Posted in Friday Rambles

Moms are People Too!

Recently, I took a break from household and childminding duties to watch an educational video about music therapy.  It felt like a breath of fresh air.  Not because of any ground-breaking content, but because it had been so long since I was in my ‘element.’  So long since I had heard someone speaking my language – talking about the area I had studied and worked in.  I felt a scholarly and professional comradery with the video-taped members of the audience, despite my vast removal from them, as a stay-at-home-mom who no longer works in that field.

After watching the speech and taking notes on it, I felt as though something had come alive in me again.  Something I had been ignoring.  But why had I neglected that part of myself for so long?

Having unique interests, and allowing yourself time and freedom to explore them, is a part of what it means to have healthy personal boundaries.  A person with healthy boundaries will also:

  • Have their own opinions, without fearing what others will think – and will respect the rights of others to do the same.
  • Have a unique identity (sense of self) that is not consumed by any one particular role, or person.
  • Know that their value is innate, and not dictated by what they do or how other people view them.
  • See their personality as valid and overall good, rather than berating themselves (for being too shy and quiet, perhaps; or, too loud and exhuberant).  They will also enjoy and respect the personalities of other people.
  • Be aware of their own feelings, and take personal responsibility for them.  (See this post.)

In short, a person with healthy boundaries will respect him or herself, and also be respectful of others.

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Cultivating a healthy sense of personal boundaries is a skill that does not come naturally to everyone.  Perhaps you grew up in an enmeshed family, where these unique aspects of who you are were not nurtured.  Instead, you were expected to change or hide them in order to please other members of the family.

If this is the case, the same tendencies may continue into adulthood.  For moms of young children (a role that can be all-consuming), the topic of personal boundaries may be of particular importance.  I’ve heard moms say that they have forgotten who they are.  I would tend to identify with this statement.  Our responsibility to love and care for our children is essential for their well-being.  However, it is better (for ourselves and our children) that we also retain some sense of self, apart from being moms.  In this way, we will avoid using our kids to meet our own emotional needs.  We will also show them the example of a parent who enjoys her life, is able to care about others, and makes unique and positive contributions within the family and beyond.  That is an example I would like my kids to follow!

We’re allowed to have individual interests and opinions.  We’re allowed to say ‘no,’ and ‘stop.’  We can be ourselves: our personalities are valid and acceptable just as they are.  We each have failings but are not condemned by them, because we can receive forgiveness and are able to grow in character.

To develop this in my own life, I am becoming more aware of my wants, likes, and dislikes.  I even express them verbally from time to time.  I’m trying to be ok with standing in a crowd.  (Even if I feel awkward or funny looking.)  I’m researching educational and career options within the realities of my life.  I’m trying not to berate myself for the things I cannot do.  Rather, I am focusing on the things I do well.

For whatever reason, God wanted one of me.  So here I am.

What have you lost yourself in?  If you are a mom, how do you retain your sense of identity?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Note:  If you are interested in learning more about personal and relational boundaries, I would recommend consulting the book “Boundaries” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.  It is the source of much of what I have learned on the topic.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

 

Posted in Friday Rambles

On Life as a (Severely) Introverted Mother

“On the last day of a golden summer…”

I remember with a smile those words, which began a Winnie the Pooh video (on VHS) that I used to watch as a child.

As a youngster, the end of summer was an emotionally intense time for me – fraught with both melancholy and nervous excitement.  Though summer was over, the fall would bring new experiences, responsibilities, and opportunities.

To process these feelings, I would slip away by myself.  I grew up in a house at the end of a long country road, which diminished to a set of tracks beyond our driveway turn-off.  The only ones who ever ventured down those tracks were the farmers who owned the land where they ended, the odd vehicle that had lost its way (or was up to no good), and myself.  If I were lucky, the farmer had made a few hay bales and left them laying around.  They were challenging to climb, and a conquest to sit on.  From the top, I could see across the fields.  The pasture had a few small rolling hills, which were odd and beautiful to my prairie-accustomed eyes.

There, atop the bales, beyond my parents’ property line, I felt independent and free.  Free to think, write, or imagine anything I wanted.  I loved the solitude.

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Now, at the end of my 35th summer, I wish I could go back there.  Just for an hour or two.  I miss being able to retreat to a solitary place whenever I want or need to.  As a mom of rambunctious boys, it can be hard to deal with my introverted nature.  The inescapable, dawn-to-dusk clamour of children, as wonderful as it is, has the potential of driving me to madness.

Today I have mostly sat, drunk coffee, watched my children play, broken up fights, prepared their meals, and fetched things for them.  Somewhere in between, I put in a load of dishes and helped to pick up toys in the basement.  I read a chapter of the Bible, broken up into several sections of about 5 verses each (because of constant interruptions), and journalled a short prayer.  I have not been industrious in any way.  I’ve done the minimum.

It sounds like I’m being lazy.  But in my mind, I’m just trying to stay sane.  Sometimes when I have work projects on the go, I need to stop every 2-5 minutes to tend to something with the children.  Hours or days of this will leave me feeling frazzled, at the very least.

So every once in a while, when I feel that I’m starting to get batty, I allow myself a day of only just getting by.  I complete the necessary duties, and let the others fall by the wayside.  In between the children’s events, I attempt to settle my mind, and process my emotions.  I know that at any moment, my stillness could be disturbed – and that needs to be ok.  However, each interruption will delay my ability to switch back into “work mode.”  (I suppose this is why it usually takes an entire day.)

As an adolescent, a friend once told me that I “think a lot.”  I tried to explain by likening the process to cleaning out our desk drawers at school.  After sorting them through, organizing them, and throwing out the junk, we are able to work more efficiently.

And that’s what I’ve been doing today.  Writing this post, actually, is a part of it.  As I complete these paragraphs, I experience a sense of relief.

Can anyone relate?  Are there other severely introverted moms out there?  How do you cope?

I would love to hear your ideas in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Friday Rambles

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

One of the things I remember from prenatal class was when the teacher said: “You cannot do everything, well.”  I have also heard it said: “Women can do it all.  Just not all at the same time.”

And boy, have I ever found these to be true in my life.

After having my first child, I really tried to cover all the bases on my own steam.  I tried to keep up a successful and current career, keep a clean house, cook all our meals, and spend tons of time with my child.  All by myself.

But I couldn’t.  It tumbled down pretty quick.

I really loved my job.  But, I felt bitter about it when I came home to a dirty disaster of a house, and had to scramble for meals for the family to eat.  I also began to feel disconnected from my child, and worried that if I continued on that path, I would miss out on the precious years of him being little.  Years that I would never be able to get back.

I remember, coming to a crossroads.  The term position I had was ending, but I had been offered another one.  It was the sort of job that I would have never dreamed of having.  It really fed the part of me that craved significance, value, purpose, creativity, and excitement.

But, I was starting to realize that while I worked at a job, there was another full-time job at home and with my kids being left undone.  If I were to continue working outside the home, someone needed to help with all the other stuff.  I sat down at the kitchen table and crunched the numbers.  I knew that I would need to pay for housecleaning, and childcare, if I were to take the job.  However, if I stayed with a smaller 1-day-per-week contract, I would be able to do my own housecleaning, and my son would only need daycare one day per week.

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It may not surprise you, that both options were about equal from a financial standpoint.  So, I chose to stay home and keep a side-hustle that wouldn’t use too much time or energy.  I wanted to spend my days with my kids while they were little, rather than apart, if I had a choice.

The decision of whether to stay home or not is a pretty big deal.  (And let us remember that to even have the option of staying home is a privileged position.)  But since it can be such a difficult decision to make, today I am sharing the things that I considered at the kitchen table that day.  If you are in the same situation right now, I hope the following thoughts will help you.

  • Finances:
    • Can your family afford to live on one income?  Are there things about your life that you will have to change?  Are you all willing to make those changes?  (We eventually ended up selling our house and moving.)
    • What will you need help with if you go to work?  (Housecleaning, childcare, cooking, driving or dropping off children, yard work, etc.)  Who will help you?  Will you have to pay them?  What will this cost?
    • What do you expect to make from your job?  What is left over after paying for the additional expenses you will incur by working?  (Paid housecleaners, childcare, fuel and vehicle expenses, clothing, memberships, other work expenses, etc.)
  • Quality of life:
    • What will your child or children experience while you are away at work?  Will the childcare situation be beneficial and stimulating for them, or stressful and exhausting?
    • How will you keep up relationships with the people that matter?  (Husband, children, other family members, friends, etc.)  Will you have enough time and energy to spend on them?
    • What do you and your family need or want in terms of – household cleanliness, meals, vacations, extra curricular activities, etc.?  How will you best achieve this?
    • What will your own schedule look like, realistically?  Will you thrive on this schedule, or will you be exhausted?
    • Is your job a valuable outlet that you will miss?  (For creativity, socializing/networking, academic stimulation, energy, etc.)  How will you fill this void if you decide to stay home?
  • Professional development:
    • Would having a job right now help you advance professionally?  How?
    • Would staying at home cost you, professionally?  How?  (Loss of: learning, promotion, status, income, etc.)  Would you be able to recover from this loss?  Are you willing to make these sacrifices?
    • Is there a way that you could keep your career going on a part-time basis?  (Reducing your role at work, working from home, starting a small side business, etc.)

While I took all of the above considerations into account, I do remember a pivotal moment when my decision was made, before I even acknowledged it consciously.  After explaining my position to a wiser, older woman whom I trusted (but who was not personally invested in the situation), she did something very bold.  She told me what she thought!  She said:

“Usually, it’s better for the children if the mother stays home.”

And I just couldn’t argue with that.  How could it not be better during those pivotal years, for my kids to have time at home with the one woman who loves them the most in all the world?

I understand that every family is in a different position.  There are families where fathers are able to spread themselves out more between work and kids, and then the wife does the same.  There are families who just can’t afford to live on one income, and if it’s a matter of eating or not eating, they do what they have to do.  There are families with grandparents who are able and willing to watch the kids for a few hours a day.  There are families who thrive on a lot more activity and stimulation than my family and I can manage.

Whatever your situation, there will be benefits and drawbacks.  I’ve seen kids thriving at home, and at daycares.  I’ve also seen the opposite…at home, and at daycares.  If you pay attention to how your kids are doing, make the best choices that you can within the options available to you, and ask for help when you need it: they will thrive.

Is this a decision you have made or are making?  Where’re you at?  How’s it going for you?  Tell me about it in the comments section.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Friday Rambles

The Driveway Rumble

One of my favorite things to do with my kids is hang out on our driveway.  We moved to the town from the country, so a paved surface is kind of a novelty.  They rumble around on bikes, scooters, and ride-on toys, while I sit with a coffee or tea at my bistro set.  (Or plant myself at the mouth of the driveway as a human barrier between them and passing cars.)

For me, it’s a rare opportunity to soak up some warm sunshine while the short summer is here.  I relish the chance to sit for a while and sip on something while enjoying the beauty of my children as they play.  For them, it’s a chance to motor around together and have the full attention of a happy mom.  A mom who is happy because, quite honestly, she is meeting her own needs while simultaneously meeting theirs.

This, I believe, is the true nature of play: it’s fun for everyone involved.

As a younger mom, I nearly wore myself out with all the “playing” I did with my son.  I thought that I should do whatever he wanted when we spent time together, because he was the developing child and it was his needs that were most important.

To a point I still believe this.  Sometimes as parents, we need to sacrifice our own desires to support our kids in their interests.  (No, I don’t actually feel like playing Lego/trucks/Uno/fill-in-the-blank, but I’ll do it for you, because I love you and what you like is important to me.)  However, if taken to the extreme, we defeat the very purpose of play.  It’s supposed to be fun!  For both parties.  And let’s face it: they’re kids, and you’re not anymore.  What is fun for them will not necessarily be fun for you.

I’ve also noticed that my mood really impacts my kids.  My joy multiplies theirs, and their joy multiplies mine!  Because of this, I’ve come to re-frame the way I think about playing.  I now think of it as sharing joy.

When we have a chunk of time to spend together, I ask myself, “What could we do to have some fun?”  For us, this may look like:

  • Playing on the driveway, as I mentioned
  • Walking or biking to a park
  • Skating a few laps around the neighborhood rink (the little guy just slides around on his boots)
  • Going tobogganning
  • Cooking or baking something yummy together
  • Heading to the dollar store and spending pocket change for a small toy, activity, or treat
  • Doing a special, seasonal craft (e.g. making Christmas decorations or coloring Easter eggs)

None of these activities are a drag for me, because they are things that I actually enjoy too.  When I structure our time in this way, a few neat things happen:

  • I am more patient in dealing with the inevitable squabbles and behavior problems, because I’m in a decent mood myself.
  • The kids learn that the wants and needs of other people matter too (the world doesn’t revolve around them, and that’s actually ok)!
  • I have a chance to pass on my passions, and the kids learn from what I teach them.
  • The kids experience things that are different from the usual play that would occur either on their own or with other children.

And you know what?  In the middle of these activities, I often find myself spontaneously joining in on what the kids are doing.  We’ll throw a ball back and forth, push a truck around, or dig in the sandbox.  It is still about them and their needs.  But because I haven’t sentenced myself to an hour of doing just that, I can do it cheerfully.

Quality time spent with your children is never wasted, but if it’s fun for you too, your children will feed off of the joy that you are sharing with them.

Do you like playing with your kids, or is it difficult?  What kinds of things do you do together?  I would love to hear your ideas in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

 

Posted in Friday Rambles

Hey Young Mom, Your Feelings Matter Too!

The other day, I took my kids to the park.  In order to get a bit of exercise myself, I opted to do laps around its perimeter rather than just sit on the bench.  As I walked and kept one eye on my children, I devoted the rest of my mental energy to naming the different feelings I’d had over the past few days, and why.

This may seem like a rather strange, self-involved thing to do.  But lately I’ve noticed something about myself.

I don’t know how I feel.

As a kid, I remember believing that I needed to get out of the way so the adults could have their important discussions.  As I grew, I learned to care about others and put them ahead of myself (a good thing, but it needs to be held in balance).  I entered a helping profession, and my mind was filled with my clients and all their stuff.  I became a mom, and was quickly consumed by my children and all their stuff.

In the meantime, however, I forgot about all my own stuff.

Why is this a problem, you might ask?

Because un-dealt with stuff has a way of boiling over at the drop of a hat, in ways that can harm yourself or the people you love.  You bump your head, and explode in tears.  Your kid spills his milk, and you nearly take his head off with your words.  Someone says something offensive to you, and you’re despondent for days.  (Please tell me I’m not the only one!)

There’s a lot of talk these days about self-care.  That’s important too, but right now I’m talking about something else: self-awareness.  Self-awareness is what allows us to recognize and name our feelings.  Going one step further, we identify the cause or trigger behind the feelings.

This is as simple as:

  • I feel lonely when I take the kids to the park by myself.
  • I feel anxious when my children are sick.
  • I feel joyful when we go out for ice cream as a family.

After becoming aware of how we feel and what is causing it, the next step is to take ownership of and responsibility for our feelings.

Ownership: These feelings are mine.  Others are not experiencing them in the same way as me.  And other people may not have a clue how I’m feeling, unless I tell them.

Responsibility: My feelings are not the fault of other people.  There are things in my power that I can do, in order to deal with my own feelings.

This can look like:

  • I’m going to ask the neighbour if she would like to come to the park with us and hang out.
  • I’m going to stock the house with the supplies I need in case children get sick, and ask for help or emotional support from other people when they are sick.
  • It’s been a rough week.  Maybe we should do something fun together and get some joy back.

As a mom, and as a human being in general, caring for others is essential.  But when you are so others-focused that you are not dealing with your own emotions, and taking steps to deal with them, your ability to help people will be severely limited.  You have feelings, your feelings have causes, and these things are worthy enough to be dealt with.  For your family’s sake, and your own!

Can you relate?  How are you feeling today?  (Do you even know?)

Warm wishes,

Lisa