Working from home is wonderful in many ways, but it does means there’s no commute at the end of the day to let the mind unwind, and no external signal to move me from work mode to non-work mode. I’ve learned the hard way that I need both of those things—a way to create mental if not physical distance from my work, and a way to nudge myself from work time to family time. I’ve had to create my own ritual, essentially, to mark the end of the work day and the beginning of the family evening.
This is what I do: I close my laptop, and I go to the kitchen, the place that repairs me, that allows my mind to loosen and my heart to soften, the place where smells and sounds and flavors replace ideas and deadlines and tasks.
The first step, always: set out the knife and the cutting board. I can feel my stress level sinking already, my shoulders climbing down from my neck little by little. I pull the ingredients from the refrigerator, the pantry. Onions from the bowl on the counter, olive oil and vinegar from the basket near the stove. I may have a vinegar problem, by the way: I cannot stop myself from buying a new kind every time I’m at the store–balsamic and white balsamic, sherry, champagne, red wine.
A swirl of oil into a pan, and while it begins to shimmer and thin, a quick rough chop of an onion, the first step of almost everything. Before I know what’s for dinner, almost every night, I begin by softening an onion and then shaking together a vinaigrette. Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper shaken together in a pickle jar. I unscrew the lid and run my finger through the liquid on the lid and lick it—more salt? More vinegar? A few glugs of oil and another shake.
By the time the onion is on its way and the vinaigrette is made, I can feel the tension of the day unwinding, slipping off my shoulders. The kitchen is my space, the place where there are no deadlines or reviews, no demands, no hustle.
Whatever comes next—peeling sweet potatoes or slicing chicken sausages, tossing greens or roasting broccoli—these moments are some of the sweetest of my day, moments that are about texture and heat, knife and aroma.
I call the boys in—it’s their job to clear off the table. Inevitably, the table is completely covered with pictures they’ve been drawing, Batman guys, markers and headphones and laptops. Cups of cold coffee, half-drunk water glasses, unopened mail. But just before dinner, for a few minutes, the table is cleared. And it is beautiful.
I deal out plates, wipe down the high chair tray, make stacks of forks and napkins, fill water and wine glasses. The boys are 18 months and six, so let’s be clear that we’re not dining together for hours. There is no long and luxurious conversation. We pray together, we talk about our days. It takes about fifteen minutes, and usually someone spills and sometimes someone cries.
And let’s be clear that we’re not having filet mignon or vegetables I grew in our garden, although that would be nice. Let’s also be clear that I don’t have a garden. We’re having salad or soup, tacos or rice bowls.
When the meal is over, the bedtime dance begins—pajamas and books, rocking and reading. And then the house is quiet. A few hours later we begin again another day. And all day long, I look forward to that one beautiful moment, when I close the laptop, and set out my cutting board and knife. The best moment of my day.
We’ve been told that productivity is all, that rushing is an imperative, that going and doing and pushing define us. But those things aren’t true. God made a world of extraordinary beauty, and sometimes the most productive, most important thing we can do is slow ourselves down enough to see it, hear it, smell it, taste it, enter into it. When I stand before the cutting board, knife in hand, it’s just another way, really, of praying.
What’s the best moment of your day?
What are your meaningful daily rituals or routines?
How do you do mark the switch from work time to non-work time?