Showing posts with label slowing down. Show all posts
Showing posts with label slowing down. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Conscious Pace

Over the last 18 years of parenting I have made many mistakes.  I used to (oh, I still do sometimes) beat myself up about them, but then I realized how unproductive that was.  I began to see, somewhere along the line, the gift in the mistake.  The gift being the chance to learn more about myself, and my children and what works for me and my family.

One of the most important tidbits of education that came out of a few of my mistakes is the acceptance of strengths and weaknesses.  I did something hard:  instead of beating myself up, I looked at myself objectively, and analyzed WHY I goofed up, and how I could change it.  No judgments, just self-analysis.  No "how stupid of me", just "what did I do wrong and how can I change so I don't repeat the pattern over and over again."  It's a scary thing to do, who wants to critique themselves?- but once I started practicing this, letting the emotion go and looking back objectively, I began to feel so much more self-acceptance.  I stopped comparing myself to others, and started getting in touch with my spirit.  Sure, there are some things about myself that I needed to work on-I am a firm believer in self-improvement, but there were other things that I realized I would just have to say, "That's the way I am wired and I must embrace it."

One of the things I have had to accept is my need for a quiet, focused family life.  I tried for years and years to create balance with work, obligations, and family.  I tried for years to keep up with the pace I see many mothers handle.  I would hear about "juggling" many things at once, and would wonder, "Why am I such a terribly awful juggler?"  I would attempt again and again to keep plates in the air, I would compare myself to others who seemed to do a wonderful job at it, I would be envious at their juggling skills, and time and time again, I would fail.  Fail meant exhaustion, fail meant guilt at what I felt was unfocused attention to my family, fail meant a general feeling of malaise at what I felt was a half-way job at everything I was trying to accomplish, fail meant a jumbled brain that never felt peace.  After several attempts I decided that all this juggling just wasn't for me. I had some hard moments that were little wake up calls.

Once I volunteered to be a co-leader of my daughter's Daisy Scout group.  I had 3 children when I volunteered, and was in the early months of pregnancy during that year.  It was a disaster from the start.  I really thought, "What is one little meeting once a week? I can handle that!"   I couldn't.  It seemed to roll around so quickly, and I never felt like I was fully prepared.  I was sick and exhausted with the pregnancy. I was running to the craft store for this and that, and then showing up at the meeting with a little one in tow.  One day that little one went missing in all the chaos and was found half way across the church parking lot.  That wasn't even the kicker.  The kicker was getting home each day, with a whiny toddler who was hungry, my older son who had homework that he needed help with, and my daughter, who halfway through the year told me she wished she hadn't even joined.  It was really a disaster from start to finish.  I would be snappy and crabby, and spent and unfriendly when my husband walked in the door a few minutes later.  I was impatient with my children, I was plain old mean.  I would go to bed feeling bad, and honestly, (remember, honesty is the key!) I deserved to feel guilty.  But I hated the feeling of guilt.  I hated the feeling that I took out my frustrations on my children and my husband.    So I knew I had to change something.  I realized that this sort of commitment wasn't for me.  I didn't enjoy it, and I could see it wasn't benefiting any of us.

Children have little or no say in the way we set up their lives for them, and in the pace we set for them, and in the way these things effect how we react to them.  What children really want, I think, is a calm, settled, predictable home life.  A mother who is not frazzled, angry, stressed, or impatient.  A mother who in in tune to their needs.  Parents who aren't arguing because they both are occupied and don't have time to communicate properly.   I began to realize that being a Daisy Scout mother was far less important than being a nice mother.  I began to realize that joining a travel sports team that had us missing dinner every night and separated on the weekends, was giving far less an advantage to our son than spending time with his parents and siblings.  I began to realize that bringing in a little extra income wasn't worth the amount of stress it brought to all of our lives.

I had so many other experiences like this, as I tried something new, and realized that once again, it wasn't working.  I knew what I wanted more than anything was less "gasket blowing" days, and more calm, joyful days.

I decided to look at my good days with my children, the days I really felt like I was an attentive happy mother and wife, and analyze the circumstances that created that day.  I also decided to look at the bad days, and find a common denominator.  I came to realize that many of those days, I had planned just too much.   I started noticing the good days had a slower rhythm to them, a day when I wasn't rushed to get in to the car to go here or there or anywhere.  Sure, some bad days are just bad days from things we can't control...sick kids, sleepless nights, just a funky day, or a hard stage in family life.  But many times the choices we have made determine the pace we set.  I started making conscience decisions about the tempo I wanted to establish for my family because I had enabled myself to see what worked for us.  FOR US.  Not for my friend and her children, not because I had read in magazine I should be doing this and that for my children's social growth, not because I couldn't say no without feeling guilty.

Some of those choices were refreshing and easy.  Others were bittersweet and brave.  After my third child was born, I decided to close a business I had built over the previous years.  It was going like gangbusters, I was able to work when my husband was at home and it was lucrative.  It seemed silly to walk away from it, from the outside eye, I'm sure.  But I knew for sure it was what I had to do to be able to focus on my family like I wanted to.  I knew that I would be happier with less...less money, but more than anything, also much less responsibility.  My brain felt overcrowded...and what was getting crowded out were the things that really mattered.

As I began to open my eyes to how I could be the best mother for my children, I could see the bigger picture.  I had been comparing myself to other moms who seemed to handle so much smoothly, but I realized that maybe they had the skills or support to handle more, or just had made different decisions that didn't sit right with my conscience.  Maybe they were in the same growth stage I had been and that big whammy of a lesson hadn't happened yet.

I also realized that every brain works differently.  My husband is wonderful at compartmentalizing his different roles.  His brain I think, has little rooms with doors, and when he walks out of one room so to speak, into another, he can slam that door and all the stress, deadlines, responsibility stay shut in there.  My brain doesn't have doors, heck it doesn't have walls.   I  feel all the stress from all the responsibilities all the time.  Stress effects how we act every day and I realized that when I felt really happy and content I choose to do one thing, and one thing well.  Sure, there could be other little (LITTLE!) things mixed up with all that, but I wanted to dedicated most of that space to be the best mother and wife I could be which was more important to me than anything else.  By discovering and acknowledging and then accepting the way I am wired-my low stress threshold, my brain with no doors and walls-that acceptance moved me forward-out of guilt and comparisons, and into the empowering ability to make strong choices for my family.

This journey of self-knowledge is not over I am sure.  I have decades of more mistakes ahead of me as my family changes and evolves over time.  We have all the signs we need when something is not right...our spirits, when we are still, will tell us. Our children, in their behavior, in their little tender, purely good souls will show us if they are thriving or just surviving the lives we are forcing them to lead.  Our marriage, our relationships, will become smooth sailing , or angry resentment.  Knowing and accepting myself, and knowing my deep desire to fulfill the dream of how I want these years of motherhood to look for me, allows me to see the big picture, and make brave changes in the little snapshots of everyday life.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Keeping Pace

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity.  The pace has been way too fast for me.   I have been beating myself up thinking, "What a joke, I write about slowing down on my blog and here I am running full might into every day, trying hard just to keep up."

But the truth is, no matter how I want my ideal life to look, some days, some weeks, some months, and yes, even years, require us to move at a faster rate than we'd like.  Here we have had two sports in full swing with nightly practices and long weekend competitions. College hunting, testing, and applications required lots of work for us-for Isaac especially, but we logged hours and hours in the car, and there were so many tight deadlines that we had to work together to keep each other straight.  Required school meetings, necessary appointments-just little mandatory obligations that seemed to all hit at the same time, made for only a few blank days on the calendar.

Motherhood requires much of us.  We might go from long, lonely, sometimes boring, sometimes heavenly days that last forever, to days that are so full we can hardly keep up.  Our minds race, our heads spin.  Some choose this hurried pace, but sometimes it's not always the choices we make-sometimes it just comes with the territory of being a parent.

I ran into a friend the other day and had a chance to catch up.  Her third baby, a little boy, needed extensive surgeries after birth.  This required her to be in a different city from her two little girls and she drove back and forth as much as she could, trying to be the best mother to everyone.  At the same time she and her husband, were in the middle of a move.  Now no one in her right mind would plan for all that to happen at once.  I am sure there were times when she felt torn in different directions.  I am sure there were times when she wondered if she had enough to give.  I am sure there were times when she snapped or when she sobbed.  But I could also tell that now, when things were somewhat settled, she felt enormous relief and was able to look back with some pride at what she, as a mother, was able to endure.  She slowed down, brought her family back together, and reestablished as normal as a life as she possible could after that strong rally.  In fact when I saw her, she had her husband by her side, her two girls next to her, and her baby in the stroller, out for a slow walk to a beautiful park.  She looked tired, but she looked happy also.

Over the years I have learned that the key to regaining my equilibrium when life gives me much to handle all at once is to readjust quickly.  Right now I have an adrenaline rush from the last few weeks, but I know that I need to right myself and my family, pull back and slow down.  I said no recently to some things that required my time in the near future, and as hard as that was, and as bad as I felt, I know that the next few months will require a lot of me here at home.  I don't want to rush the holidays...those are precious, beautiful times with my family-times that I can't get back.

I know how I parent the best. It's not when I am exhausted and frantic, or when my head is full to the brim with dates and deadlines.  It's not when I feel like I'll never catch up, or when I feel like I can't stop to enjoy my children, because I need to prepare for the next hour, the next day, the next week.

I also know that without a deep desire to keep a pace that I feel is best for all of us-a slow, steady, sensible pace-I would be flailing in the wind.  Or more accurately, just swimming along with the current that seems to be the rage...running from here to there, out and about constantly, with no real sense of a home base.  My children don't thrive in that environment, especially the younger ones.  Children can cope and adjust to just about anything, and learning those skills is required in times that push us.  Like I said, we have to rally sometimes and life is not always predictable.  In the long run though, I want more for my children than just coping and adjusting.   I want peaceful minds, and rested bodies.  I want family time, predictability, and routine in all our lives. I want a quiet joy.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


After a busy week or month, I know I have to take the time to regroup.  I think with babies and most especially toddlers, this is so important.  Too much going...not just them, but me too, takes a toll on their behavior and their happiness.  May is a busy month for us this year.  Lots of sports games, and never a weekend day that is empty.  During the weekday evenings this month, I have had to run errands more than usual for some of the special end of the year events, and I volunteered for a few things also, which meant lots of phone call/emails.

I think little guys can take some of the coming and going, but I also think that there comes a time when I have to step back and recharge, and give them breaks from all the hustle and bustle, and from the lack of one-on-one time.  Some kids can last longer than others-well, maybe that's not true.  I think all little ones will act out in their own.

 I know that Patrick, at 3, likes to move very very slowly, and in a way that is a blessing to me.  On the way to the car, no matter what a rush I am in, he stomps in every puddle on the way to the car, insists on doing his buckle, all the while holding the baseball mitt he just must bring with him everywhere he goes. We know that everything seems to be so fast and busy, busy, busy for us in this day and age, but imagine it from a child's point of view?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Questions To Ask Myself

Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!  
I say, let your affairs be as two or three, 
and not a hundred or a thousand instead of a million count half a dozen, 
and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail.  
~Henry David Thoreau

I've asked myself all these questions over the course of my 16 years of parenting, and I still continue asking.   What if?  I have the power to change so much about our lives!  I can give myself a lot of excuses, but more than at any other time in the history of the world, I know I have the power of choice. 
What if you gave up your obligations to school, to church, to just about anything else, especially when they just made you feel stressed and frantic?  
What if you cut to the core everything but just the bare essentials of time commitments?
What if you woke up in the morning to see an almost blank calendar staring at you in the face everyday?  What if you were able to fill that calendar only with what you felt was best for your family?
What if you never felt torn in a million directions, but could "keep your accounts on your thumb-nail"? 
What if you felt calm almost all the time?
What if you said no to playgroups, no to toddler activities, no to endless play dates, no to so much running around?  
What if you refused to feel pressured, guilty, or weird for living a life that looked quite the opposite of the way everyone at the time was living theirs?  
What if you could say 'no' without following it with an apology or an excuse?  
What if you were able to stand strong with constant endurance against the daily onslaught of the frantic pace of society and find a different quiet, child-friendly path of mothering?  
What if, in spite of what society is telling you, you decided that the role of mother is enough work to warrant all of your time, attention and talents and never needed to be shared with less important man-made things?

How will my children remember me when they're grown?  What kind of mother do I want to be described as one day?  I know, it's a question that sends a little fear into my heart.  Will they say I was too stressed, too busy, impatient and angry?  Will they say I seemed to spend time on everything else but them? Will they say, "I needed you then, but you were never really listening?"  

Of course, I know I am human, learning as I go, making plenty of mistakes on the way.  I'd like to live though, with a little bit of contentment in my heart, that I gave this mothering thing the best shot I had.  Asking and answering those hard questions reminds me of that contentment I wish for.

As I get older I've gotten braver...sometimes in great bursts of choices to say no as I wiped my calendar cleaned and vowed to keep it that way, sometimes with the regret of learning the hard way with stressful years as I split my time among too many obligations, or wishing time would move faster instead of slower ("as soon as spring is over, things will slow down and I can enjoy more...").  I have been inspired to be courageous by studying others whom I admire, who exude a peace and contentment in their mothering spirit.  I have been falsely misled by my own self, quick to buy into the "how does she do it all so well?" comparison, only to find out once again, it's an illusion.  (Because it is every time!  Doing it all and doing the important things well does NOT exist, please know..and the price is almost always paid by the little ones that don't have a voice.)   I have been way too quick to jump on a bandwagon, only to fall off and hit the ground hard, with a few bruises but a little relief in my heart. 

I think it's so important in this day and age to remind myself that right now my plate it full of mothering and that's ok.  It's enough for me to be a mother.  Just a mother.  It's a darn big job that takes an incredible amount of energy, endurance, spiritual and physical strength and I am in the thick of it almost every minute, and if I do have a moment to come up for breathe,  I should be recharging my batteries with a quiet moment so I can jump right back in.  My children deserve a mother who is unstressed, happy, content, and PRESENT.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

For Whatever It's Worth

A couple weeks ago I had to go to a quick meeting after school for a first grade activity that involved a family feast.  I was assigned to make a part of a meal and we volunteers all met with the teacher for a quick "go over".  I sent my older kids home on the bus, just for routine sake, and because they are old enough to be home for a few minutes.  Of course I had my trusty helper Patrick by my side.

One of the moms there had a little baby in a car seat, 2 little ones, and was picking up her first grader.    The baby had been peacefully sleeping, and some of the other kids (like kids do) woke him up to "see the baby".  Her little toddlers were being little toddlers and she tried to keep track of them and attend the meeting at the same time.  She look frazzled, tired and overwhelmed.

It brought back SO many memories, because that was once me.

I remember the amount of work it took to organize naps and nursing times, to show up for a meeting at school or someone's house, or to drop off a snack that I was signed up for, or to show up in a classroom.  It hardly ever seemed to go smoothly for me and never as easy as I thought it would be.

It often meant that the entire nap/nursing/snack/dinner schedule was thrown off for the rest of the day, or sometimes even days.  It meant I had to find something decent to wear, and find the time somewhere to put on some makeup and brush my hair.  It meant that I had to make sure each child had a snack in him/her, to prevent breakdowns. It meant I had to look at my watch all morning long.  It meant that I usually ended up sweating buckets carrying a 40 pound car seat, and a toddler who refused to walk, into a stuffy classroom, or drive across town to someone's house. 

I always felt very obligated to do all I could to help...I didn't want anyone to say, "Oh she never does anything."  I felt like my kids would have this huge gap in their childhood if I wasn't participating regularly at their in-school activities. 

As I added my 4th and 5th child to the family, I let ALL of that go.  I gave myself permission to NOT sign up for things, I gave myself permission to be OK with letting school be school, and not a parent participation contest, I gave myself permission to know myself, and know my babies, and know my family...what I can't handle, what is too disruptive for our little thriving schedule, what I just don't want to's all OK. 

Here's what I want to tell my younger self, and all of you who may be experiencing the same struggles I did:

1. Whether you have one child, or two, or five, remember that their are times and seasons of your life, where you are "allowed" to step back and just survive day to day without adding more to your plate. 

2. Be confident in having the knowledge that only you and you alone can decide when your family can handle any extra committments. 

3. Learn to say no without guilt.  Offer to do what you can do easily...that means with no stress.

4. Don't compare yourself with others.  What one person seems to handle with ease (notice the "seems" part), is maybe not what you can handle.  We all have different talents, and we all have different stresses and thresholds.  We also all have different support systems behind the scenes.

5. Be kind to yourself and in spite of what the world tells us all today, do not underestimate how much work it is to be a mom, just by itself, without all the extra things we feel pressured to do today. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Hurry, Hurry, Hurry

It seems like I've had a lot on my list lately. Making up for the summer vacation, trying to get things cleaned and organized around here, staying on top of things, which has involved lots of errands, and attempting to establish a good routine to start the school year off right has occupied my mind and my time. Last night, after a challenging evening, I went to bed feeling icky and out of sorts.

Doesn't it weigh heavy on a mother's heart when one of her children are having a "hard time of it"?  Our minds turn circles of "what if, what now, what if always" and just that can keep us awake for hours.

But then I remember what I've learned over the years. This age, and geez, all ages, they need us to SLOW down and STOP. STOP the running, the constant in and out of the car, STOP standing at my kitchen counter and checking off my to-do list and GIVE.

Give them full attention for hours. Look them in the eyes as much as we can. Eat meals with them.  Good healthy meals.  Slowly.  Don't answer the phone. Stop RUSHING. Kids hate rushing, don't they? Especially the little ones.  It's not good for them.  It makes them, well, screech, and stomp and hit and rebel against the world. 

One of my favorite, if not THE favorite, children's books I own is the Harry the Dirty Dog Treasury.  When I hear myself saying, "Hurry!"  I think of the story titled "Harry by the Sea."  Harry gets lost and is finally found when he thinks he hears someone calling, "Harry, Harry, Harry!"  Really it's just the hot dog man, yelling, "Hurry, hurry, hurry!  Get them while they're hot!"   It always makes us laugh.  Hurry might have helped Harry out, but it doesn't help me out.  It's an annoying way to live, and a recipe for disaster for all of our little guys who don't need to see the bigger picture, but are constantly observing and learning from the little things...the things you miss, when you say the dreaded "hurry" word, or the live the stressful "hurry" lifestyle.

We haven't done much in the last couple days, and my tried and true "getting back to the sweetness" has proven to work again.  Train tables, chicken noodle soup and crackers, long baths, (I sneak in some reading time on the bathroom floor while Patrick creates tsunamis), and a hiatus on the icecream stockage in the freezer has made things so much better already.