“Self pressure is a mental expectation you have for yourself in the moment.”
Saw this quote in another blog recently (I’ve forgotten which) and it has stuck with me.
I put a lot of pressure on myself in life. Which brings me stress, which breeds anxiety. Making me, at times, neurotic and crazy. Oh, my poor husband! Seriously. The guy is a saint for being able to endure my crazy antics. And for almost 11 years!
Before kids (well, “A” kid) I was this way at work, working crazy hours not only AT work, but at home as well. I’d often stay at work until 6, then come home to finish up lesson plans or research fun ways to teach my kiddos. I once lived and breathed teaching. Not that I have neglected this, but priorities and passions have changed, and my son is my BIGGEST priority. While I still struggle with separating work from home/being a mom, I’ve found that the pressure I once felt to be the best teacher I can be has shifted to putting a lot of pressure on myself as a mom.
As someone who doesn’t find it easy to just relax, being a mom and working full time expends a lot of energy. When Blake is around I really don’t feel like I can allow myself any downtime, even after working a full day (which is usually 10 hours). My husband and I allow him to watch one of his favorite tv shows a few times a week (Thomas the Train, Chuck, or Cars) and even then I feel guilty, like I’m copping out and being lazy as a mom. I feel guilty when he has to play alone so I can get the dishes done. Of course freeplay is great for their imagination, and I never disallow the opportunities for his imagination to run wild, but I just feel like I need to be sitting there watching him to let him know that I care. That the dishes aren’t more important than he is. It’s also so important to me that he get an appropriate amount of playtime outside. Sometimes when I come home from work I am really exhausted after getting him from daycare, and the LAST thing I want to do is take him outside to play because I just want my brain to rest, but I feel like I need to. He needs to be out in the open air (even though he went out at daycare), he needs more Vitamin D, and to realize that we go outside and play at home, too. I never sit down when he’s outside playing and feel like I need to be by his side playing WITH him (running, biking, etc).
This is NOT meant to judge anyone who does things differently than I do. The pressure I feel is pressure that I have placed on myself, I know. And it is exhausting pressure. (But precious, of course.)
Today I picked him up from daycare a few hours early (I’m off work this week and put him in daycare still. Don’t judge) because we had family coming in to town. I felt the need to keep his routine going so I had him help me with some cool art projects around the home, which aren’t completed yet. We spray painted a few things and turned capsules in to foam vehicles! 😉
We had a lot of fun, but I feel the need to keep this up on a regular basis, with little “down” time for either of us. Downtime for him equals freeplay and naps, but my brain is running on full mode the whole time. How can I enhance this? What can we do next? Where can we go? What should I be doing differently?
I’ve made an argument before about how people shouldn’t compare themselves to those on Facebook and feel a lot of pressure by the false “advertisements”they see from friends. I wish I could say that my pressure were as easy as deciding to turn off FB and stop comparing my parenting stress to those I scroll through on my feed, but, I am my own worst enemy. And every ounce of what I feel is only comparison in my own head, and to the societal realities I see around me. Any one who is a teacher will understand what I mean, I believe.
That is perhaps a different discussion, but one that is not particularly meaningful when it comes to the true purpose here.
Reality: I need to learn to freakin’ relax.
Recently I’ve really gotten into doing art projects with Blake. This has been tough for me because art projects are, well, messy. Every fiber of me always wants to take art supplies away from him and do them the proper way, but, you all will be glad to know that I’ve let him draw things on his own…even on the table sometimes! (Thank the Lord for magic erasers). Lately I’ve gotten really bold by allowing him to paint with real paint and real paint brushes. We even did some Christmas art projects for family members and he did them all by himself! I only had minor “gasps” of air along the way, but he did well, with a little guidance on what exactly to paint ON. He picked the colors out all by himself, too! (His favorite color, by the way, is purple). These were picture frames.
I think the pressure I put on myself is hypocritical and contradictory to the way I feel about a lot of other things, I might even admit. I believe strongly in letting my kid fail, so that he can learn life lessons. Like last week when Blake was standing on the sofa and we kept telling him to sit down because he was going to fall. I saw in my mind what was going to happen if he didn’t obey. But I knew the only way he was going to learn this lesson was if he fell. Well, he did. He fell over backward on the sofa, slamming his head on the side table on the way down, and lastly landing with his head onto the tile floor, and screaming. He was unhurt, except for a sight “egg” on his head, and his aching emotional state. Let’s just say now he knows not to stand on the sofa.
Things like this do not bother me. Putting him in time out does not bother me. Swatting him in the middle of Target when I’ve asked him TWICE not to do something (like touch of all of the Barilla glass spaghetti sauce jars) does not bother me. Allowing him to play on my cell phone while in the middle of Target to keep him occupied bothers me. Why? I want him to socialize with the world around him. Like waving at a random family and “helping” them to pick out their cereal collection like he did earlier this week. Or understanding what mommy means when she says “stay right here”, communicating the importance of boundaries and knowing that I mean them when I give him two times to listen, and after that we take a Time Out. Helping to pick out ripe fruit. Counting along with me as I buy 3 onions. Handing the cashier the debit card. And saying “Thank You” to the clerk as we exit. These are important lessons to me.
Then, you could argue that my shopping trip takes twice as long, as Blake stuffs his face with goldfish and grapes in the back of the shopping cart, or helps me to pick out “this” brand or “that” brand of bread as we roam up and down each isle, counting items, speaking to strangers, and picking up trash on the floor. (NOT my idea. His. Ew). Including him in the process of shopping is the sure way to keep him occupied, but it is also the most time consuming, and I often feel like I am consulting a 2 year old on dinner-making decisions. Oh wait….
In reality, it leaves me desiring a nap as soon as I step foot back into the driver’s seat of the van because these “life lessons” (as I have deemed them in this post) do not come without battles and tantrum along the way. This is the fight I choose to fight. That he will act appropriately in a store and be helpful and kind, no matter how old he is.
(And the reality that I would have to DOUBLE this energy with 2 kids just hit me. Insert wide-eyed emoticon, because you people with more than one kid are like super-heroes!)
I suppose my struggle is, in which way do I or can I expend my energy with my son without exhausting myself? His age is so critical. There are so many teaching opportunities all around him that I don’t want to miss something by being a parent who isn’t expanding him emotionally, physically, or intellectually.
And just in case I don’t feel like I may be helping him physically in some organized sport fashion, he is now signed up for a gymnastics class once a week. One of those “Mommy and Me” classes. I’m really glad I am doing it, but I just know this is the beginning of every organized sport he will ever do. Should I enjoy this last weekend before “it” starts? Fourteen more years to go of chauffeuring him around for sporting events. It may all start right now. Buuuuut, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wasn’t a little excited to venture into this.
I’d also be lying if I didn’t say that I’m already tired.
But, may be he’ll be the next olympic gymnast!
What part of this is normal? How do you scale back? How do people manage? How do you relax? When?
Am I crazy?