Last summer, I decided to Take Back My Family. I had an aha moment and decided to make grand, sweeping changes. We went gung-ho with the changes in the fall. We cut back on kids activities and many social engagements.
Those were the biggest things. We were so tired. And those big changes enabled us to indulge in things like...washing clothes, cleaning our house, going on date nights.
Our kids were not as excited about our efforts, and staying home to wash clothes and clean house wasn’t exactly an easy sell.
Articulating some of our changes is difficult. Yes, they helped more with the housework. They took on new responsibilities. Helping with laundry, cleaning, cooking, and yard work was not something they bragged about to their friends. Taking responsibility for things at home also helped them take responsibility for things at school. My ADHD son almost always completes his homework and turns it in without reminders, and that wasn’t even one of our goals. We were only hoping he would get it done, expecting to offer huge support and reminders for him. Just recently, my eleven year old daughter prepared breakfast for our family of five all by herself -- perfectly scrambled eggs, baked cinnamon rolls, and cut up fruit. We were shuffling them through their activities, then shuffling them at home - eat, bathe, homework, sleep. They had no sense of personal or family responsibility. They wanted it more than they knew, even though they couldn’t articulate it.
They also had more time to play with friends. We had their friends over most weekends last fall. We had bonfires most weekends. They were so dirty. And tired. But it was a different kind of tired. They were not exhausted from constant running. They were tired from fresh air and playing.
Another unexpected change is all the talking. We talk all the time. ALL. THE. TIME. We talk about friends and social issues at school. We talk about books and the news. We talk about ethical dilemmas. We talk about making problems smaller, not bigger. We talk about music, videos, sports, how shells are made.....we have so much more time to talk.
We eat better. We eat out more than I’d like. My younger kids will eat almost any plain vegetable I put in front of them. For example, broccoli or asparagus or artichokes or brussel sprouts or salad, as long as they aren’t mixed together or, God forbid, have any sort of sauce or dressing. My older daughter is grumpy if there isn’t a healthy option - like if I order a pizza without a salad. They will only drink smoothies at home now because I don’t add sugar and now they don’t like the taste of commercial sugar laden smoothies. Their foods of choice are still chicken nuggets, cheeseburgers, pizza, and white pasta though.
I learned to ask for help. My husband travels most weeks and I am not working now, so I was everything - mother, chef, tutor, Boy Scout troop leader, Girl Scout troop leader, maid, shopper, costume maker, doctor, nurse.....etc. I was doing a poor job at everything. I asked him for help. And he helped! We are working together now on many things.
We did not do many of the changes I wanted to do. We didn’t take weekends away as I wanted. We didn’t do family yoga. Our house is still rarely clean, although it is better. We are still busy with many activities. We did not drop off the grid completely. I am still not able to rejoin many of the evening activities that I used to enjoy for myself - book clubs, nights out with friends, service projects - because of the unique learning needs of my kids, and they need me at night. I have started going out with friends on some weekends and leaving the kids home with Steve. He enjoys being home after traveling so much during the week and I like getting out. Win-win.
It isn’t perfect. It never will be. But it is better. Way better.