Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Between two worlds

I've come to dread mornings. It's not that I mind getting out of bed per se, though on days when the wood stove has almost gone out and I'm snuggled under a pile of wool blankets it can be hard, but it's getting the kids up, fed and out the door for school that makes me want to lose my mind. Especially since I know I get to do it all again the next day. And the next.

I know the value of routine and giving kids lots of time in the morning (especially if they're dawdlers like mine) but no matter how early we get up, or how many lists I write, and how much warning and prodding and eventually hollering I do, there is almost always a last minute scramble followed by running down the driveway for the bus. The routine seems to deteriorate as the week progresses: on most Monday mornings the kids are ready to go a full 20 minutes before the bus arrives, and they're rewarded with time to read, draw, listen to music -- whatever. But by Wednesday, my carefully crafted routine has fallen apart and once again I'm yelling and they're scrambling and usually one, if not all, of us ends up in tears.

Sometimes I wonder if my expectations are too high because as soon as I ask them to do more than the basics -- eat their breakfast, brush their hair and teeth, and wash their face (they pack lunches the night before) -- there is a cacophony of whining, talkback, attitudes, and sometimes even temper tantrums. I admit to not always being consistent with them -- sometimes I make hot breakfast as a treat, other times it's up to them (usually when I'm making something else, like today it was homemade granola for tomorrow's breakfast) and while we need to bring in wood every day, I don't always make them do a load, and as Ella forgot to wash eggs last night I asked her to wash all eight of them this morning (which she proceeded to do in a sink full of her yet-to-be-washed breakfast dishes… ugh) and that evidently takes a ridiculous amount of time and before I know it Jack is still in the woodshed, Ella has yet to have her hair braided and the bus is at the end of the driveway. (We're lucky in that the bus passes our farm twice, but the kids always want to get on the first pass so they have extra time with their friends.) They's only missed the bus a handful of times in 4-1/2 years, but too many times the kids have left their "other" responsibilities (the abovementioned dishes, wood, etc.) and I'm left to clean up the mess.

I know my reaction doesn't help -- the more they drag their feet, the more impatient I become and the more my tone starts to rise. Before I know it I'm cajoling and prodding and hollering again, because I'm just asking them to pull their weight and is that really too much to ask? You always hear that the country is a great place to raise kids because it teaches them responsibility, but in our case it seems to be teaching them how to push mum's buttons until she explodes. (And yes, I'm being somewhat disingenuous here.)

As I've always been home, they're used to mum being there and picking up the slack when they don't get things done (like their laundry or dishes or taking out the recycling), but I have other jobs beside being a mother, like working to pay the mortgage.

And while I believe that mothering is my most important job, I often feel caught between two worlds (and I know I'm not alone), especially now that the kids are getting older (Ella is eight, Jack turns 11 tomorrow). I believe that to become functioning and contributing human beings they need to learn the value of work, responsibility and seeing tasks to completion, but against that, I want them to have as much time to just be kids. They're only young once, and before I know it they'll be off to school and I'll have just myself (and the barn animals) to look after.

Growing up my mum was always home and while that provided security when I was younger, it became stifling as I grew older, especially as she fell deeper into her alcoholism. She had no real life of her own, beyond my father's and mine, and as I grew from a pre-teen into a teen, and tried to find my own way in the world, she stewed in her codependency and inability to take an active interest in her own life, instead sinking hooks into mine. I know this made her deeply unhappy and this, in turn, fueled her drinking and her rages against my dad and me, but as much as I committed then to always be there for my kids, I never wanted to lose myself like she did.

And therein lies a seemingly impossible conundrum: always being there for your kids without losing oneself. I know that parenting is like reaching for an ever moving target and the kids and I are always changing, but too often I seem stuck in the middle between two opposing armies -- one side doing too much and the other not enough, for them and myself.

I want to model that women can be strong and independent and have lives that are theirs alone (while teaching them the value of real food and "simpler living" in our materialist world), but I've also committed in my heart to home-cooked meals and family sit-down dinners, help with homework and baked after-school snacks, bedtime stories and pre-dawn snuggles. Can I do all that and still retain some sense of me? I don't know yet but on mornings like this it feels like neither side wins.


jilly-bear said...

Consequences... if they miss the bus the first time by because they are dawdling or complaining or whatever - too bad. They miss time with their friends. And if they miss time with their friends maybe they will get their stuff done on time to catch the first bus. :)

Fiona@RowangarthFarm said...

Oh, I have no trouble with consequences! Evidently, they don't either as it doesn't necessarily motivate different behaviour next time. It's moreso the ongoing day-to-day battles I'm struggling with. And I think we're all just going through a stage right now...

Erin said...

I will admit that besides my gardening and occasional time to read a book I have no more life of my own. I can't even find time to quilt anymore. I have been out to "lunch with the girls" twice maybe in a year and I have only had one date night with my husband in 10 years. My situation is different though in that my husband is often deployed so I have to do it all as if a single parent frequently and live 1200 miles from any family. I'd hope you are a better example of a well rounded woman than I am LOL.

Mama Pea said...

Oh, Fiona, I think volumes could be written in response to this post.

Not to sound (too!) pessimistic, but I sometimes wonder if we women, wives, mothers can have a life that comes close to satisfying our own needs and growth during the time we're raising offspring and supporting a spouse.

Seems as though it should be a lot simpler, but (sigh) we take on a lot (A LOT) of responsibility in attempting to do a really good job in raising the little buggers. (That may or may not refer to husbands, too!)

Such a well-written post. But, then, you always do that.

Jeannie Clemens said...

I remember what happened to one of us 4 kids if we "dawdled" to the point of missing the bus. It was a lot easier to make it on time than work on the farm all day! I'm extremely puntual to this day.

Fiona@RowangarthFarm said...

@ Erin -- I am struggling to be more well rounded, I admit. And while my husband isn't deployed, he is often away (not the same, I know!) and I don't have family nearby (not 1,200 miles away tho!) so I can sympathize just a wee bit!

@ Mama Pea -- thanks for the kind words. It is a fine line, isn't it, to satisfying our own needs while supporting others. It's the guilt that I need to shake when I don't feel I'm measuring up either way. And this too shall pass.

@ Jeannie -- thanks for your comment! But what happened if you dawdled at your farm chores?? To be honest, the kids can be helpful and do some chores just automatically now, and then other times... ugh. Such a struggle.

Laura said...

I really identified with you as I read this post. I homeschooled my kids, was a SAHM, worked only weekend overnights when the kids were asleep so as not to upset their/my sense of security...Yikes. Was there any of me left after all that? No. When my daughter married and moved away, even though my son will always be with us, I felt totally lost. It's takes me years to get some sense of myself back. Good that you are establishing the boundaries earlier than I did. Now, as far as the early morning organization, I recommend doing all the early morning stuff that just disrupts the smooth flow The Night Before. This is a fabulous trick that I learned while working in an assisted living facility. All the kitchen prep was done the night before so that in the morning it was ready to go! All the clothing, books, etc needed for the next day was laid out on a chair the night before. I find that when I'm getting stressed out by trying to get ready in the morning it's because I didn't organize the night before. :O)

Fiona@RowangarthFarm said...

@ Laura -- thanks for your comment and for sharing your experiences. You're so right about doing the legwork the night before -- it does make EVERYTHING go much more smoothly. I do that sometimes and then other times I'm so exhausted by bedtime that I don't. (And I wonder why my kids are so inconsistent!!) My kids now make their lunches the night before and that was life changing. And I admit that since writing this post, mornings have been going much more smoothly. Perhaps I just had to purge my own frustrations so I could start again in a better state of mind! Anyway, thanks again...

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