Yesterday I said something to the boy that I shouldn’t have said and didn’t mean.
What it was doesn’t matter. What matters is that I said it because I was distracted from my most important job – Being Mum – and I messed up.
Life is full of good things at the moment: interesting work; exciting writing; fascinating learning (about coaching: I’ll tell you about it some time); fun exercise; time with friends; even rollerskating!
I had been congratulating myself on doing it all, but the truth is that something always gives.
It’s not just about how you spend your time, but where you put your mental, physical and emotional energy. Of course I need to put energy into my career, my hopes and dreams, my health and fitness – but I also need to save some (a lot) for conscious parenting. The boy needs attention – and he generally gets plenty of that – but he also needs guidance and discipline, and those weighty things have to be thought through and followed through by us, his parents. Plus, there must be energy left over for fun and silliness!
Going through life is like riding a bike: a constant balancing act. Sometimes you lean one way, sometimes another. You’ve got to keep pedalling, and you’re constantly making adjustments to the handlebars, the gears, and looking out for obstacles in the road. Sometimes you wobble or fall, but you have to get back in the saddle. And you need to remember where you’re going – and why.
This Live and Work at Home life is for me – but it’s also for my family. Being Mum is my most important job. What’s yours?
Some days feel like a mountain you just can’t climb. Do what you can.
When you look at something and think, “I can’t” – just do what you can.
If you meet the deadline but it’s toast for dinner – you did what you could.
If you miss the deadline and it’s toast for dinner – you did what you could.
I noticed a poster on the wall of the boy’s school today:
“Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow’.”
(It’s from a Mary Anne Radmacher art poster. I’ve discovered she’s written the book too.)
I always prided myself on being able to balance home and work without being rigid. I’d congratulate myself for getting the laundry done or the dinner made between work tasks.
Then it all got too much. Work was bleeding into the evenings and I wasn’t getting going on paid jobs until mid-morning because I was finishing up home admin or emptying the dishwasher. I told myself home always came first – but somehow, everything was becoming a blurry, unsatisfying mess.
So, on the advice of a wise friend, I tried boundaries. Working – and only working – between fixed hours. Doing home-related tasks – and only home tasks – in set times too. I know, you’ve heard this suggestion before. It’s hardly rocket science. Call me slow, but I finally realised that this time-honoured advice actually works. I was flying, clear-headed and amazingly productive.
For a whole week.
Then the boy was home from school for a few days and I went back to an endless mixed-up mash of emails sandwiched between story-reading and working in front of kids’ TV to keep him company and lessen the Mummy-guilt. And I knew that, for that week, that’s the way circumstances meant it had to be.
But I also knew that, once we were back to normal again, the boundaries were definitely coming back into force again. They help me to think clearly. They comfort me by saying, “this task you are doing now is exactly what you should be doing at this moment. This is home time. (Or work time.)”
I can recommend it. Boundary your time. Don’t do laundry at work or check email at home. It seems so simplistic and obvious – perhaps too simplistic and obvious to work – but it works wonders.
Some years I’m inspired by the glowing red globes of the tomato mountain spilling out of the greenhouse and into the kitchen, and I happily cook up pots of delicious tomato chilli jam. (Fantastic with sausages, cheese – pretty much anything, in fact.)
This year, despite the glowering and the threats from the tomatoes every time I walk into the kitchen, the cupboard remains bare of any tomato-related preserves, and I’m refusing to feel guilty. Everything is seasonal, and I’m sure my kitchen goddess persona (ha ha) will return another day, another season. For now, she’s frolicking in other pastures. Or something.
A friend told me recently that she’d been inspired by my blog. Delighted as I was, I laughed out loud when she said she’d been inspired to not work at home! She’d had her season of doing that and now she needed to go out to work and leave the domestic stuff behind. And I completely understand that. While I’ll not be leaving my haven of domesticity, I’ll let the preserve-making slide and enjoy the late sunshine instead. This season won’t last forever.
The internal conversation goes something like this:
“I deserve a break. None of this stuff is urgent. It can wait.”
“But I need to get ahead. If I do this today then I can have the whole of tomorrow off.”
“Hmm, a whole day off. That would be good. So why don’t I have today off and catch up tomorrow?”
“But if I do it today it will be done and then I can have my day off guilt-free.”
“Guilt-free? That would be a novelty. I am a parent, after all. I feel guilty when I’m working and guilty when I’m not working. “
“Do it now, get it out of the way.”
“I’ll do it now and have tomorrow off.”
We all know how this ends. There is always more to do tomorrow and if we’re not careful the time off never happens. Take it now, for goodness’ sake, whether you can spare it or not.