September 10, 2015 § 1 Comment
It occurred to me yesterday as I was chatting with a good friend over the most delicious chai tea latte I’ve had in months, that I have discovered a secret that not every stay-at-home parent knows. Naturally, I have to share it with you.
Backstory: During our family’s “newborn years” (we have four children, so this lasted for roughly a decade), there was one argument trap my husband and I would repeatedly fall into. You may recognize it from your own newborn and infant years, and it goes a little something like this:
Parent 1: “Hi honey, I’m home”. <slowly takes in the home environment noticing that it looks like a tornado went through>. “Um, so, what did you do today?”
Parent 2: <already exhausted and amped up at the same time because the day has been long but the reinforcements have arrived> ”Hi honey,” <huge exhale>, “Geez I don’t even know, it’s just a blur most days.” <wondering why the reinforcements have draped their coat over the chair instead of hanging it up and are sitting down instead of reaching to take the baby from your hip while you are preparing supper>. “How was your day?”
Parent 1: “I don’t know why you always ask how my day was. It’s always busy and it’s always hard.” <sighing deeply as Parent 2 passes the baby over>
Parent 2: <feeling like they have made a monumental effort to be interested in Parent 1’s day as it’s the last bit of energy they have left to give to someone else; feels like the edge is near and it’s time to tag out>. “Oh-kaaaaay. Well, I’m exhausted from [insert long list of play-by-plays arising from the day at home that seem trivial to Parent 1 but represents a huge amount of work for Parent 2]. Oh, and don’t forget I have my dentist appointment this evening”. <secretly grateful to have even a few minutes to themselves even if it does mean fluoride and teeth cleaning>
Parent 1: <feeling the barometer rising because their mind is already overloaded with stuff from work, and their brain just can’t take any further items today; they just need a break> “Ugh, ok. You couldn’t have booked that during the day? I’m exhausted. You get so much time at home, and I’m at work all day, then I gotta come home and watch the kids – I get no break!”
Parent 2: “Are you kidding me?! YOU get no break? You have it so much easier. At least you get to pee alone, and shower peacefully every morning without children banging on the door! You get to have lunch hours and speak to adults regularly and use your brain!. I’M the one who is exhausted!
Parent 1: “You get to stay home with our children. I would trade you that in a heartbeat. You have no idea what I do at work or how hard it is. Have you seen my calendar?!”
And close scene.
The argument goes on from there with each side trying to “convince” the other of who has it easier, only the joke’s on them because neither one of them have it easy. There is no winner. Alas, they won’t learn that until later when they have entered the “sweet spot” (the stage where the all the kids are out of diapers and sippy cups, but not yet teenagers).
You may have noticed that much of that argument was in italics. That is because there is a lot of underlying emotion influencing the situation that neither of them can appreciate because they’ve never walked a mile in the other’s shoes. More on this later.
I don’t remember the exact date I figured out the secret. I feel like it was more of an evolution as I gradually gave myself permission to use it. But here is what it comes down to.
Most work days, legally, consist of 8 hours. A lot of professions demand closer to 10, but at some point you get to leave work and go do something else. Maybe it is family, sports, relaxing, or whatever. The work day ends, and your personal choices begin. Speaking of personal choices, for many working parents, they have probably chosen a job/field that is challenging, rewarding or fulfilling to them in some way (some working parents have not, and to that I say, go find a job you love cause you spend more time working than you do anything else and if you aren’t loving it then it isn’t worth it). Bottom line, the work can be demanding, but in most cases you have chosen it because it fits with what you love/are good at, and you get fulfilment from that.
Same goes for stay-at-home parents. They also have chosen what they do because they love it. They love their children, caring for them, and experiencing amazing childhood moments with them. And they get fulfilment from that. That doesn’t mean it isn’t demanding, just like above, but they have chosen it for a reason, just like above. Where the difference lies, is that the stay-at-home-parent’s day DOES NOT END. From the time they wake (which is often through the night when you have newborns), straight through to supper time, dishes and bedtime, the work day continues. If you’re lucky, you still have a little energy left to spend with your spouse between kid’s bedtime and adult bedtime, but you consistently have that lack-of-energy/sleep fog that never seems to end.
So what’s the solution? What is the secret to the stay-at-home-parent’s sanity and energy saver? What is the magical answer that allows you to feel yourself (not just someone else’s caretaker) and allows you to appreciate your working spouse instead of resenting them for being able to sit down at their computer with a coffee and read their email without interruption? Quite simply, you give yourself permission to have a break. A break for you. You find a time during the day that has the least resistance with the kids (nap time, TV time, whatever) and you create “me time”. And you don’t feel guilty for it. Here’s why.
If you are going to work from sun up to sun down, you need a break. If you take that break when your working spouse comes home, that builds resentment because they haven’t yet walked that mile in your shoes. They don’t see all those italics. So you take your break when your body is telling you to. You know exactly what time that is. Early to mid-afternoon, when your body starts feeling sluggish, your head is feeling heavier, and you think to myself “man, I need a coffee”. So get one, grab that book that’s been waiting for you, or your journal and pen, or better yet, meditation cushion, and start your break. Commit to it. Don’t just justify it as a well-deserved indulgence, own it as time that is rightfully yours.
I still practice this secret today! I’m out of the diaper and sippy cup stage, but my evenings are now filled with soccer practices, girl scout meetings and drama rehearsals. My day starts at 6:30am and doesn’t end until 9pm (even later if hubby needs a knot rubbed out of his shoulder). If I don’t take my “me time” in the afternoon, when my body starts telling me it’s needed, then I am not nearly as fun to be around in the evening.
You know this stuff.
The better you are to yourself, the better you are for everyone else. “Me time” is the opportunity to connect with yourself, which allows the highest good to flow through you when you do interact with your family members. Do you really think they are getting the best of you when you are strung out exhausted, feeling like you lost the contest of who has it easiest? Of course not.
Don’t live your life in the italics. Be free to be yourself.
With light and love. Namaste.
July 30, 2015 § 2 Comments
I have been working on something lately. It is about being unconditional.
When I first decided that unconditional is how I wanted to be, it was within the context of relationships. Husband, children, teachers, neighbours, the person driving in front of me whose car can’t seem to go fast enough when I’m late. Seeing each person, especially my closest family members, unconditionally. At first it seemed a very steep hill to climb. I had to consciously step out of my self-interested tendencies and ways of perceiving others behaviour, and encourage my brain to widen itself beyond the messages my eyes and ears were relaying:
- My husband isn’t actually picking a fight with me. He is experiencing residual waves from a crappy thing that happened at work. Which provides me with a choice. Provide resistance to something that has nothing to do with me, or flow like water over and around it, washing over him with refreshing, unconditional support
- My children are not ignoring me when I ask the first, second and third time for them to do something. When I pay attention (instead of just yelling from the other room), I realize that they are happily engaged in a world of imaginative play (which is exactly what I love to see them do!)
Then it grew to other contexts. For example, when things don’t go the way I had set my expectations to – red lights instead of green, missing something I really wanted, choppy waters instead of smooth sailing. When someone asks me about something on my to-do list that I haven’t gotten to despite my several attempts, they are not reminding me that I am deficient. Every day I am presented with opportunities to remain neutral and untriggered, allowing the situation to unfold and staying connected to source, knowing that what I need will come to me if I do.
Unconditional means seeing the soul behind each physical body. Reaching past what is being dished out to me, and allowing for an understanding of the scenario to wash over me. And it also means resting in the knowledge given to me, even when my ego wants to shout out what I have realized.
It takes some practice, for sure.
Perhaps the biggest lesson that has come to me, is that the power of being unconditional stems from being present in each moment.
In Deepak Chopra’s latest book, The 13th Disciple, he explains the following:
Every life contains moments when a person sees beyond the illusion. The secret is to pay attention, because once the moment is gone, so is its power to change you. You must be open and alert to signals from your true self.
What this takes is a kind of second attention. First attention, which we’re all familiar with, deals with the events in daily life. You eat breakfast, go to work, pick up groceries, watch TV None of this has any intrinsic meaning. It can be good, bad or neutral. When second attention enters, you keep doing the same things you always did, but you are aware of your inner contentment, or of the food’s subtle tastes, or of gratitude for nature’s abundance. Going to work, you may feel inner satisfaction, excitement about new possibilities, or empowerment. There is often no neat match between what the first attention is noticing and what the second attention is realizing.
How lovely that this beautiful piece of wisdom happens to come through the book I am reading exactly at the time that I am looking for guidance on how to become more unconditional. Even better, the first time I was attempting to read that part of the book was during the landing of our plane, while one child is asking for gum, and another wants my help to beat the next level on their video game. I put the book away and embraced the moment I was in (I rock at that video game, and love that I can play it with her). Later, when I returned to the book, it was in the sanctuary of my bedroom, when my heart and mind were wide open to receiving it. Gratitude.
Being present in each moment allows you to understand the difference between feeling like life is happening to you, versus life is happening for you. Each moment is an opportunity for expansion and you get to choose!
It’s like when you watch a movie, and you comment to the person watching next to you that you know what is going to happen next, or that you know the answer to the mystery, long before the movie is over. You have been fully engaged, present to the details as they develop, allowing the meaning of each to flow and blend together in such a way that the answer seems obvious. Even easy.
Being unconditional not only becomes easier when you are present, it becomes natural, familiar, blissful. It feels like everything around you is water, flowing gently and refreshingly around and through you.
I have also grown to realize that being unconditional does not equal the absence of emotion. Like waves that toss a small boat around on the ocean, emotions can flare; anger, frustration, disappointment splash up. You get wet. Drenched even. But the difference is you embrace it as a part of an ocean journey. Remember those signs on the water rides at the amusement parks? You *will* get wet on this ride. You still jump on, stand in line even, just to know what it feels like. Experience it, expand from it, and move on to the next experience bolstered with what you learned from the last one.
I am excited at the opportunities being presented to me to become consistent in my unconditional approach. I look forward to being unconditional every day, every moment, and allowing it to flow to everyone I encounter. Wade in, the water feels great!