at the end, I mean we kind of, I didn’t do an alarm like my, my timer anymore. I still go, even now, I still go visit my kids before bed and we have this joke, like my older two girls share a room and I’ll go down and say good night and I’ll like pat their knee. I don’t know why, how that started, but it’s like this weird tradition, you know, the tucking in has become different. It looks different. I don’t, I don’t sit at the foot of their bed anymore, although sometimes I do. But as a rule, I don’t. What I’ve learned from time in and what that has set us up for, is to take advantage of the little moments, like if I’m baking something and my kid just comes and stands at the counter with me, that’s an opportunity for a time in. Or if I’m driving somewhere and I’m taking a child to a practice of something, that’s an opportunity for time in. And so what time, what the formal, like the five minute time in my four week thing did, was it got those it got my intentionality radar kind of pinging again. And I could then move more away from, from the scaffolding a little bit and use just the fluidity of life to recognize and take advantage of, you know, small doses of points of connection. Sometimes that’s nothing more than like an exchanged look, you know, like an inside joke or something with the child and we kind of both smile and that, like that counts. That’s something, because we have built upon this framework of knowing each other and having charity in our home. So I’m not trying to say that my kids and I get along all the time and I’m not trying to say that I just walk around, like, throwing roses in the air because everything is so joyous because that, I don’t know, do people throw roses in the air when everything’s joyous, I don’t, that was a terrible analogy. But I don’t mean to, I don’t mean to sound like things are hunky dory because I sat on my kid’s bed for five minutes every night, like life is still totally the same. It’s totally the same. We still have tantrums. I still get headaches at times. We still, you know, don’t see eye to eye on what should and shouldn’t be and that’s all part of life. That’s fine, you know? That’s great. Life is the same, but it’s different because I’m part of it. I am, I’m engaged. I’m there. Trying to not be in a smothering way, trying to let them lead out on their lives, but being there as a support system. And that shift, I can’t even describe what that shift means for them to have a mom who is engaged in their lives or just in their emotions, you know, just, just there versus how it was before. So yeah, life is the same, but it’s different.
Darla: Yeah, and I think what the key is there, our circumstances aren’t really going to change. You know, life is always going to be hard. There’s always going to be things thrown our way. But what can change is, is us. We can, we can make changes. And I love that you’re bringing charity into it. The pure love of Christ, like Christ is the way that we can make these changes and that is what can make our life better and make it beautiful even though the world can rage on and yeah, the hard things can happen, we can change. And I think, I think that applies to so many parts of life and so many things. And I love that your story illustrates that. So what would you say to a mom who is feeling like that disconnection like you were? They were back where you were several years ago. What would you say to that mom to give her hope to make a change and to do something different in her motherhood?
Brittney: I would say genuine change. I didn’t know at the time when I was experiencing that, but I was kind of aware that I was off and putting on a public front. So very few people knew the extent of, of how I was feeling and I didn’t know that it was possible to really and truly change how I felt. I only kind of thought it was possible to change how I was perceived. I didn’t, I didn’t know that it could be possible to change from the inside. And I guess what I would say ultimately to that person, that mother, that individual, is that you really can change. Like all the stuff that you’re feeling, but you’re kind of clinging to, that’s your safety net, your apathy, your estrangement from children or people, spouse. You can change that, but it’s not, it’s not by focusing on changing that. It’s focusing on what I think is the root and it focusing on charity. Focusing on how can I gain charity either for this individual or just in my heart, just in my situation in my station. How can I develop that charity? The amazing thing is when that happens, the things fall into place. The genuine change does actually happen in your heart, but I found it very unsuccessful to focus on change. Like, oh, I should smile as a mom. I should try to talk right now. I should, do I nod or do I, you know, like I didn’t know what to do before this, this change in my heart happened, If that makes sense. I hope I’m describing that in a way that makes sense. So that’s what I would say. Genuine change is possible and it’s, not actually as complicated as, as you might be afraid that it would be.
Darla: Right. Just where your focus is and, and focusing on love and charity. That’s, that will get you where you need to go. I love it. I love that message. Thank you so much for sharing that. And I’ve loved talking to you, and our time is almost gone. So I want to make sure I ask you my final question and that is, how have you seen your heavenly parents as your partners in motherhood?
Brittney: Well, in a lot of ways, as my children are getting older and I see their quest and their desire for independence coming out more and more. I am finding, feeling a connection to, to maybe how our heavenly father parents feel when they see us leading out on our own and they just let us do the things and learn from those things. And they are, they are always there to catch us when we fall, which we do because that’s a huge part of learning. I feel them, I think, as I am trying do those things. It’s very hard to watch my kids step out when I know that they should be doing it differently or in this way because it’s safer or better or more effective or, you know, or correct. You know, whatever my reasons are, letting them go and try things, but knowing, letting them know that I’m here at any point. I feel like that’s a map, a parenting map that has been laid out by our heavenly parents. It’s hard. It takes a lot more love, I think, then just doing everything for my kids. It’s very much harder, but I know that it’s better for them. And so that’s something that I feel their example that I am woefully short of but I’m trying to kind of change my lens that way.
Darla: I love that. That is beautiful. We have a pattern to follow, we have someone to look to. They’re perfect and they can, they can show us the way. So thank you so much. I just appreciate you coming on and where, tell, tell us about your book. Where can people find your book if they want to read? And I would highly, I read it and I would highly recommend reading it because you kind of detail what these four weeks were like and it’s, it’s humorous, it’s endearing, it’s, it’s a really great read and also you give so many good tips at the end, like a whole list of different things that you can try, not just a time in. So where can people find your book? Tell us about that.
Brittney: Yeah, on Amazon is the main place. There’s a a bookstore locally in Northern Utah, The Book Table, that also carries it, but I think Amazon would be people’s best at this point.
Darla: Okay, great. And I will also make sure I link it up in the show notes so people can go there and get the link to Amazon. But Brittney, thank you so much. I appreciate you so much being here.
Brittney: Thank you, Darla. I loved this conversation.
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