This week, I decided I’d had enough. My family life has become draining. So draining in fact, that I no longer found joy in any part of it…my kids, husband, marriage or me. I started feeling very resentful a very long time ago and truth be told, I was just about ready to call it all quits. It’s easy to say you are going to walk out on your family when you feel this way. It was easy enough for me to even envision what my life would be like without them and, even though I anticipated a bit of a struggle or pain associated with such a decision, I could actually see a “better life” for myself.
Needless to say, it’s not so easy to actually follow through. It was great visualizing the lifestyle I so desperately want for myself. A life where I had time to take care of myself whether it be pampering myself or just plain doing nothing because I can. A life where I don’t have so much responsibility or feel like I’m drowning under the chores that go with taking care of a family of 5.
My days have always felt hectic with no time to spare. It was seriously getting to the point where I felt like I wanted to run away from everyone, including myself.
I’d wake up in the morning, make lunch for everyone after making coffee/tea and at times porridge for the kids. My daughter gave me the biggest uphill battle because depending on the mood she woke up in, it would either be smooth sailing or a “morningmare” (a nightmare in the morning). It was no fun way to start my day, on any given day…and it just felt unfair…
At night, when I came home from work, if my husband hadn’t started supper for whatever reason, I would kick into chef mode and without sitting down once, start cooking. Cleaning the kitchen afterwards and giving my daughter a bath…by then it would be near 9 pm. Putting her to bed is not a pleasant experience either because it normally ends in a fight. I would have to lay down next to her as she doesn’t understand “Why does dad get to sleep next to you and I don’t?“. (Oh joy!). She’d wake up during the night, most nights, and either sleep in our bed or I’d have to get into bed with her. Struggling to fall asleep again, I normally end up feeling like a zombie at work the next day.
At the end of it all, I am the one who feels like I’ve been running a marathon for the last 16+ years. And honestly, that would be great if I had the body to show for it, but I sure don’t.
Anyway, this week after losing it with all of them, I had to make a decision on how I was going to handle the situation going forward. It was only after visiting a friend of mine for coffee on Sunday, that she shared a little helpful info with me. She has a system to get her daughter sorted in the morning. 5 pictures sit on the fridge of her little girl doing “chores“.
Brushing teeth, making her bed, packing her lunch, dressing and bathing herself. After doing these for the day, she gets a tick on the board in the kitchen. Once she reaches 10 ticks, she gets a treat. For any bad behaviour, she loses a tick. I pondered on this for a while and decided, I had nothing to lose and would give it a go. I have to admit, I couldn’t imagine my daughter doing all of those things by herself…
The system was implemented and all it took was me saying that her little friend does xxx all on her own. She fell for it and soon took over giving herself ticks and looking forward to her treat.
Then it was time to deal with the rest of my household. After eating one night, I thanked my little girl for the good job she had been doing this far on the new system. I thought it best to start with the youngest person on a positive note, to help soften the blow to come.
Next, I turned to my boys (14 and 12) and said “You boys are old enough to sort yourselves out in the morning. Starting tomorrow, everyone makes their own drinks, breakfast and lunch“. My eldest was the first (and only one) to question my decision and protest. (This was to be expected, so I took it with a pinch of salt). He felt I was being unfair and didn’t have enough time to do what he needed to in the morning. I refused to budge or give in, I needed this and my body needed it. The following evening, he said that my “strike” (so funny) was making him do more and he doesn’t “have enough time in the morning” (this from the child who sleeps till 7:30/7:45…yeah right!).
It’s been a few days now since the new rules were put in place and I have to admit, it’s working out well for me. I feel more relaxed and aside from the sleeping routine with my daughter, everyone is pulling their weight in the morning. I have no idea why I didn’t do this sooner…no, actually, I do.
I sat and thought about it for a while when I was visiting my friend. My grandmother raised me and I remember her always being in the kitchen. In the morning, she would be up early making porridge, coffee/tea and lunch for everyone. That sounds all too familiar… When we came home from school, we would have a cup of tea and sandwich waiting for us. So after this memory, I was convinced I was heading down the same track and purely repeating what I had seen as a child.
How easy it is for us to repeat the “mistakes“, no matter how good our intentions, of our role-models. Are we really teaching our children the valuable lessons they need to be self-sufficient one day? I’ll be the first to admit that there are some simple things I’ve been taking away from my kids by all that I do for them. It’s not tough love, it’s grooming them for their independence and saving my sanity in the process. Besides, at the start of my post, I said:
“I no longer found joy in any part of it…my kids, husband, marriage or me. I started feeling very resentful a very long time ago and truth be told, I was just about ready to call it all quits“.
I have no one else to blame for the state of things…yes, they all contributed negatively at some point as well but, there is no excuse for feeling this way. I reckon the visit to my friend was a blessing. I thank God that I can now return to feeling good about my family and my life. There is value in making these kinds of changes…I’m sure one day my kids will thank me (even my eldest son who doesn’t understand the wholesome reason behind my “strike”). If only he understood, strikes have an end…this, is only the beginning of a new way of life for all of us…there is no end. He’ll realize this soon enough…Lol!