“You’re burning the candle at both ends.”
“I worry about your health – I think you’re taking on too much.”
I know I’m not the only person facing this dilemma. Life happens – too much is going on – and then we pile more on ourselves for things that are so incredibly important to us. And when things get overwhelming, what’s the first thing we try to cut back on? Us. Our self-care. Our intellectual and creative needs. Our own needs take last place behind everyone else’s.
I’m the first person to tell you that self-care is so critically important to managing the stress of living with special needs and giftedness traits in our family. If you don’t take care of YOU, then everything falls apart, right? Like the oxygen mask in the airplane: you put on yours first, then turn to help your children or those who need assistance.
In real life, I am the worst at doing this.
On the face of things, writing a blog is so much less important that doing the dishes or folding the laundry. After all, it’s just words, I tell myself. Words very few people read, right? (and then a day like last week happens when a post spikes 1,700 view in one day and I’m in shock.) My kids need clean dishes to eat from, food to put on those dishes, clean clothes to wear, and learning needs to happen. This is important stuff, no?
It’s also never-ending. If I spend extra time doing the laundry and getting caught up over the weekend, do you REALLY think that’s going to matter at all by the time the next weekend rolls around? Nope! If I spend all of my Saturday (the part not devoted to childcare) scurrying around the house and cleaning bathrooms, is it going to stay clean? Or will it take one …. just one bath – just one teeth brushing session … to revert back to its normal state of entropy? I have three little kids, it takes less than one.
Chores are so darn depressing. They never end. They never improve. They never go away.
So if I decide to skip the work I needed to do on my Teacher’s Pay Teachers stuff because I have bathrooms to clean, it seems like I’m on an endless hamster wheel of duties. I’m watching countless opportunities for self-care and creative needs passing me by and knowing that I simply cannot stop long enough to even try to accomplish them. Talk about frustrating.
So I do too much. I take on too much, I stay up too late, trying desperately to meet my own needs, my own goals. Which is a vicious cycle because then my health starts to suffer and I cannot even accomplish the basic chores that I need to do. Then housework piles up, school starts looming over me, and I fall into a deep pit of playing catch-up.
This summer I slowly worked towards a solution of sorts. If I could just get everything organized and sorted out into the right storage bin, I could maintain things. It would get easier. The kids would pitch in and know where everything belongs, and life would get better. Ha! I crack myself up, I’m so funny.
Of course it didn’t get better! Some things did. And then I added some more things. My goals moved forward. My needs changed again. The kids completely fail at pitching in unprompted, and they whine and bitch unceasingly (or flop flat on the floor in protest) when told to help clean up.
Apparently I do things backward: forget New Year’s Resolutions, I have an Autumn Resolution. I solemnly swear that I will make myself a higher priority. I will write this blog. I will do my TpT stuff. I will … finally …. make time for my art. I will scrunch all of that into the space of my days and make it work. And to do that, I’m going to require that others start pitching in more.
3 little others: the Engineer, the Princess, and the Destroyer. They’re certainly old enough to do more work around here, and they’re perfectly capable of it. They just don’t want to. They don’t want to take the time away from their fun and games to help pick up the mess they’ve made. More than once I’ve told the Engineer to go pick up the toys he finished playing with and left on the floor, only to hear him sullenly tell me “you do it!” That shit doesn’t fly around here, boyo.
I have no patience for entitledness. I do not tolerate laziness. And I do NOT appreciate my kids thinking that their parents’ job in life is to run around serving them and cleaning up after them.
So instead of cutting back, I’m adding a resolution to my own: teach the kids – more – responsibility. Sure, we do chores. Sure, they have a star chart where they earn rewards for things like keeping their room clean, or picking stuff up. Clearly it’s not enough. It’s time they start folding their own laundry and putting it away. Why is it I say “do the laundry” and that means start to finish, wash, dry, fold, put up, while the kids think that “doing” the laundry means chucking socks together in the laundry basket? There’s a cognitive disconnect here folks!
I’m not cutting back. Instead, the kids are going to pitch in. It’s past time they do more, and I’m tired of doing it all. You want things to be fair, boyo? It’s not fair for me to do all your work!
For now, that means more of my time wasted because I have to do it beside them. I have to hover – their executive functioning issues make it difficult. I’m hoping that practice and repetition will help them learn and function to the point that they don’t need me when I tell them to pick up the toys. We’ll see. For now, it’s better than nothing.
I am NOT cutting back on me. I’m throwing that challenge into the wind, and I am determined enough to ignore the looming health crisis. I matter. My needs matter. And I’m tired of thinking – of believing – that I am less important than my family. No more. I’m not doing less – you are going to do more. Kids, if you think I’m joking, you’re about to meet the origin of your own stubbornness. I can outstubborn you any day of the week! And if you like having those tablets around, you’ll be smart enough to take me seriously.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some work to do.
Note: you might be wondering what on earth! this image has to do with this post? Well, we studied paleolithic art (cave paintings) last week for art class, and I took a few brief minute to demonstrate to the Engineer how his new pastels work. The creative zing I got from a very simple, small drawing made me sad, and made me realize how much I miss creating. Instead of getting sad and depressed, I got mad. And determined.