Chatting with a friend with elementary school kids about her crazy life and trying to find time and energy for herself I am so grateful my girls are older and much more self sufficient and I also remember being right where she is. Lists a mile long, tasks never complete, not enjoying as much of my really awesome life. I say really awesome because we (the Munsons and my friend as well) have healthy kids, are able to pay our bills and cover fun stuff here and there and we’re happily married. We have a lot to be thankful for and we are.
When our girls were 5 and 2, I decided to go back to school. We moved to the north side of Houston so Matt could continue to drive downtown for his job and I could drive to college an hour away Monday through Friday. Over the course of that semester I had a literal breakdown. I had health issues that doctors couldn’t figure out, I was behind on all things school all the time, we were early into the process of homeschooling the girls and I thought I had to have a super clean house all the time because I wasn’t working. Looking at it all now, I can totally see the sh*t storm that was coming but at the time I only saw the manageable parts, not the whole.
Cutting to the shorter story… I had to learn a couple of things in order to get sane and stay there. I forget every now and then and life gets crazy but then I get back to it, dial it in and things get good again.
So the things I learned and implemented to get and stay sane:
1. Laundry is done only 2 days per week. We chose Sunday and Wednesday. All these years later and its still done the same. Yes, its laundry all day BUT only those two days and you feel like the task is completed. Previously, in the do a load when one is ready method I was always doing laundry and it was never done. Mentally it was defeating. Big cleaning is once per week. Sweeping is twice per week. Dishes are done as needed. On the chore days, at the end of the day, the house is clean and everything looks great which makes me happy!
2. The kids have to help with laundry (and all chores really) in any way that they can. They dirty the clothes, they can help put things right. Little kids can fold wash cloths and hand towels. They can match up socks. Every load became a sorting game and carrying the stacks was part of their work. They want to be a part of your life, let them! Yes, I am fully aware that they are going to mess things up, take a bazillion years to do what you could have done in a minute and not do them ‘right’ but keep at it and they will get it sooner than if you don’t teach them. As they’ve grown older they are in charge of more and more. My job is to make sure they are capable on their own. Getting it done! Woohoo!
3. Its ok to have a messy house. Dirty and messy are different. In the spring of my breakdown, we had stairs in our house with a landing 1/4 of the way up. Every….single…day the girls would throw all pillows, stuffed animals and any soft toy down those stairs and then plow down the mess. It made me crazy! Seriously unhinged crazy. But I was missing the important stuff – they were mentally busy, they were physically busy, they were getting along, they were working together (yes, sometimes they fought), they were using up a lot of time in the day and they would have to put it all back up stairs at the end of the day. Did I want to look up and see a completely congested staircase? NO. Did I have to get past it? Yes.
4. I’m a list maker from way back. I have a bad tendency to make run on lists. This is bad because, mentally (like the laundry), the list never gets completed. I had to teach myself to instead build realistic and manageable lists. Another huge thing is I had to learn to put myself on the list. In trying to be supermoms we forget that we’re important, too. If we don’t include time for ourselves and what makes us happy then we risk burnout and breakdown which is what I did. A hard part of putting yourself on the list is thinking about what you want to do/learn/see/accomplish. If you’re not figuring that out or if you are looking to someone else for those answers…well…that’s your bad. You are responsible for you.
5. This is potentially one of the hardest ones. Cut out all outside influences that do not add positive to your life. I mean it. All of them. Family that doesn’t get your decision to stay home or homeschool your kids. Gone. Friends that constantly do little digs and compare in negative ways your life and theirs. Don’t let the door hit ya on the way out. Any person on the internet. Just don’t do it. The only opinions that matter are yours, your spouse and the kids but mostly just yours. You are the one having to make the decisions on how to raise your kids, care for your house, nurture your marriage, manage your money and on and on. Unless you’ve asked someone for help or their opinion in any of those areas (don’t do it!) then they can keep those opinions to themselves. Its not being mean, its protecting you and you deserve it. At the end of the day you are the one who is going to have to live with your decisions. No one else.
These were the biggest things I did to learn to manage my life. There are, of course, more since then but these were very important first steps for me. For all the over-achievers turned parents out there I hope you are managing you also. Good luck.