Thursday, May 15, 2008

now what?

I was all set to post yesterday about how if I could just let go of my ambitions to write professionally, teach kids other than my own, and help teachers learn to be more flexible and inclusive in their classrooms, I would love this life.

I have incredible freedom. I can't believe that I can actually find moments in my day every day to spin, for fun. I can read what I want, I have enough yarn in my stash to knit for the next ten years, at least. I can enroll my kids in a class at the local science museum, and then we can play hookey if we like. We can spend the day gardening. We can sleep in, or get up early. We can walk to the grocery store, or we can set up a lemonade stand.

But some days, freedom isn't all it's cracked up to be. Some days, I get really cranky. Some days, I don't want to hear either boy call out, "Mama!" ever again. Ever. Some days, like yesterday, I realize I'm out of patience because I'm literally out of gas: I often forget to eat lunch because I'm so engrossed with gardening or spinning or a book I'm reading or even, sometimes, doing something with the kids. Eating turns out to be one of the least interesting things I do, so I skip it in favor of something else, but then that turns around and bites me on the butt because I actually do need to consume some calories.

And those are the days when I look around me and all I see are piles of books I should be reading, essays I should be writing, laundry that needs folding, and crumbs everywhere, again. I get conflicted: I think, if only I didn't care about anything other than the house and the kids, I might actually be able to get it all done, most days. If only all I wanted was just to do a really great job teaching them and spending time with them.

Those are the days I think I should try to ditch my professional aspirations, as well as my fiber hobbies. And that's what I was thinking yesterday: I should get some focus and get down to what's really most important, just the kids and their work, their needs. Yeah, that's the ticket. Just forget myself for the next fifteen years or so.

As you might imagine, this line of thinking gets pretty depressing, pretty fast, but there are days when it really does seem to be the path of greater sanity. The solution to having a life in which one is juggling too many priorities is to eliminate some of them, right? And since I'm not planning to give my kids away (this week) it seems clear that I should eliminate the priorities not directly related to supporting the kids and their learning.

And then I read this post. The inimitable and very talented prairiepoppins of Handmade Homeschool reminds us that not only do we need to keep our own passionate selves going for our own sakes, but that it's really what's best for the kids, too. Our children need us to be actively engaged with our own passions, not only because it feeds us, but because they need to see how an actively engaged person lives her life. Devoting ourselves exclusively to our children does them a disservice, because it gives them the notion that not only are they the center of the universe, but that mothers/parents can't do anything else but take care of kids.

Which is not so.

So now I want to hear from you: what do you do to keep yourself going? How do you keep it all together when everyone is coming to you for most of what they need? How do you get time for yourself? What do you do to feed yourself?

Tell me, please. I need to know.


Tara said...

I do not... which is really pathetic, actually. Just yesterday I decided I am going to take a food styling class under the guise of work, since I can write it off, but mostly because I saw the ad and really, really wanted to do it. Haven't felt like that in an age! Yoga and bellydance help tremendously to keep me sane, but I need to carve out 20 minutes a day to practice dance in order to make progress and lately all I've had time for is class, no practice, so I feel like I should stamp a big L on my head and throw in my hip scarf. Hopefully that will pass soon.
And still working on that eating thing, too. Being prepared, planning, etc. May need to resort to dandelion greens from the front yard if I don't get to the store today!
Can't wait to see what others do...

Poppins said...

Wonderful thoughts.

I eat well. It's so important. The more my diet is inline, the better I feel and I notice it immediately.

I pursue passions.

I view exercise as a public service: when I do it, I'm calmer and more patient, not to mention having more energy throughout the day.

Granna Judy said...

The one thing I'm sure of (but I think you know it too) is that you have to feed yourself. Otherwise, I think you have nothing with which to feed the rest of the family.

sandy said...

I think I have it pretty good in this dept. Joint custody has its up side. So, I have time for karate and reading and gardening. And after the little one is in bed, I take nice long baths...
Its the rest of your post that I struggle with. Like, am I going to do this the rest of my life? What about that book, school, etc. I feel like I'm just cruising right now, not challenging myself. I feed myself plenty.

Evenspor said...

I was thinking just last night about an argument I had with a friend shortly I announced I was pregnant with Beeper. She believed I was not happy and that I was going to throw away all of my own dreams for the sake of beng a wife and mommy. She'd "seen it before. Other young women with peotential to do something throwing it all away."

Now, I don't think there is anything more important than being a mother, but I also tried to explain to her (and unfortunately she never understood) that being a mom is also extra motivation to me to continue working on those goals. I want to finish my degree and be an accomplished artist so that I can show my kids that you really can do whatever you put your mind to.

I was also thinking last night about this post I made a while back on that topic:

I had made the comment in that post that when I decided to homeschool, I also decided that I needed to get my degree. I was thinking last night about how it probably sounded to people like I thought a person needed a degree to be qualified to homeschool, which is not how I feel. What I meant was that I feel like if I am going to be my children's main teacher most of their lives, I need to be an example to them of how much a person can accomplish and an example of how to dream big.

I am by no means a seasoned mom or homeschooler, and I am still trying to figure out how to keep all of my balls in the air, but I am determined, and I know that it is so important to do the things that are important to you as much for your kids as for you. And I have a very supportive husband. I am quickly learning how important that is to making it all work.

shaun said...

Hmm . . . I am not a good example, as I work wayyyy too much. I have really dialed back on the out-of-the-house stuff because it was killing me. I'll have to think more on that. In any case I'm lucky that my kids see that parents have lots of other stuff going on without them, and I don't have to try to make that happen. I have to make efforts in the other direction.

I think there are two separate though related issues:

-- People approach middle age and are no longer have that awesome, mid-20s, the world-is-my-oyster perspective. The question of "what mark do I want to make" gets more urgent, and some doors start closing. Also, after 20+ years out of my parents' house, "having a pleasant home life" no longer seems like a consolation prize, but like a pretty freakin' awesome and time-consuming ambition.

-- How do you keep your kids from taking over your existence, since they seem to be programmed to attempt this, and will take as much as you give without stopping to think, "Hmm, I should set some limits on my taking."

OK, so I think this is all a preamble to something that I will have to write later and stop hogging so much space!

My short answer to your questions is "time alone." My sister-in-law (homeschooling mom of 4, including one with a serious disability) said to start writing it on the calendar well in advance. I do a parents' night out with a homeschool group sometimes, I have a group of friends that gets together either for crafty stuff or just hanging -- those things are nice, though what I really want, and what really feels good, is time in my house alone.

Also, cocktails.

Oh, and read The Miracle of Mindfulness, especially the parts about "my time."

Anonymous said...

I typed out a long, thoughtful comment yesterday, and Blogger timed out and ate it. So I will just say that I recharge through my editing work, which provides me with intellectual stimulation and a feeling that I still have a toe in the "adult" world.

I also try to make sure my basic needs are taken care of as much as possible: sleep, food, etc. If I don't, I end up much less compassionate and patient with my kids.

When I can fit it in, I do "extra" stuff like knitting and sewing, but it's pretty low on the priority list. Maybe next year I'll incorporate more of that, but then I'd probably have to do less blogging, which is my main time consumer right now.

Lindsay said...

This is something with which I constantly struggle. I watched my mom raise Greg and I and she barely lived while doing it. She survived. She did what she had to do and we made it and we may have had weeks where buying kitty litter was not possible, but we never had to skip a meal nor had the heat turned off on us. I came out of that knowing how to survive and taking great pride in that, but I didn't know how to live. I'm still trying to figure that out every day. I don't 'want' things. My needs are air, food, water and shelter. I've had a few conflicts with counselors about the definition of need. To me, that list is all-inclusive. They keep telling me that fun and love and other things are 'needs'. Up until recently, I have said that they are wants that are easily done without - luxuries, if you will. But I am working on re-prioritizing. Maybe fun isn't necessary for survival, but it is necessary to want to survive. And so while my definitions of the words haven't yet changed, I am noticing a shift.
Hence, as you have the liberty, I'd recommend keeping hobbies. I still feel unsettled about knitting when there is something that needs to be done. I'm working on it, though.
I realized a few years ago that my food intake had to be paid attention to. If I don't eat for a few hours, I start to get cranky. If I go too many days without significant protein or calcium intake, I notice it. I take a B vitamin every morning, and without it I am less resiliant in my mood. I still occasionally realize that I have missed a real meal and just had small snacks, but I work on it.
Also, exercise makes me a nicer person. I found a friend that lives nearby and we get together on weekend mornings to stretch, walk and stretch again. Doing this with another person means that I am more likely to continue because I'd be flaking on them as well as me. Also, the time passes more quickly if there is interesting conversation. This also provides a time out of the house and time for me to see someone who is not related to me.
Time alone (and I'm not dealing with kids) is difficult to find. I find getting up early or staying up late allow me at least some time all to myself. Someday I may take a full day, but as long as I get those few times a week, I am ready to go for another week.

Anonymous said...

My goal is to provide a balance for everyone in the family- including me. By example I am teaching my kids to prioritize, to be healthy, to relax, to work hard... and I can't do that if I'm not doing that. :D

One of the things we do is consider our family a team- we are all responsible for keeping up the house and yard, for helping and encouraging each other, and I try to teach gracious behavior, compassion and understanding. The kids learn right away how to make some simple meals, to clean the bathroom, to mow the yard. They understand that the material things we possess are an exchange of effort and time for money. Dh works his toochas off so they can have a SAHM and enough K'Nex to build the Taj Mahal. Kids need to respect the fact that their stuff didn't just poof out of thin air- they represent an investment of time and energy and sacrifice.

Something that has happened that has been unexpected is how excited and supportive my dh and kids are about the things I do for myself. When I am reading a book, they want to know what it is about, and they actually get on me when I don't blog. They practically kick me out of the house when they see me wearing down, or dh will take them somewhere to give me some time to focus uninterrupted.

I don't expect life to always be an oasis of blissful co-existence- nothing is worse than when everyone is sick at the same time, or the house gets turned upside down for a remodeling project or major repairs. But overall, the right thing to do is to be the best example of a balanced person that one can be, and therefore one must live a balanced life.