I’ve been that mom. The one who is not sure she can take even a moment more of the screaming 8 year old, or the boys fighting for the hundredth time, or the complaining. When one of my boys won’t stop asking me for time on the xbox even though I have clearly stated he has lost the privilege for the duration of the day and will not get it back- yet some how after he behaves for 30 minutes, which I think might be a record, he believes the clock on getting back a device resets????? . And when those moments come, the moment when I am not sure if I should hide, flee or blare my music so the only thing I hear is music pumping in my ear and I know its too loud but the thought of children crying, and fighting, and not listening pushes me to consider such things. You see sometimes I need to escape, to remove myself from the situation so that my boys don’t keep feeding off of my reactions. Sure I try not to react but eventually, after enough rough spots, enough fights I cannot contain myself.
On occasion I will to go for coffee or run an errand once my husband is home because I need a moment to clear my mom mind or a break from the daily grind in the low moments of parenting to reset my thoughts so when I return and the rocky road of parenting and kid squabble starts up again I can start anew. And there are times when I just walk to my bedroom and close the door hoping I will not be followed by one or all three of my boys. Of course, they can find me and usually do. But usually they do realize something upset me and ask why. I tell them I needed a moment to breathe. To calm down or reset myself. Remember my kids are 9, 11, and 13 so they can be in another room without supervision every second now.
Then there are the times when pop in my earplugs and I turn on my running tunes, and yep I put my music louder than would be recommended in those moments. Fortunately those moments are limited so I think I won’t have any long term ear damage from those few times I’ve turned up the volume to tune out the kids .
But its after these moments, the ones I want to hide from my reality- the one where things feel like my household is out of hand. In those moments I am not sure i have the mental energy to calmly speak to my kids and get them to listen and shape up their behavior. After those moments, I start to think back to what was going on before the unraveling of the day. And begin to realize in those moments when my kids could not keep it together, I was not present. I was present in the house but I was distracted. I was distracted with the house. I was giving my time and attention not to a impressionable, young boy but instead to a house that will not give me anything in return- I was cleaning and getting a few things done on my computer. I am nearby and alert but its not the same as participating with my children with an activity, or game or giving them things to do. And yes I realize all of us must get other things done, but then I ask myself, could the laundry have waited, could I have gotten up an hour earlier and finished my work to so I could fit in more quality time with my little people? How would my day and theirs gone differently? Is the problem my lack of involvement for too long a duration? They are not toddlers, they are capable of many things, but maybe they still need more direction and guidance in the every day moments that confront them.
And I wonder, how can I be that mom- the one who shows up every day and puts her family first, not some of the time, but all of the time. The one who realizes to be smarter and use that crock pot to make dinner for her family, the one who gets up early to fit in a workout or getting my work done before the kids are up, the one who knows a special moment with my kids is more important than showing up to an event where it won’t matter in a week. I will still have times I will be at a business event, or meet a girlfriend for a few hours, as I believe those are part of who I am and what I do, but I will make a more concise effort to choose my family.
I have decided to try and incorporate three tactics to help me be more present for my family when they are home. I hope these ideas may help you too. And I’d love to know how you put family first, and focus on strengthening your family instead of staying busy for the sake of busy.
1. I will Say No More
I will not agree to attend events or meetings if it conflicts with my family’s schedule or time unless it directly aligns with my goals or my family’s. I will still make time for friends but I will pick activities we enjoy and involve the whole family when we can.
2. I will Schedule My Day to Prioritize My Family
I will plan my day with intention and purpose. I will ask myself questions like- is it during dinnertime? Can I do it in the morning or after the kids are in bed or at soccer practice before committing to something. Can I get up earlier to finish my work, cleaning or taking care of errands or fit in a workout? Can I only work while my kids are at school (I mostly do this but find myself letting more time of the computer creep past 3pm).
3. I will plan dates regularly
I will plan regular dates with my husband, and outings with each of my kids. I will make time each month to spend quality time with each of them and plan time to be together as a family- whether relaxing or going on a hike or to the beach or some other activity.
4. Family Meetings
I will work toward having regular family meetings or times to get input from each of our kids and my husband.
I try to get input now but often I feel I don’t ask my kids, how can I make your day better or what is 1 thing you want to do this weekend. Or how can we help you get along better with your brother.