Tuesday, January 11

it's only january 12th?! i thought for sure...

What the what?! Why have the first twelve days of January felt more like they've spanned thirty?! Probably not a good sign when come yesterday evening as I perused my Holy Center of Information (read: calendar) I had to convince myself that tomorrow was only Wednesday. Only Wednesday?! It was enough to bring the Big Sigh. (Yeah, that one that sounds like "oh man! whimper, whimper, could you pass the wine please?!")

Monday morning the PBS Parents facebook page asked us parents how often we bathe our kids; every day, every other day, or when we can smell them before we see them? My answer: "when they're lucky. seriously. i aim for at least twice a week." While the answers from other moms varied - some echoing my sentiments, others mentioning they bathe their kids about every two days - there were the moms who flat out lied. Yes, LIED. They're the ones who said they bathed their child(ren) every day, sometimes more than once a day if the kid(s) need it.

Right. Liars. Even I don't get to bathe myself that often. Seriously, these moms lied. On a facebook question. Really. I whisper to you: Do they not realize that on facebook no one really knows who they are so it's okay to answer that question truthfully? And I follow that with a shout: And if they indeed are telling the truth, could they at least lie to make me look not so, um, dirty?!?! Better yet, can they just share the crack they're on to be able to generate that much time and energy to bathe their child(ren) every day?!

Which brings me directly to my 2011 New Year Resolution That I Can Actually Keep #2. (If you missed my blog about Resolution #1, direct yourself here.) And, no, Res #2 isn't a commitment to bathe my children more often than I already do and thus stress less because they smell so fresh. (Sorry, kids. And sorry to whoever smells them.)
Instead, my 2011 New Year Resolution That I Can Actually Keep #2 is five-fold: Prioritize - Plan - Follow Through - Stress Less - Live Life. It is to truly stress less - and to do so by prioritizing what's really important, planning ahead, following through with those priorities and plans and thus stress less and whole-heartedly commit to living life.

Throughout December it became clear to me that I was stressing out - over everything - little things, big things, ridiculous things, unimportant things and the rare important-and-I-should-be-stressing-now things that, by time those came around, my stress level was so high I felt guilty for stressing over yet another thing and thoroughly conflicted as to how to handle it. Not to state the obvious (as my husband so kindly took me to the side to do) but this wasn't healthy for me, especially with my equally unhealthy approach to constantly reacting to stress in a fly-off-the-handle manner. And it wasn't healthy for my kids to watch this on such a recurring basis.

I spent December considering resolutions for 2011 and my thoughts kept returning to this volatile emotional state I'd find myself in by the end of the day. It led me to ask myself: What am I doing wrong that I keep ending up yelling at my kids?

Well, for starters, I was spending every day expending all my energy on the kids and their needs, as well as the requirements of the household - so much so that I wasn't taking even a moment to meet my basic needs. (Which would probably explain why I don't "get" to bathe more often.) Yes, I had "work" to do as a wife, mother, and manager of a household. I was "with" my kids on a daily basis (especially  during those two weeks off for winter break that at one point I had dreamily looked forward to) and I was doing my "work" effectively enough. But not efficiently. By no means.

I wasn't prioritizing. Scratch that, I was prioritizing but in all the wrong ways. In the "I Have to do This Now" category I emphatically (and probably a lot more dramatically than I want to admit) threw everything the kids asked for ("more chocolate milk, heated up please" - for the fifth refill), desired ("I want to watch Strawberry Shortcake again" - for the ga-ba-zillionth time) and demanded ("uuuuhhh!" from my son as he stood before the freezer crying for an ice pop). I had to get that for them, I had to do this for them - and I had to do it all RIGHT NOW.

Because they asked, desired, demanded. And because I'd completely forgotten what a backbone was and graciously invited for an extended stay guilt-for-being-a-bad-mom-if-I-didn't-fulfill-each-and-every-request-RIGHT-NOW. How's that for stupidity?

I'd thrown out all instinctive notions of putting on that oxygen mask first (read "as moms, are we deaf?" explanatory blog) and decided I could miraculously live without oxygen. And valiantly throwing all that out the window of the parental airliner, I placed myself in a position where my priorities were to expend myself addressing whatever my kids' desired, struggle with what little focus and energy I had left to address what they needed, and survive sans oxygen on exhaust fumes to take me down in a spiraling tailspin each night.

Sigh. Way to show off your brilliance, Sweetfart. Oy.

Oh, sure, it's easy to look back now and see the mistakes I made. But in the midst of it all, I couldn't see the forest for the trees - I had allowed my head to become so steeped in stress that I could barely get a grip on myself. Inside, I felt like a screaming tea kettle. Outside, that's probably what my kids heard.

How do I keep myself from getting to this point?

As I pondered this, looking for similar situations with positive outcomes, it dawned on me. A little bit of prioritizing, planning ahead, and following through would do the trick. After all, on the two days I carted the kids off to Winter Break Day Care at school I planned, prioritized my time, planned some more, and followed through - all to afford myself the wild chance to paint the family room and kitchen. When I picked up my kids each day, I felt an overwhelming sense of appreciation for them - not just because I'd missed them, but because I'd utilized my time so well and felt indellibly satisfied - not devoid and exhausted as I had been. And not being run ragged with stress, I could actually be truly "with" my children and enjoy them again.

From that experience I began implementing ways to again attain that level of personal satisfaction. I found that the more I prioritized situations, planned ahead for later events (such as dinner and the inevitable simultaneous melt-downs that occur - I swear they collaborate and choreograph these moments), the more I felt a different kind of void - a good void.

That stress wasn't there anymore. That misguided need to address their "woes" wasn't overwhelming me with constant looping shouts of "Feed me, Seymour!"

And I wasn't reacting to stress. Instead, I was acting, taking preventive measures. And "working" more efficiently than ever at being a wife, mom, manager, and, doggonit, the Queen. Queen Stress had been dethroned and I was back to reigning in my rightful place as dictator, I mean, matriarch of this kingdom. (Sorry. "Dictator" was an honest slip. Scouts honor. That's with one finger, right? The middle one?...)

The answer to maintaining my commitment to 2011 New Year Resolution #2 of living less stress and more life is in no way bathing my children every day. Seriously, that's not going to happen, no matter how much I plan or prioritize. These women that have to bathe their young children every day - they could definitely stand to stress less - or share whatever impeccable agenda they have that allows them to do such things and keep their sanity.

Regardless, kids aren't going to die from not having a daily bath. (Right? That hasn't happened, has it?!) Mind you, even I have my limits, and squishy poop down the pant legs demands a bath. Even if said bath consists of the garden hose and a naked tush out on the backyard grass.

And speaking of naked tush... I've planned, prioritized, and followed through enough for the last thirty, I mean, twelve days that I have earned every bubble in my own royal bath.

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