Having a ‘Moment’

It’s been a while since my last post (which came at the end of a rough week). It seemed that life continued to dish things out in a similar thread and the combined stresses of things piled up in a monumental way, forcing a break in routine and, more importantly, an understanding of the need for an attitude change.

  • I had been away from work for the week with the injured V2 (you might remember she touched the element of the stove while I was holding her!) The stress and worry (and guilt!) about the burn were playing on my mind.
  • I had been trying to work remotely as much as possible during my days with her, to not fall behind while out of the office but no matter how much I did, the emails continued.
  • We had a hugely social weekend planned (a trip to the Opera, a night out, trip to the Heritage Steam Train Expo, an afternoon shopping exhibition and a family afternoon tea). While all were lovely and enjoyable they didn’t allow a lot of room for rest.

Ultimately, the build up of a very stressful few weeks where I’ve been racing around in every aspect of life (work, kids, marriage, and a social life) meant I had a ‘moment’ while trying to clean the house to make it spotless for the next round of entertaining which brought things to a very abrupt and noticeable halt. (My efforts to make the place perfectly clean actually led to me leaving a fairly noticeable not clean mark!)

Many Mums know these ‘moments’. Mine usually see me having somewhat of an outer body experience watching myself disappearing into a rabbit hole of overreaction. Usually, the ‘moment’ passes and we continue along our merry (and busy) way until the next one appears.

Unfortunately this ‘moment’ lingered and proved to be an awakening moment (or rather an awakening half day) for me. I won’t go into the background of what I discovered to be the problem, other than to say it of course was not the cleaning that was the problem. I will say that it was this moment that allowed me to see just how much pressure I had placed on myself since my return to work. I hadn’t really given a shred of thought or time to ensuring that I, personally, was managing our hugely busy lives – which I have no doubt is something many Mums do on a daily basis.

We soldier on through the mammoth list of tasks that are too multitudinous to list. We act as teacher, chef, cleaner, counsellor, chauffeur, friend and disciplinarian, amongst others, all before we’ve even headed to the office.

I don’t know how many times I’ve said the phrase, “if my kids are happy, I’m happy”. While I am of course happy when my kids are happy, this one tiny hiccup in the day and the resultant ‘moment’ made me see that a few things needed an adjustment to ensure that my happiness wasn’t just anchored around that of my kids.

My first step was to cut myself some slack so I took the week off work to have a rest, recover from the whirlwind of life that we have been living these past few months since returning to work and to take a hard look at what we can change to stop this ridiculous race to an unseen finish line.

Everything I have discovered is something someone has already suggested. Something I have read in a book and thought ‘that sounds great – maybe one day I’ll give it ago’. Something I’ve listened to someone else say they do and thought ‘it won’t work for me’. Until I could see the measurable impact of running at full speed 100% of the time, I couldn’t listen to the advice. (Funny how we often let our kids learn from doing – no matter how many times I tell V1 that if he rides his bike full speed into a wall, one of these days he might get hurt – it’s only the act of doing it, and the subsequent grazing of knuckles that lead to the change. In much the same vein, I have now been able to learn from experience).

I have committed to trying a few things. I say trying because I’ve spent 30+ years in my current ways, and they are pretty set so this is a gradual process. I’ve tasked myself to:

  • try to stop over scheduling every waking moment of our days.
  • try to utilise my urge to organise to my advantage. I’ve finally realised that being good at being organised means you are organised enough to have some downtime. When I tell people what we squeeze into the 2 weekdays I’m not in the office, I’m greeted by comments usually along the lines of ‘I’m exhausted just listening to it’.
  • try to let myself see that it is OK to not get something finished every once in a while, to need a bit more time to do something, and to ask for help from my team. These are all OK and a necessary part of returning to work part-time.
  • try to focus on having faith in the knowledge that I am a dedicated and honest Mum, wife, friend and worker and unreasonable expectations do not lead to success.
  • I will take time off when I need it, and I will enjoy it, not feel guilty about it, or spend the time planning how I can get more things done.

 

Friday Musings and Highlights

Aside from the obvious things we all know are part of being a Mum, I’m discovering some of the lesser known things that being a Mum often means:

– Waking up in bed with two men (ok, so one is obviously a boy!)

– Attempting to sneak out of bed without waking anyone (my shins are just as bruised as V1’s shins. We have owned our wooden frame bed for 8 years and I still do not know it’s dimensions).

– Giving up on finding workout gear in the noisy wardrobe or the mountain of floor clothing pile (I mean the completely organised stack of clothes that I have of course organised in piles and placed neatly on the floor ready to be put away) and doing yoga next to the heater in a dressing gown and pyjama bottoms (I simply couldn’t find my pyjama top. Hot yoga it was!)

– Leveraging V1’s love of dump trucks to put away washing. It goes on the back of the truck and he runs it from room to room quite literally dumping it out of his dump truck (see earlier note re clothing pile).

– Never getting dressed (or showered) until the last minute before leaving the house. No need to bother since everything ends up covered in Weetbix, yoghurt, mashed pear or surprisingly greasy digestive biscuit crumbs.

– Recognising that some days the only thing you will get to eat is the weetbix, yoghurt, mashed pear or surprisingly greasy digestive crumbs you wipe off your face, hair, Pyjamas or (dare I say it), the floor.

– An oldie but a goodie – never (I mean never, since now we have a puppy who follows me around constantly), going to the toilet alone.

– Getting excited about not having to do daycare drop off and actually being able to get to work before 8am.

These are just a few of the lesser things I’m discovering are all integral aspects of being a Mum!

 

 

The Race to 9am

I’m very excited. Tomorrow I am doing daycare pick up instead of drop off.

Instead of being mean angry mummy who yells demands all morning, while trying to pack bags, blowdry and put my face on until we finally get to the car. I get to be cool mummy who rescues the kids from daycare after daddy left them there !

This morning was just a comedy of errors, one type of comedy I’m not eager to repeat.

– V2 slept in til 7am. Normally this is a miracle but on school days this presents a struggle since we have to be in the car by 7.25am.

– It was freezing so we needed beanies. So we put them on. Then on again. Then on. Then lost the hot pink one and put the pale pink one on.  Then back on. Then we held it and listened to V2 whinge that she wanted it on. So we put it on. Again.

– We made it to the car only 5 minutes late (with beanies off) but this makes the 7.52am train an almost impossibility. Only an impossibility by 30 seconds.  Those 30 seconds were spent going back to the car to check it was locked instead of making the train. Need to work on the need to check.

– The 8.06am was jam packed and as a result of our tardiness I had people touching me on every side as more and more people jammed in, despite it being quite clearly full.

– Arriving at just before 9am I was too late to get my favourite standing desk (agile workplace!)

Thankfully, at work I managed to turn it around and knock a few small goals to redeem the day (3 double coffees didn’t hurt!) – and came up with the brilliant idea to switch drop off and pick ups for tomorrow and THAT is why I’m very excited for tomorrow ! It’s the little things.

Happy (almost) Friday! (And it’s croissant Friday too!)

Multitasking

I’m trying to decide if it’s a good or a bad thing.

On the one hand today I got A LOT done. Cooking, cleaning, washing, errands, soccer for V1 and a couple of hours of work.

On the other hand, by the time I got to soccer, I realised I had forgotten to change V2’s nappy (it was changed when she first got up but I like to do it at least every 2 hours). I had remembered V1 needed to go to the toilet however he, like most toddlers his age, was convinced that since I had asked him to and provided the perfect opportunity for him to do so, he in fact did not need to go (he hadn’t gone since getting up).

We got home and changed V2’s nappy, prepped lunch and headed to the laundry. V1 then sprinted inside crying because he’d had an accident outside while playing with Horus. I was so focussed on V2’s nappy, prepping lunch and getting the third load of washing onto the line to capitalise on the sunny day, I had forgotten to remind him to go.

While contemplating putting V1 into the shower to clean up, I rembered I actually hadn’t had a shower despite going out to do the groceries and to soccer, on separate trips and I was still wearing the clothes I had worn for my 16 minute weights session in the morning (at least I had rembered to go to the bathroom before being too uncomfortable!).

Amongst numerous pearls, in her book, Thrive, by Ariana Huffington, Huffington talks extremely highly of her mother. Her mother states “I abhor multitasking”. This is raised in the context of reading email while talking to kids (which if I’m truly honest, I’ve done on numerous occasions), and noting that our constant electronic connectivity is leading us to be more disconnected in life.

Today I wasn’t entirely distracted by my phone however I did respond to some urgent emails from work before soccer (during which V2 took her first independent steps, which I very nearly missed and only by sheer luck managed to catch it on camera. I then forgot to change her nappy, and ultimately ran out of time to do so).

SO multitasking today didn’t entirely pay off. Most of my distraction on my home days with the kids is in the form of housework and errands, but this multitasking still leads to a disconnection. This is something I’m guilty of nearly every day.  But it’s not something I can change instantly. It’s only something I can try to work on.

Since I can’t change in a day, when the kids woke after very short naps, we rearranged my shoes (I’d finally decided the high heels gathering dust and potential spiders, had to be removed and room made for the growing collection of trendy flats – I’m a mum now and practicality matters!)

I know the kids probably didn’t want to help me to do this, however when I feel I might be spiralling, into either guilt over missing things with the kids, or discontent at not getting enough things done, finding something I can physically take hold of and organise actually does wonders for me (and throwing things out or packing away to create space is always therapeutic!) I’m finally starting to realise it’s important to take the time for me, even when the kids are awake.

I found some space and order, V1 enjoyed trying on my shoes for fun and V2 enjoyed taking the shoes out of the box faster than I put them back in, while playing an intense game of peekaboo with my scarves ! Everyone was happy!

Friday Musings and Highlights

I forgot my book on the train today so here are some bits and pieces to ponder for the day!

– V1’s favourite teacher at school is…….. “fire truck”.

– When asking someone if I was on the right train (I was trying a new train hop to get home earlier this week), I explained I wanted to get home for baths and dinner, they responded ‘I would have thought you’d be going slower to ensure you miss it’.

– I went through the whole day of work yesterday before getting changed into my PJs at home when I realised my skirt was on sideways. Not backwards at least. Not inside out, but still – sideways. (I’m a repeat offender in this regard. At the grocery shop recently I wondered why those annoying coat hanger hangy bits in my top were constantly coming out. I got two comments at the shops that I looked nice – we go the same time every Sunday so have made friends with the deli and checkout ladies – and didn’t realise til arriving home  (after having gone out for breakfast) that my top was on inside out).

– I’m having days at the moment where I’m convinced that going to the bathroom is a necessary interruption to force a break, however I’d get so much more done if I didn’t have to.

– I’ve decided that since I have so little time to eat on home days (mostly kids leftovers) I should make up for this on workdays in the form of croissants, donuts and lunches out (not sure why I’m worrying about the detrimental health impact of the 3rd (or, let’s be honest – the 4th) coffee).

– V2 is in the stage of being comfortable with the concept of going to daycare.  V1 felt the need to compensate by attaching himself to my legs and screaming ‘don’t leave me’ to ensure my heart strings were sufficiently pulled.

Happy Friday ! I’m celebrating by making the early train, having another coffee and going out for Italian for lunch (and taking the time to check that all my clothes are on the right way!)

 

Honesty

I recently had dinner with a very good friend of mine who reminded me that it was OK to be honest. She liked reading this Blog but as she knows me, and all of the complicated intracacies of my often anxious, emotional and unpredictable mind, she knew there was more I wasn’t saying about being a working Mum.

She was right.

It’s time to be honest and say it’s really, really….. really hard.

I’m not sure how I can emphasise how hard it is. For me the return to work has been, and is still, an enormous juggling act with two prongs.

Firstwardly and outwardly, I struggle to balance the actual management of my physical time including the tangible mothering and wifeing responsibilities like cooking, cleaning, washing, playing with the kids, heading to playdates and since we are being honest – having a shower !

Secondly and inwardly, the struggle to balance the emotions and my general wellbeing as I’m pulled in so many directions with constant time pressures – the clock simply will not stop ticking.

What does this mean ?

1. I get angry. A lot.

2. When I get tired of being angry, I get distant and removed (it’s mostly me feigning nonchalance).

3. When I can’t hide the emotion under a mask of distance and nonchalance, I get sad and cry.

Since I’m always exhausted from the act of running from point to point, I tend to move through options 1, 2 and 3 in the space of about 2 minutes. Meaning around 2 out 3 nights when I get home from work, I am blissfully happy to see the kids and my better half. We dance to the current favourite songs (Moana soundtrack, and joyfully V1 likes jazz so it’s La La Land too!) and we run, and jump and play around the house like crazy people.

Then, inevitably something snaps. Whether V1 simply can’t wait for the microwave to finish before pulling his milk out, or whether he won’t get out of the bath even though the water has been drained for 3 minutes and he’s getting colder and colder, I quickly lose my patience and move through phases 1 and 2 and straight into phase 3 – The snapped carrot. The lost skittles. The tears.

Now V1 is such an emotional being that he immediately comes to my aid with a very thoughtful “I’m sorry mumma, I didn’t mean it”, even though to all adult minds, it is so clearly not his fault. Any mother who has heard their toddler say that in response to an emotional overreaction knows the effect. I burst into a fit of uncontrollable sobbing as I realise simply how lucky I am to have an amazing family, well behaved kids and a hugely supportive husband and this is just the struggle life is challenging me with for now.

I know I’m not the first or only Mother to be prone to these bouts of emotional disarray, particularly when returning to work after Parental Leave, however i have found that thinking about and being told by others that there are lots of mothers who make the same sacrifices in pursuit of balance, doesn’t actually help.

Rather it reminds me that for perhaps one of the very few times in my life I am trying to do something that, for all initial appearances, I am simply not good at. Yet.

Perhaps if I keep it up and ‘practice’ I’ll get better.  Perhaps if I develop a few techniques to manage the emotional rollercoaster, I’ll be better at balancing and curbing my overreactions.  (I find the books I read in search of these techniques help while I am reading them but they can’t undo the years of emotional blueprints in my body. The epiphanies I experience while reading are unfortunately soon forgotten as I struggle to override years and years of habits.)

Perhaps the first place to start is to remind myself that I actually WANT to be good at balancing both (rather than ‘have’ to) and I CAN be good at both being a Mum and a professional (rather than ‘must’). Instead of fleeing in the face of danger (failure), I can fight (thrive and find the balance).

I anticipate many more nights of irrational tears of desperation following a day in which I judge myself to have ‘failed’ at either being a Mum or at work.

Luckily, a recent post I read from readingmummasister “What do my kids really think of me” reminded me that my kids love me unconditionally and they don’t look at my mothering for the day and judge me as a fail. Only I do that.

My team at the office doesn’t look at what I do and see that I can’t manage the volume that I used to manage (it’s physically impossible to squeeze 5 days of work into 3.5!) and judge it as a fail. I do that. Even though I know logically its not possible. My team are grateful I work as hard as I do.

I will try to be more kind to myself, accept that I can’t be everything to everyone and that some days will be less of a win than others. But that’s OK.

Letting Our Kids Get ‘Bored’

We don’t let ourselves do it. As I wondered yesterday why we cant seem to fight the irresistible urge to be constantly attached to some form of screen or entertainment, I thought this article was prescient.

‘Why you should do nothing when your child says ‘I’m bored” (Dr Vanessa Lapointe R. Psych)

http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/9818144

Of the many things in this article that produced light bulb moments for me, Dr Lapointe tells us “Children need to sit in their own boredom for the world to become quiet enough that they can hear themselves”.

How can we teach our kids to do this, or even expect them to try if we don’t do the same?

I think I need to practice being bored. My brain might be more developed than my kids but making a little time for nothing each day would certainly be a welcome pursuit.

It was a few weeks ago when my better half and I realised we were overloading our kids’ schedules. Scheduled play dates.  Soccer lessons. Dinners with friends and family. Breakfasts out. Daily park trips becoming a tick box exercise rather than a product of the little one’s desire for the day. We did take a teeny step back and scale things down but it’s a huge challenge to focus on. Made all the more important now that we are both back at work, forever sprinting from one point to the next.

After this morning’s multiple outfit changes, preparation of 2 different breakfasts, a rather long hunt for a water bottle that had already been found once and lost again, combined with the puppy’s mild vomiting incident, the race to get out the door was all the more stressful. My better half and I managed coffee but no breakfast. Both forgot our packed lunch and today I made the train by just 30 seconds but in order to do so, had more than the usual amount of outbursts at the defiant V1 while getting ready. Given how rushed I was, it’s no wonder he decided not to play ball.

It’s important for kids to slow down, do nothing and get bored but I think I need to try to lead by example before expecting acceptance of boredom!