Goodbye, Aunt Val

Of course the summer was fun.  How could it not be, jam-packed with field trips, hikes, camp outs and road trips galore, all in the name of “wholesome family recreation.”  But some honest introspection as August rolled inevitably on revealed (again) the true motive behind all my MEPAF, POCHAF, “everybody-in-the-car” tendencies–good old fashioned avoidance of my parental responsibilities.

Because when we’re out entertaining ourselves, mom Val gives way to fun, carefree Aunt Val–the one that spoils you and takes you cool places and buys (and eats) too many treats and is SO much nicer than that scary, screaming lady back at home.  And why shouldn’t she be nice?  There are no dishes to wash, no food to prepare, thanks to the food that so easily flows through the window of the car.  No chore enforcement, no refereeing the constant fights that blow up between under-occupied children.

And you can tell me that’s what summer is for, but it all points to something much deeper, because as nights get crisper and schedules and budgets tighten for fall, I feel like cattle out to pasture slowly being nipped, whipped and “Ki-yayed” back into the corral.  And, instead of longing for the comforts of home, I find myself absent-mindedly browsing for jobs (against my own very recent advice).

But no, I really do know better, deep down, and firmly renewed my focus running up to school starting this week.

I prayed, I pondered, I rededicated myself to scripture study, and tried to seek guidance as I prepared the schedule and figured out how to focus myself.  Life presents so many things to do, so many things I want to try and be and see and learn.  And, just a couple years away from completing four decades, I’m only now realizing I won’t, can’t, shouldn’t, couldn’t try/be/see/learn it all.  (For years I’ve resented the sentiment terribly when the kids listen to Lion King and she sings, “There’s more to see than can ever be seen, More to do than can ever be done.” Oh, shut up–I CAN have it all!)

And of course, half the time all I want to do is nothing anyway, so that really cuts into my options, too.

In the end (still cringing about it) I’m going to end up doing much less than I wanted/planned/hoped, or probably even should, do.

In determining a plan, I finally came to terms with the fact that I’m useless at night and must quit scheduling tasks, especially work and writing, after the kids go down.  The only time I can pull off anything worth reading  that late is when money and a potentially PO’d boss is in the picture.  I am not a morning person, but I also believe that’s no reason not to get up early, it just needs to be done.  So there’s that.

The strongest, most surprising impression I received in putting together simplified the whole process greatly–and the message was this: ONLY home and family from after school until the kids are in bed.  No multitasking, no computer (except bills and family management–accomplishing things, not browsing or dreaming or house hunting), no outlining work projects in my head, no distractions or preoccupations.  I can run errands, clean, plan, help with homework, piano practice, have the chats that never happen when I’m holed up in my “office” (bed) with my secret crush (laptop).  The people in my house come first.

The fabulous article on slowing down in the Ensign in June 2010 helped inspire this, and I got a great blessing along with the kids right before school started which has helped as well.

So, we’re finishing up day two of this concept, and wow, it is a lot easier in many ways.  With all those hours, the house is cleaner, the busywork life management checklist is much slimmed down, everyone is fed regularly and more healthfully, fights are stopped before they start, chores are done right and more quickly (who knew just a little supervision would do so much!), kids are guardedly excited about the actual parenting they are receiving, David is more productive in his work, there is time for the scriptures, prayers, etc., and honestly, everything that matters is getting done like never before.

But more importantly, and surprisingly, my life is easier than it was.  I sit down more.  I look out the windows sometimes.  Before, when I let the hours between 12-8 be a free-for-all, I mainly just ran in a circle, not knowing where to start, but resenting anything and everyone that kept me from doing anything and everything else.  Resenting that I was always being pulled away from something, not sure what it was, but sure it was “important.”

I don’t feel like I’m failing for the first time in what seems like forever.

Granted, it’s the end of day two, I’m very tired adjusting to the new wake up time, but I have yet to see a downside (that will probably come when I put in my almost non-existent hours this next pay period).  What a novel idea to actually just attend to my home and family for the majority of my day.

I know to many of my friends this is an absurd discovery, and you’ve been doing it forever, but sympathize with a slow learner, will you?   It takes me time to realize, accept, and then relearn that my primary role is not a nanny, a marketer, an observer, living like that “I’m a waiter but really I’m an actor” cliche character in the movies: “I’m a mother but really I’m a moneymaker/writer/diva whatever.”  And I may never be rich or thin, and maybe when I’m old I’ll resent having spent so much of my life “kicking against the pricks” on those two time hogs.

It’s time to say goodbye to Aunt Val, slow down, and be just a mother.

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