Do you ever wonder where the joy has gone from your role as a mother? The daily grind gets you down, it seems is an endless life of repeating oneself to get things done, not once, not twice but what feels like 100 times until you find yourself yelling so much in a day that you are in a constant state of annoyance?
I do, in fact I recently went through a couple of weeks (which felt like months!) with the kids of wondering why on earth I ever thought being a mother was a good idea, not enjoying one damn moment in a day, and dreading each day before it had even started as I knew it was going to more of the same. Kids not doing as they were asked until the instruction was screamed at them, answering back, repeating the same things day in and day out and getting nowhere.. I had literally reached the end of my tether. I have of course been at this stage on more than one occasion, thinking and feeling like I was on the brink – and I know from experience that the only way back, the only way to combat these dark times is to consciously, with effort (considerable effort I would add) to rediscover the joy of my children.
Time to make a plan:
Tackled first was the repeating of instructions to get them to do the same things they have to do every day – brush teeth, make bed, get dressed etc.
Step 1 – introduce the daily jobs chart. This is basicially a list of things the girls are expected to do every day – things they should do automatically without me having to ask them or remind them to do it. The list is laminated, so wipe clean, and they have to tick them off each day. At the end of the week, if they have ticks in all the boxes – reward time!
This has worked really well, it has given them their own responsibilities, all of which I was having to ask them to do 2 and 3 times, it is now up to them to do minus my constant nagging. No ticks, means no reward.
Step 2 – Reward chart – we call it the fuzzy chart. They can earn fuzzy’s for pretty much anything – doing jobs without being asked, making extra effort, being kind, caring considerate. They are not allowed to ask for fuzzys for doing a job/act of kindness, they can only be given them by me, and my decision is final. It is important to me as I’m sure it is to everyone, that children behave well, be kind, be considerate, because its they way they should be, not just because they would earn a reward. The fact that then their good behaviour is then recognised by a reward of a fuzzy is then a bonus rather than something expected. When they reach 50 fuzzy’s on their chart, they get to choose an activity that we can do together as a family
A few days in to these two steps has helped me get a bit more of a routine in to life, it has given me a bit of breathing space, a chance to take a step back rather than feeling constantly annoyed and frustrated. That little bit of head space means that I have had the chance to focus on the what I’d forgotten – I do actually enjoy being a mum.
Step 3 – Focus on and make an effort on doing activities we can enjoy together
Natalie loves to help me cook – it has been a while since I’d let her help as I’ve been constantly in a rush, and to be honest was so agitated by the kids that I didn’t really have the patience or the desire to let them help me, to show them and assist them in the task. But they are settling well in to their routine, they are doing the jobs they are supposed to, they have already been awarded fuzzy’s, the household is at the moment certainly a lot less frantic than usual, so when Natalie asked to help me cook dinner, a deep breath, and I said yes. How glad I am that I did. I had forgotten how lovely it was to listen to her questions, have her copy what I was doing, watch her learning and enjoying. We baked breakfast cookies (see previous blog for recipe), we chopped and blitzed veggies for a Moroccan style sweet potato soup – and then, without prompting, with no mention of a fuzzy at the end, she asked if she could wash up – RESULT (although I did have to re-do much of what she had attempted to get clean), but the thought was there.
Homework with Jess is a patience testing task at the best of times. Learning logs have to be completed during half term holidays (a big big bug bear of mine.. why can’t holiday time be just that.. a time to have a break from school work!), but hey ho, it has to be done. I normally dread doing the learning logs. It inevitably ends up with me doing practically off of it for her, just to get the darn thing done in time. I get very frustrated at her lack of interest, and her inability to take responsibility for the task ( I do tell myself she is 8 yrs old, how much can I realistically expect from her!). So we set about this learning log a bit differently. She had to research how beach toys and beach wear had changed over the years, and then design her own future beach outfit. Armed with the laptop and google, we found pictures of beach toys , pictures of swimsuits from Victorian times through to the 1950s’ (what a glamours age that was), and modern day stuff – printed them all off and made a collage. Her idea for a future beach outfit was one made of silver to reflect the sunlight so we wouldn’t get sunburnt – pretty good stuff – led to the cutting out of silver foil and more gluing and sticking.
We both took great pride in what we’d created together, with no falling out and with joint participation.
Re-discovering the joy – for me means making time to stand back, look, watch, acknowledge and reflect on what we do together, consciously think about what I’ve enjoyed, what made me smile, what made me laugh. Concentrate on the positives rather than the negatives.
However, I am only really able to do this if I manage to reduce the daily stresses that can often build up and take me to the brink of despair. I need to keep reminding myself of this, keep myself in check.
When we get annoyed, our brain gives us a second or two before we react – it is possible to train ourselves to take this couple of seconds and quickly decide on our action – I am doing my best to remember to take the time, make the effort, keep calm. This involves lots of deep breaths and trying my very best to think first, consider what I am going to say and how I’m going to say it (rather than scream it! ) Doing this means I am less likely to explode. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.. but I keep trying.
Re-discovering the joy of the kids is rewarding, not always easy as there still many times during the day they drive me nuts, but its worth it. I find that I give more hugs, receive more kisses and have an overall better relationship with them.
What do you do to find the joy in your children?