My nemesis is my need to ‘catch up’
” I’ll be happier when I’m caught up on ________________________(organizing the toys, the kitchen, sorting photos on my laptop, our math work, renovating). It’s a trap I catch myself in frequently.
I realized a while back, after five + years of parenting, that I was chronically uncaught up on the laundry. It felt as though it had been a lifetime since I had seen the bottom of the basket. “Just one more load”, I’d say to myself, only to forget about that last load in the wash, which always calls for a soak and rewash the following day. Sigh. “Just two more loads until I can feel a complete and total sense of control over my world”.
I’ve even tried this thing where I did a load every day, regardless of sorting, so that I was always ‘caught up’. Until it hit me……EVERYONE WAS STILL WEARING THE CLOTHES!
So….I, after many failed attempts ( small fabric-induced panic attacks), gave up trying to play laundry- catch- up, and since I just couldn’t picture the six of us willingly living our lives in the nude (considered it, likely wouldn’t convince the entire family), I chose to accept that there will always be dirty laundry.
Years have passed since that mindset change. I now wash the kid’s laundry and my own once a week because that’s how long it takes for us to acquire a load per person (Papa Bear tackles his laundry and Big Brother has been doing his own since he felt that it was easier to put clean, folded clothing in the hamper rather than in drawers). I also gave up sorting. Yep.
After a child’s laundry migrates from the dryer, it stays in their corresponding basket, and I fold one load a night. That’s it. No rocket science. No pressure. No empty baskets. I should also say, that although I’m nervous to admit this publicly, this brilliant idea was, in fact, my husband’s. I should have listened years ago honey….take it while you can.
I find this laundry lesson has spilled into other parts of my life. I grocery shop when the food is gone, rather than every few days to keep things stocked. I clean the floors when they are dirty, rather than preventatively. I clean the kitchen while making dinner, even though we’ve messed it up all day long. And finally, my most brilliant plan is that we all clean our home together on Sunday nights, for just an hour, before the week begins. I used to spend everyday trying to ‘keep up’ only to find myself drowning in an endless list.
Perfection isn’t possible.
Just a woman wearing clothes, enjoying the journey,
There are times when I feel like I’ve got this all under control, and then there are times when I don’t know which way is up.
Sometimes things flow beautifully. Kids are happily working on projects of their own choosing, and they just so happen to involve reading, writing and numeracy. The counter tops are clean, I’ve showered and put on mascara, and the beds have clean sheets.
Then the following week, two children are digging through baskets of unfolded laundry for unmatched socks and underwear, there are tiny legos on the carpet, dog hair on my pants, and for lunch it’s peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Oh wait, there’s no peanut butter…
There could be any number of reasons that things aren’t working optimally, but most of them revolve around one main concept, connection. Sometimes what’s missing is time to connect with my partner, and sometimes time to connect to my own needs and dreams, BUT when there is disconnect between the kids and I, they’ll be grumpier, more defiant, and mopey, and everything kind of crumbles. After all , we are also co-workers, teacher and students, friends…
Sometimes connection looks like working together on a craft of their choosing, not something that will make me feel like a great parent (sooo hard!)
Sometimes connection looks like snuggling and actually watching a movie together (no scrolling!).
Sometimes connection looks like talking and laughing together.
Connection is involved.
It means getting up and joining in on their project clean-up, or brushing our teeth together rather than sending them to tackle the job, only to find myself anxiously waiting while they got lost along the way (YOU’VE GOT FIVE SECONDS…it really doesn’t work).
It means sliding the clothes on the hangers while Wildflower sorts her laundry, or involving Moonchild in dinner prep even though I’d rather do it alone. It means a pause in writing this post to hear out Big Brother as he shares what is on his mind. Not all of the time, but enough of the time.
Sometimes connecting is hard because I’d just.like.five.minutes.to.my.self!
But it almost always solves our problems. The effort is a valuable investment.
When I first began this project, five years ago. I was scared.
How can I put my thoughts and feelings out there, into the big and overwhelming world when my real voice is so small? Will people think me vain, unoriginal,self-indulgent?
I was terrified, but I did it.
I did it because I needed a platform for all of the ideas and feelings that had been swirling around inside me, and I knew that maybe others could relate.
At the time, my thoughts about mothering, about being female, about love and life and sadness were on the edge of swallowing me up after spending a lifetime not sharing them.
I know now, what held me back was the disconnection from the Sesame Street values I had gravitated to as a child. Yes, for real. Like many kids of my time, I learned about sharing and caring, cooperation, kindness, and acceptance through that daily hour of television.
And then I went to school.
I learned very quickly that this is not how the world works.
Throughout the years, many of my peers learned to become desensitized to cruelty and violence through consistent exposure, but I did not.
I got belly aches.
I learned to ignore the connection between my mental health and my tummy because I had to get up every day and go to school. Ignoring my feelings became a means of survival, and I gladly wore my title as too wimpy, like a shield. I learned to function in a world that didn’t accommodate children’s feelings, despite how loving and caring some of my teachers were.
Gradually I began to accept that my views should remain quiet behind my rose-coloured glasses, and so I left them there for too many years.
Until I gave birth to a small human who gave me great strength. I looked my fear of using my voice in the eye. We squabbled a bit and then came up with a compromise.
My blog was born.
If you’ve followed along, long enough, you’ll notice that some of my favourite topics are just grown up versions of those Sesame Street- inspired lessons, things that are being brought to light in the media as women and children and people of colour are being recognized as humans, while many men are making strides towards becoming more sensitive people. Everything is woven together. Everything is interconnected.
I’ve made plenty of mistakes. Sometimes I don’t say the right things, there are easily a handful of syntax errors per post, and some things I say might strike a nerve, but through creating these works, I’ve allowed myself a chance to heal sadness and have faith in my strong belief that people are ultimately good. I’ve chosen to share these adventures with you because I know that although we may not agree on everything, we are likely not that different.
Human connection, even through modern means, carries great value.
Thanks for coming along for the ride,
Today, I was planning to be super mom. The kids had asked for a trip into the woods to have tea by the fire. They could have asked for a movie or for candy, but they asked for the very things I’ve tried to encourage in their lives, a love of fresh air, adventure, and water infused with nourishing herbs, so I said yes!
I packed up a bag of tricks– firewood, kindling, dry newspaper. I dug out matches which never seem to be in the same place in our house. I even made the hot tea and brought along four mugs. After dressing our toddler in layers of outerwear, tucking in 6 mittens and boots, and pulling on my winter-onesie (and then leaning over to tuck in my own boots while still breathing), we headed outdoors, only to be greeted by a mound of snow, blocking our usual way to the woods.
This hill has served as a great joy to the kids these past few days, but I cursed it as I tried to move around the pile with a small child on a sled, who, I might add, was wailing for fear of tipping over. As I stepped into the knee-deep snow, dog leash in one hand, sleigh rope in other, and sack of tricks over shoulder, I began to feel the anger rise in my belly.
I knew then, that if I proceeded with AWESOME MOM PLAN, I’d just be miserable, trying to create the picture in my head, trying to please everyone, but ultimately pleasing no one.
And then I felt guilty. Guilty for saying yes and then going back on my word. Guilty for not being determined enough. Guilty for needing help to accomplish this plan. Until I realized that all of these negative emotions were bubbling to the surface in the form of guilt so that I could avoid taking responsibility for their messages, so that I didn’t have to ask myself why I was being so hard on myself. It’s much easier to think I’m being selfless.
Here’s what I’ve learned…guilt holds us back by disguising our own sadness as sadness for someone else, sneakily avoiding our own unhealed pain. Then it allows us to stay hurt, to be complacent in our own healing. With this realization, I’ve started following up the flood of guilt with the question, ‘well what am I going to do about it?’.
That’s when I turned to the kids, and said, “Guys, I’m not going to lie. I really wanted to go to the woods today with you, but I think I’m just going to be grumpy. This is a trip that requires another grownup for help. Maybe we could try again another time. Could we go for a walk and have tea on the porch instead?” There was some small talk that followed. They offered to help, to carry more things, but then, they too, saw what I did…a long path, a lot of snow, and of course, there was the screaming toddler.
And so we walked. Quietly, pleasantly, guilt-free, down our clean laneway.
The tea was nice too.
If you’re reading this from Ontario, there’s no need for me to let you know about the epic, freezing cold, snow storm that’s laid itself all over the land.
Needless to say, we’ve spent the last couple of days indoors, and Im grateful for last week that we spent away from our daily grind. It means that these frozen days can easily be spent together indoors.
I find many lessons in January and throughout the winter. Currently, I’m working on the art of relaxing. Time to play with toys old and new, movies to watch with a snack in hand, or books being read curled up on the couch—busy kids leave time for Mama to work on other projects. It’s rejuvenating to get some writing work accomplished, work on my online course, edit some photos, or even catch an episode of something on Netflix….though it’s only good for the soul when there is no guilt attached.
How many times have I let guilt hold me back from experiencing something to the fullest?
I’ve making a conscious effort to let guilt go this month. After all, we tend to find motivation with the sun, and as it returns to us, so will our energy for doing and learning and exploring, and then I’ll find myself longing for the forgiveness of winter.
For now, you’ll find me by the fire…
Our house is quiet now, with the kiddos off to bed. It’s peaceful, and I can hear the purr of the wood stove’s fan….a most comforting sound in the winter. It reminds me that I’m warm and safe.
I’m left to reflect on the bits of energy and thought left swirling in my mind after a chat with a lovely friend. Here’s what I’ve discovered…I remember when I was new at this game and the whole world warned me to soak it all up because it would go by so quickly. This phrase, although well-intended, felt as though it was on repeat in my life, and I lived in fear of missing a moment. It suffocated me. I had truly given into the fear that if I was not there for the little things, if I didn’t hear all of the things the kids said all of the time, they would shut me out. I would have lost the parenting game….
I am relieved to see that I took these ideas too literally. There is room for ebb and flow in everything. As long as I am connected to our children, there is room for me to be imperfect; in fact, it’s a valuable lesson.
Packing away my egotistical perspective of being the perfect parent creates room for being a purposeful parent, and I’m so thankful to have reached this phase in the game. And you know what? I was there for all of the moments….but they still passed. Time slipped through my fingers despite my tightened grasp.Children grow. They develop their own ideas and eventually, they flee the nest. It’s inevitable…It’s beautiful.
I may as well let go and enjoy the ride, after all, I’m still growing too……..
When Wildflower was small, we showed her every opportunity to believe in magic.
We crept through wooded areas and dreamed of tiny faeries who lived amongst the cedar grove. We told her elaborate tales of dragons and little mouse families and of Santa’s elves, with hopes that these stories, would help her to weave belief and depth into her world, to save her from slipping into cynicism and sadness as she awoke from her childhood.
These stories always included her own insights and imagination.
As she grows older, we’ve begun to notice that she is simply transitioning into playing along with our game, and helping us share the tales with her younger siblings. These stories connect us.
We’ve never felt that this was considered lying to our children.
For as long as people have been able to communicate, story has been the singular most valuable way to teach children about life. Indigenous people are famous for their beautiful legends while fables and folklore colour the history of the Celts. Even the oldest books are filled with stories for the purpose of teaching.
We, all people, learn best when we are connected with the purpose of the teaching, when it paints a vivid picture for us, and as a body of relatively educated humans, we eventually can choose for ourselves what is tangible and what is for the purpose of entertainment (hence why you can’t remember much about quadratic equations, unless you were passionate about that stuff).
Now, as my baby girl is no longer such, I’ve begun to realize that she brought back the magic to my own eyes. A world that once felt dreary, as though there could be no more Christmases, were coloured a new hue as we shared in this journey together.
Though I’m fortunate enough to have two more souls to share stories of elves and dragons and magical flowers with, I know that this, too, shall pass.
Someday, I’ll take a walk in the woods, and I’ll spy a special knothole where a tiny faerie resides. I’ll turn to share the story with my smaller companion only to realize that the dog isn’t interested. And then I’ll remind myself that magic doesn’t just exist through the eyes of children.
Words of wisdom shared with me this summer have been echoing through my mind reminding me to keep ahold of my own sense of wonder, and I hope to do just that.
January’s bleak and cold days are upon us. We’ve found a gentle daily rhythm, while we’ve allowed the holiday routines to slip into the past along with the tree which performed its final disappearing act last night, thanks to Big Brother. These days have been great days, but we’re ready to let go of very full bellies and too much tv. Even the kids can feel it.
Our deep-winter learning typically involves immersing ourselves in a couple of novels read aloud together with warm drinks in hand. Often we’ll use an online platform for some math studies, and we’ll attempt to get outside daily. These are the predictable factors, while there’s plenty of space for ebb and flow, for endeavours undertaken by small humans with big ideas.
In the past, we’ve stayed home for much of January, but this year, I aspire to get out a couple of times each week, to remind us of how lucky we are to have this coziness to return to, rather than feeling as though our home is a place where we feel stuck because of the cold. After all, we are Canadian, and we choose to continue living where the cold hurts our face, so we may as well make the best of it.
After all of this is said and done, winter is made for open play and for quiet snuggles.
What I’ve learned over the years is that our free time develops a premium, if we have some kind of framework to our days. When we have a rhythm to follow rather than a strict schedule and a loose plan rather than entirely open schedules…beauty ensues
Until next time
There was a time when I believed it was my job to do everything, and I probably don’t need to tell you that I failed miserably at it.
Most mornings I awoke with a fresh attitude, ready to slay the day’s to-do list. By night fall, I’d likely have accomplished a couple of things on the list, not including the day’s work, meals from scratch, caring for myself, and providing connected learning time with the kids, and as ridiculous as it sounds to me now, I’d feel like a failure.
I failed again…I’d tell my masochistic self…. and then I’d write an impossible list for tomorrow, hop into bed way too late, and do it all again the next day.
Obviously, I wouldn’t be writing this piece, in this tone, if I were still spending the majority of my time stuck in the same trap. So what have I done to accomplish more and feel more …peace-full?
I gave up the unreasonable goal. Yep. That’s it. I let my ego take a hike, and I asked for (explained why) and accepted help, and I let things go.
I love to nurture and care for my family, which somewhere, got lost in translation and turned into, let me pick up your smelly socks everyday, and sure I’ll scrub the toilet. But also, my partner goes to work and then works when he comes home on a growing list of to-dos and our kids are kids, so shouldn’t this be my job? To some degree, yes, I believe this is true, but somewhere around the decision to take this homeschool thing seriously, and when the third kid was born, I began to think maybe I was ripping myself off.
It wasn’t until I believed that making time for meaningful connection / learning with our children was the single most important part of our day, that I could close the door on the rest of the to-do list and simply let it be.
This is my work.
It wasn’t until I believed that this is meaningful-enough work for a woman in today’s world, that I could stop trying to rock at everything else. And then I asked for help with the other things. Now don’t get me wrong, I still prepare healthy meals and fold laundry and wash dishes, but on Sunday nights, we clean the house together, as a family….toilets, floors, kitchen, everything. It’s so much easier to care for during the week, and everyone feels a sense of responsibility because they know that sock won’t be just cleaned up by someone else.
… and then, we eat a yummy, comfort-food supper while watching a movie. It’s about balance, right?
xo Hay Mama