For the first time as an adult, I made a conscious decision to give something up and take something up for Lent. I spent the 40 days before Easter setting aside the endless chatter of podcasts and taking up the spiritual practice of contemplative prayer.
(And no, the irony of being a podcast host who gave up listening to podcasts isn't lost on me.)
I've been listening to podcasts since way before they were a thing (circa 2010), but things really kicked up a notch in 2014. This was both the year Hadley was born and the time that podcasts started becoming more mainstream.
Transitioning into motherhood was tough for me. Hadley wasn't the world's easiest baby, and my emotions were all over the place. I felt like I'd lost myself as a person for much of her first year.
Podcasts filled a void for me during those early days with a baby. They gave me a hands-free way to stay connected to the outside world, to remember the things I was interested in as a person. If I'm being honest? On my worst days, I used podcasts to escape from the real, hard work of taking care of a baby.
Eventually that tough season ended and I adjusted to motherhood, then adjusted again when Reagan was born. But the podcasts never left. I listened to them more than ever, particularly business podcasts. With two kids and no child care, I was drowning in work and unwilling to step back from the career I'd worked so hard to build.
Listening to business podcasts was a way to feel like I was "working" even when I wasn't. They gave me a twisted hope that I could keep building and growing in an area where I was already stretched too thin.
I eventually got smart enough to realize that business podcasts weren't healthy for me anymore, and I cut them out of my feed last summer . . . only to replace them with even more shows, particularly those about motherhood and running a household.
Is it clear yet that I don't know when I've taken a good thing too far?
I entered this Lenten season feeling frantic. I'd cut back on work, so why was life still crazy? Why was I still snapping at my kids all the time and never feeling like I had a chance to sit down?
My constant podcast listening was a huge factor. It's like I thought that listening to other moms talk about raising their kids counted toward me mothering my kids . . . when in reality, I was ignoring them.
It's one thing to have a podcast to keep you sane when you're nursing a baby for the millionth time in a day. It's another when that baby is suddenly a preschooler with her own thoughts and ideas and questions about the world.
My kids are now at an age where they don't just need me to keep them alive, they need me: my focus, my energy, my time.
These things are hard for me to give, and for too long I've been using podcasts as a barrier between myself and the messy day-to-day with young kids. The result is that I've unintentionally been sending the message "I don't want to talk to you" to these little people in my care.
With all that in mind, I shouldn't be surprised that giving up podcasts brought an immediate change to our family. These are just some of the good things that have come from a Lent without podcasts.
1. We listen to more music.
Music doesn't demand as much space as a podcast. It feels like another way to infuse our day with art, and the kids love it. Now there are Disney music dance parties, shuffling around the kitchen to old country songs while we make dinner, and soothing piano tunes to calm the kids when they're getting rambunctious. Where podcasting was a solitary activity I was trying to cram where it didn't belong, music connects us and sets the mood throughout the day.
2. I have fewer ideas and more clarity.
Having fewer ideas is 100% a good thing for me. I've always been an idea person. If I'm not careful, I'll end up chasing projects that aren't right for me and getting distracted from what actually matters. Podcasts fed into that in a big way as I listened to the innovating things other moms and entrepreneurs were making time for. How could I not have a million ideas when I spent all day listening to other people talk passionately about the crazy dreams they were bringing to life?
But those million ideas weren't all meant for me. My brain was working in overdrive trying to think through the logistics of things that shouldn't have even been on my radar. I've had markedly fewer ideas since giving up podcasts, but the ones I have had have been more focused and aligned with what I actually want from life.
3. I'm more efficient.
Listening to a podcast can be a great way to make chores more fun, but it's still multitasking. Cutting out podcasts made me realize that I'd been subconsciously folding clothes more slowly so I could hear more of my episode before turning it off, or reading a recipe three times because I wasn't really paying attention. I still let myself indulge in an episode here and there when I clean the house, but now I'm aware that music is a better choice if I really need to get things done.
4. I'm a better mom.
It's annoying when you're trying to focus on something and you keep getting interrupted. That was basically my entire life before I gave up podcasts. I'm so much more kind and patient with my kids when they aren't pulling me away from a podcast. It's a truth I've recognized but tried not to acknowledge for more than a year, and the reason is this: I get really bored playing with little kids, and podcasts give me a distraction.
It's a gross thing to admit, but there it is: without podcasts, I'm more likely to actually be present when my kids need me. I don't spend that much time actively playing with my kids, so they deserve my attention when I do join them in creating a MagnaTile tower.
5. My podcast feed is more intentional.
Despite all the pros of not having podcasts around, I was more than a little excited to get back to my favorites after Easter. I took the opportunity to cull my feed and get rid of anything that was truly distracting or unhelpful in my life while seeking out new-to-me shows that are genuinely worth listening to. Here's what made the cut:
- The Next Right Thing with Emily P. Freeman
- The Simple Show with Tsh Oxenreider
- The Nuanced Life with Sarah and Beth of Pantsuit Politics fame
- Elise Gets Crafty with Elise Blaha Cripe
- The Mom Hour with Meagan Francis and Sarah Powers
- The Lazy Genius Podcast with Kendra Adachi
I don't have an addictive personality with things like alcohol or gambling, but give me chocolate, carbs, and podcasts and there's the very real possibility that I'll never stop. Giving up podcasts has made me more aware of how hooked I was and how to recognize the signs the next time I need another hiatus . . . before things get out of hand.