at-home-role

In my household we’ve undergone a change in our previous roles.

At this point my husband’s main duty is to be the stay-at-home parent. My main duty is being the full-time student or as I’ve been treating it, the away-parent.

NGL, I totally struggled with this. My husband had completed a lengthy and arduous degree and had been applying for work to no avail. It felt right to be ‘my turn’ to dip into some studies. To indulge in some learning and career interests of my own. I thought this would be a welcome relief.

However, I continued to carry the mental load.

Well, still continue. I struggle not to think about the things the kids need to get done after school, what needs to be done at home, which social events are forthcoming with preparations needed, and things the kids are going through that I want to check up on.

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how-many-lists

Recently my husband and I were fortunate enough to have the grandparents here.

We were able to leave the boys with them, while we slipped away for three blissful, child-free days. Oh, and how indulgent that was. No fighting, no yelling, nobody to feed and put to bed, lazy late morning lie-in’s, time to sit down and read. Heaven on earth. It was in fact, the longest I have ever left my boys behind. It was a sobering thought and to be quite honest, a bit scary.

As it goes, we left a huge amount of “notes”. The do’s and the don’ts, the what’s and the what not’s.

Just before we jumped into the car, I took out my medical aid card and handed it to my mum-in-law. “In case of emergency”, I said. But as we drove away, my mind wandered to what if it was us who ended up in an emergency? What if I never came back again? My little list of instructions made to last for a long weekend could never contain enough info for that scenario.

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emotions-parenting

She collapses in my arms, a mess of tears and pent up emotion.

I hug her hard and let her know she is okay. As she settles and slows her breathing, I ask her how she is feeling. She looks at me with wet cheeks and glistening eyes, “I’m not sure Mum, can we get the chart from the fridge?”

I am the mother of two girls, which means our household experiences a lot of emotions. There is joy and there is sadness, there is frustration and there is disappointment. We have made it very explicit in our family how much we value emotions. For being able to feel something, to know what you’re feeling and to name, it is an important skill in life.

Author and vulnerability researcher Brené Brown tells us, “When we are in pain and fear, anger and hate are our go-to emotions.”

We understand this in our family. That anger, and harsh words are often due to another emotion under the surface. So, we have a chart on the fridge that helps our girls to dig below their anger and actually name the emotion that is fuelling it.

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lifestyle-undesigned

Have you heard of the concept ‘lifestyle design’?

It’s this idea that a person can take control of and design their own lifestyle, a concept that is supposed to have garnered a lot of interest due to an inspirational book ‘Four Hour Work Week’ by Tim Ferriss. Basically, the idea that you can change how you think and what you do in your lifestyle in order to find fulfilment in your routine and way of life.

When I heard this, I thought as parents, we had no such luxury available to us.

Our lives, whether intended or not, will revolve to some extent around our children.

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mums-need-other-mums

When my son was four months old, I made a nice visit to a doctor who practices about an hour’s drive from home.

She had become my friend during my visits and I wanted someone I could trust to check out my new(ish)born son and give me the lowdown on his health without all of the unnecessary medical mumbo jumbo.

So picture this: I’ve just been in the car for an hour. My son has had a nap in that time, but is also going through a temperamental stage with how he feels about being in the car. Current mood: Nah.

But, against all odds, we’ve made it to the appointment. I pop on the baby carrier, get my beautiful baby out of the car-seat (which is acrobatic in itself) and slide him into the carrier. The sun blinds him, naturally. Which makes him want to look at it more, naturally. I shield him as best as I can while I lug my over-filled nappy bag out of the back seat and lock the door. Phew. We got this.

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phone-camera-photos

Recently I saw a television show where people called in experts to help with their hoarding problems.

I watched with a dropped jaw as they revealed room after room full to the brim with STUFF. Things they have grown attached to, things they can’t let go of. The root of their hoarding sounded like fear talking: “What if I need it again someday? What if I miss it when it’s gone?”

I have never seen myself as a hoarder. Go through the photos on my computer though and my little “hoarding” problem quickly shows up. Two weeks ago, I started creating a photo book of our 2017 and it proved to be a painstaking process to go through all the photos of last year and select only a few to display. Along the way an all-too-familiar pattern emerged as well. Less than happy faces, fake smiles and 7 photos of nearly the same thing, all taken in an attempt to get the best one. My memories were clouded. Instead of remembering the happiness, I remembered the effort it took to get that one perfect shot. I started thinking that maybe I want to start having happy moments in real life instead of fake happy memories to refer to one day.

I realised too that I watched so many of my children’s big moments i.e. running races and winning awards happen through the lens of a camera and in the process completely missed the utter joy and pride in their faces. And this saddens me a bit.

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choosing-love

I sat there trying to process what I’d just heard.

Everyone was standing, singing, but my legs wouldn’t carry me.

“Everything is either love, or fear of loss” he had said. Wow. Never had I heard all of life explained quite so simply before. Never had I realized every decision and emotion in my past had been motivated either by fear or love.

We don’t often have guest speakers at our church, and I am so glad Ted Dekker was invited that morning. He had such a shocking perspective on life, that just made so much sense. It was both new and 2,000 years old, like climbing into teachings I had heard a thousand times before yet hearing them for the first time.

As Ted was telling stories, I couldn’t help thinking about my everyday decisions, and emotions:

In the morning, I rush my children and I feel stressed. Why? Because I don’t want them to be late for school. I’m afraid they will be late for school. And I don’t want them to become adults who are late all the time.

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shadow-step

I discovered a new song this weekend and it instantly became a firm favourite.

You might know it too, “Shadow Step” by Hillsong United.

Driving in the car listening to this on top volume today (I was by myself and it was pure bliss), it made me reflect on the meaning of the “shadow step” in the song. To me it was symbolic of stepping into a shadow, an unknown area, a new place, not yet sure what you’ll find or if it is going to work, but trusting God with the process.

I could relate this back to motherhood immediately.

Are we not always operating in shadow steps when it comes to raising kids?

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motherhood-journey

When I first gave birth to my son just over eighteen months ago, it was a mixed time of overwhelming joy and utterly mind-blowing chaos.

I’m just going to say what all mothers come to learn: Nothing – no third trimester sleepless nights, no parenting books, no sage advice nor all of the wisdom in the world – can prepare you for the complete insanity that is parenthood.

A friend of mine just had his second baby, another little girl. I asked him how he and his wife were adjusting to a two-child life and, as most parents do, his response was predominantly laughter. (I reckon that the amount of laughter grows with each new child born into a family, representing both the inflation of joy and the increased levels of crazy with each addition.)

That naturally led the conversation to the question that most expectant mothers want to ask and all current mothers love trying to pinpoint.

He asked me, “What do you think was the most unexpected thing about becoming a mother?”

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Age is not so much a number as it is a state.

5 is a state. When you are a 5 year old kid, you are in a certain situation, in mind, body, circumstances.

You are short and live with parents, you express yourself well and mostly about things that seems trivial to adults -occasionally asking far too complex questions. At 5 you get dressed and undressed by yourself and use the restroom, you can write some letters and numbers, and your day is centered around play and chores.

17. What picture is created in your mind?

Probably you at that age, or your friends. Scruffy teen, emotions controlled by a tornado of hormones, erratic actions, desperate to belong, feeling invincible. Ring a bell? No clear plans for the future yet, but probably lots of dreams and a vague timeline on when big events will happen.

40. What is that to you?

A mature, wise, accomplished person? A few wrinkles, a solid career peppered with promotions and advancements along the way, maybe grown children, someone without insecurities and ready to dish out sound advice to anyone who asks.

I believe the issue most of us have with ageing is the idea we have of it in our minds, and where on the line of life we should be when a specific number rolls around.

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