You know how they say that you never realize how selfish you are until you become a parent. When I hear that I assume that somehow parenting is thought to somehow “cure” you of that selfishness. But it doesn’t. Parenting innately causes you to see your selfishness as you struggle to make choices all day long that put others above yourself. But, at least in my case, after battling my selfishness all day long I feel that I am now entitled to more because of it. It becomes: “It’s been a long day, I deserve some time to just zone out in front of the TV.” or “I’m tired, I don’t want to get off the couch even though it will only take me two minutes to walk up the stairs and tuck the boys in like they’ve asked.” or “I need chocolate, because, you know, it’s just one of those days.” So instead of conquering selfishness, I’ve just given it a new name.
Don’t get me wrong. Being a mom is a hard job, and I do think that moms deserve some time off and extra treats now and then. Don’t worry, I’m definitely not in danger of denying myself so much that I become an unhealthy wreck and I’m not suggesting you do either. The problem isn’t the chocolate, or the TV show, or the extra special hidden dessert. What is a problem is if those once in awhile treats become the norm. It’s a problem if my habitual actions are to put myself first and push my children aside. If my kids come home from school and I’m on the computer and can’t take a few minutes to listen to their day, what does that say to them? If my kids know that mom is secretly eating all the dessert after they go to bed (and believe me I have one old enough to calculate how many servings of dessert were made and how many “mysteriously” disappeared) then what does that teach them about self-control and an attitude of generosity? If I tell the kids to clean up their mess when they are finished, but routinely leave mine lying around because “I just don’t have the time,” how do I expect them to learn to manage their time and make good choices? These are all things I need to improve on.
And so, I’ve decided I need to make some changes around here. Putting them down in writing is my attempt at making these official and will hopefully help keep me accountable to them.
The first change I’ve already done, and that is to limit my “TV” time. The kids are already limited to no screen time (computer, ipad, or TV) on Monday through Friday afternoon. I have limited my TV time to just Thursday night and Saturdays, unless I’m watching with John or the kids. Thursday night is “my” night, my chance to have an evening all to myself and watch “my” shows. Limiting to just that night has helped me not turn on a show anytime I’ve felt like it, but rather look forward in anticipation to that one evening. I allow some TV watching on Saturday too, but I’m trying to not do too much on that day. We have Friday night movie night, and I watch shows with John on the weekend evenings. So, other than those times, TV time is off-limits.
The second change has to do with general computer time. I would like to limit this even more, but to start with I am going to commit to not be on the computer from the time the kids get home from school (4pm) to the boys’ bedtime (7:30pm). I don’t want to be on every evening after 7:30pm either as that limits my interaction with John and Elise, but I still need to determine what is practical in that area.
Third, I am going to commit to being more present when my kids come home from school. I am going to plan ahead better, know when they are walking in the door (or in some cases when I have to go get them) and be ready with a healthy snack and a listening ear. On days that they all get home together (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday) I’d like us all to sit down together to eat our snack and share about our day.
Fourth, I am re-working my chore schedule. This has less to do with selfishness and more to do with extreme frustration. After moving to Germany I was able to finally get myself into a workable chore routine. Each day had its own to do list and things were finally getting accomplished in a timely fashion. I didn’t do it perfectly, but I felt more in control of my household responsibilities than I think I ever have. But ever since Dietrich was born, I haven’t been able to get back to that same routine. I’ve tried. I have the same schedule, just tweaked due to a different daily schedule, but I can’t ever seem to accomplish the to do list for that day. And because I know it will be the same next week, I feel pressure on the next day to do both that day’s list and the one before, which just means I get more behind. It isn’t just Dietrich that has added to my workload, but ironically having kids in school adds its own set of daily interruptions because of pickups and drop-offs and competing schedules. By the end of the week I just feel frustrated with both the daily needed tasks that are not done and the weekly desired projects that were pushed aside because I was “too behind.” And as my frustration level rises, my ability to make good selfless decisions deteriorates. So, I’ve finally come to a conclusion: There is not enough time in my day to do what I have on each to do list. Period. It’s not happening and it won’t happen right now with the schedule we have. So the first step to finding a solution was to adjust my expectations. And then finally this week the second step dawned on me. I am going to take everything off of my “daily” to do list that doesn’t have to be tied to specific day. The only things on my daily to do list will be things that have to be done on a daily/weekly basis (like laundry, paying bills, and mopping floors) and a few things that I need to do for healthy living reasons (like my Bible study, 10 minutes of exercise, etc). Everything else will get put on one long to do list. And then every time that I have an hour set aside to do chores, I’ll work on that long to do list, working through it in order. That way I know that eventually everything will get done, it just might take me longer than a week to get through it. Once I do get through it I just start back at the beginning again. The only danger I see in this is the fact that it might make it easier for me to be lazy and choose not to do chores at all if I don’t feel like it. So my solution for that is to still make sure I have scheduled times throughout my week to work on the cumulative list and set a timer and work until that timer goes off. That way I will spend time on the list, but still also have an end time so that I don’t feel the weight of it once my time is up. We’ll see how it works. Now I just have to find the time to make my list . . .