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.
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.