One Saturday morning I was getting things ‘done’ with my 3yr old pottering about while my husband and youngest slept. I was doing the random stuff, the sorting and tidying kind, and while feeling somewhat distracted by my child’s needs, I found a colouring in book that I overemphasized the awesomeness of to try and distract him so that I could continue doing my thing.
I managed to start colouring in a frog ‘on his behalf’ (as you do), ready for him to take over. “You continue coloring this buddy”, I encouraged. “No mommy, you colour it”. “Ahh, sorry buddy, I have – ” and I stopped myself. Because I was about to say “I have things to do.”
I struggle with this all.the.time. I’m such a do-er. And the podcast I was listening to the other day by our friends at Artisan reminded me how we naturally tend to do what we love doing. I like being busy. I like feeling productive. And while I LOVE (adore) my kids, an hour on the floor colouring is HARD for me. Who am I kidding… 10min on the floor colouring is hard work for me. The reading of the 8th story at bedtime is exhausting, and honestly I rush through it. All the while knowing my days of being invited to cuddle are numbered.
All this calls for sacrifice. Arghhhh. The dying to self kind. Something we’re not drawn to naturally.
(This is so evident in parenthood, but I think it spills over into anything. Working too much overtime for a bosses approval, earning more money to feel more powerful or validated, the accumulation of ‘things’ to feel successful).
I’m all about balance, but if I’m honest, I’m an awfully selfish person by nature. I hide chocolates I’ve bought from my husband so I don’t have to share, sneak in a secret brekkie with my friend Nats after our suuuuuuper long (emphasis added) early morning runs and even being an (extreme) extrovert by nature, I want my own quiet time. I want to go for drinks with my girls, and watch TV series in bed uninterrupted with my husband. I want to make good food with friends and go for a jog when I wish. I want to grab a coffee and blog. I want to create natural products while listening to the latest Sons & Daughters album. I want to make my garden pretty, plant new herbs and spring clean (often). I want to be productive. Soooo, building a block tower with my 1.5yr old for the gazillionth time (especially when he’s not really paying attention) feels hard.
I’m doing my best to say ‘yes’ more often. Within reason. I know full well that healthy mom/dad = healthy family and so I’m trying to give of myself, knowing I need to recharge and try to figure out exactly what that looks like for me.
With all that said, here are my top tips on how to bring about balance and diminish the guilt:
1. Create Rhythms: In our home, Friday nights are homemade pizza nights and Saturday mornings are pancake breakfasts mornings. (Saturday mornings were Park Run mornings but somehow we morphed it into pancakes instead – go figure.) We’re also trying to get the kids amped on washing our cars on Sundays. Hmmm… not as easy. I’m sure once they realize it’s something normal people pay for, an exchange of money will be involved.
2. Encourage Traditions: Be it on birthdays, anniversaries or the beginning of school holidays, have ‘your thing’ that is a constant. Maybe the first day of school holidays you pull out the annual pass to the Aquarium, hit the beach, or make a big ice cream, waffle and milkshake brekkie. Since our kids are Canadian, we make an effort to celebrate Canada Day and Canadian Thanksgiving (with some good old salmon, poutine and maple syrup ‘eh?).
3. Prioritize Values: Eat together at the dining room table, or go for a short walk around the neighbourhood just before dinner. What are you doing already that you can use to incorporate your family and have it be meaningful (such as time together eating or exercising)?
4. Play: Play ‘rough and tumble’ on the bed (thanks husband), or hide and seek in the house. Lie on the lounge floor and let your kids roll over you (for when you’re feeling particularly uninspired orrrrrr pregnant with your second and have as much energy as a kid post sugar-crash). Play sport, or dress up, or in the garden outside. Play with water, chalk, paint, on a trampoline or on a home-drawn hopscotch pattern on the ground. Play by baking – and reward yourself with edible treats (obviously).
5. Try put your phone down (and then give yourself time to use it!): Argh, I’m SO bad at this, but I recently read this article and it opened my eyes right up! WOWZER. Make certain rooms in your house or times of the day ‘NO PHONE’ rooms/times.
‘Starting your day by checking the phone is like flipping a switch from peace to productivity … from loving nurturer to grumpy manager … from present to absent. Reaching for the phone takes you out of your cozy pajamas-clad world and catapults you into the fast-paced, information overloaded world. Once your mind leaves your loved ones and fixates on all the things you need to do, it’s hard to come back—so hard to come back’. (Hands Free Mama)
6. Get the kids to bed early and then RE-LAX: You’ve kicked ass, or maybe not, but it’s done and dusted. Feet up, glass of wine, slab of chocolate, long chat with your bestie, put on a movie, eat comfort food, think, sing, write, read.
7. Get Away: Most people know someone who has a little cabin in the mountains or a timeshare needing to be used up, some extra flyer miles or a camp site begging for a bonfire. Do what you can find these avenues and take time away. It absolutely doesn’t need to cost you the earth. It shouldn’t. And if you can’t think of anywhere to go and can’t muster up the energy for the mile long list of to-do’s before departure, then borrow a tent and camp out in your back garden (or lounge if you don’t have a garden).
Of the 7 suggestions, grab one or two things that stick out and that you know you can try implement without it completely killing your mojo and go for it. And, can I just say, life is hard. Life was not meant to be done alone. There is DEPTH and TRUTH to ‘being a Village’ and Ubuntu theology. We’re in this together. And you’re doing alright.