Updated: Jan 22, 2021
The end of the day couldn't come quickly enough. It was fast becoming one of *those* days. Again. All morning it was like I couldn't catch a break - bickering kids, things spilt on the kitchen bench that hadn't been wiped up, big piles of washing not put away, craft messes on the floor, unexpected phone calls and errands to run, a teen to drop off to work which meant piling all the kids in the car and getting home only to realise the printer was out of ink when I wanted to print off some lapbooking activities. "Great! Of course there's no ink! Argh! We FINALLY get to start the schooling day and now there's no ink! Perfect" I ranted sarcastically around the house.
It doesn't seem like much but on top of having had broken sleep, being talked at since waking up, thinking about music gig stuff I needed to catch up on and prepare for and regular housey stuff (like cooking and cleaning) I. had. just. had. enough.
Over our 12 years of homeschooling, I have come to recognise (sometimes not quickly enough) that during times like these, underlying my frustration, is usually a level of unmet need. My getting worked up over the culmination of the little things I mentioned above was really the feeling that I was running low - actually that I was more accurately running on empty. I needed my cup filled and was a mix of tired, physically spent and in need of a mind-break. It usually means I need a chance to regroup and I haven't actually looked after my needs. That's not to condemn me (or you if you relate to this) but I do find that as soon as I acknowledge that I'm on empty, I try to start the repair work. I actually try my hardest to do this BEFORE I get to empty but life happens and sometimes 'empty' still happens too.
No one BUT me is responsible for my own self-care. Nobody knows what I need, heck half the time, I don't know what I need! And it's not to say that I should just do ALL THE THINGS either because around here, we are a team and share the responsibilities of cooking, cleaning, shopping etc. It might mean we need a family meeting to discuss WHY those kitchen messes are being ignored or have a chat about the siblings fighting and work through some conflict resolution stuff. Even once we've addressed the things others can do to help, I am STILL faced with asking myself how I can recover and have my cup filled.
For me, I try to do a few little physical things that usually give way to a bit of a spiritual, mental and emotional shift. I'll give you an example. Repair work for me looks like getting some quiet time (silence is better), eating some yummy food, taking off ANY and ALL pressure to get things done other than the absolutely NECESSARY things (like picking up said child from work), often having a change of scenery and lifting my gaze to things 'above'. What can this look like? I've taken us all out to our local gardens, had a walk in the fresh air with take-away coffee in hand and listened to water cascading over rocks. Even with the kids with me, this physical change seems to help encourage a shift: my focus changes from my stress when I'm in nature to feeling in awe of being part of a bigger story. If we haven't been able to leave the house (because of the whole world in isolation or fatigue) I've asked one of the kids to put on a pot of tea at home and we raid the cupboard to find a little sweet treat. If I'm not completely on empty, I'll read aloud or put on an audio book while we have tea time but if I'm wrecked, I'll tell everyone I'm in need of silence. We talk a lot in our home about the ways we have to honour each other's needs (sensory, medical, emotional) and I remind them that just as I honour their needs, this is a time they can honour mine by being silent. Admittedly, they started off only being able to do a little at a time, but a little silence is better that NO silence. Over time and as they've grown older, they have been able to go for longer periods of silence (and I firmly believe the tea and treats helped to encourage this).
Sometimes the shift has come by me being able to take the pressure off - letting go of 'formal' learning I had planned gives way to natural learning activities (baking together, listening to music, playing lego, watching a DVD and popping some popcorn - lo and behold - this normally deals with the siblings bickering issue too!) Sometimes it has looked like buying flowers for myself and having them on the table where I see them each day, snacking on some dark chocolate, phoning a friend, reading the Scriptures, praying and lifting my eyes to the hills (Psalm 121), lighting a candle, eating a hot meal by myself in a cafe, having a date night with my love or getting out my guitar to play some of my music with the door locked. These things might seem ridiculous to you but that's the beauty of knowing ourselves and what each of us needs. Every single one of us is different but knowing what fills us up and restores and rejuvenates us helps us to run the marathon that is PARENTING and HOMESCHOOLING if that's the path you are on.
I want to add in here that sometimes the big stuff can't be changed either - we've lived this too. Often, life is MESSY and HARD. Broken relationships, chronic illness, financial pressures, loss of life, permanent disability, an unrepaired house, ongoing mental health struggles, the list goes on. I'm not saying that filling your cup can FIX any of these things or take them away! Please know that. What I am saying is that even when these things have been the backdrop of my life, the one thing I can have power over is HOW I respond to life's daily grind by making sure I'm looking after myself in the best ways I can.
When my needs are met, my cup is full and I find I don't feel as 'triggered' by the little things. My mind shifts from feeling overwhelmed and burdened to feeling more content and grateful. I see things in different ways; I feel proud of the teen holding down their job rather than feeling resentful, I feel happier seeing the craft 'messes' around and I see the value of the child creating up a storm instead. It doesn't go all Pollyanna immediately but there is a noticeable attitude difference for me that usually affects everyone. The shift happens and the darkness gives way to light again. I even find that the printer being out of ink is not such a huge deal anymore. I can think more clearly and make a plan to buy it next time we are near the computer shop. The ranting ends. I am open to listening again to kids talking to me about their latest lego creation or favourite Cimorelli podcast episode. My kids also see that I am willing to take responsibility for my own needs where I can which I believe sets a good example for them too.
Can you relate? What do you do on days like this? Sometimes I know you just have to push through and I have had those days too but there have been MANY days I've found that changing my plans + filling my cup as a priority has helped to change our day (and attitudes). Be encouraged that when you are next faced with one of *those* days, you are not alone. We ALL have days like this. Do what you can to have your needs met and rest.
And know that I'm sending you a big healing hug x