Monday, February 2, 2015

Thoughts on all kids at school

The first day they all went to school (late 2012)
A friend recently asked if I thought about what I would do when our youngest child started school, rather than just let it happen and go on as normal.

It was a great question and one that got me thinking about it again, two years after the event. Sometimes other people find these thoughts helpful as they consider their own situation, so I’ll share some of it here also. This is long post though, sorry about that!

We did give thought to what would happen that year. Husband always said that when they all started school, I should have a ‘down year’ and think about the next stage. That is, not say yes to everything and do more just because either I though I could or should. Someone had suggested it to him years ago when we just had one little baby. He felt quite strongly about it and I came to realize:
1. He was right and
2. It was his way of recognising and acknowledging the work I had put it at home with little ones for the previous 10 years.
The comments on that post showed that there were a few who wished they had done the same or were interested in thinking about it more.

I realized looking back I never talked about it much on this blog again.

My goal for 2013 was to take on no new things. That was the goal (ha!). In reality I did commit to a few extra things without realising I had - an extra repeated talk series here, a seminar there, an extra catch up with someone new, and so on.

However, what really forced it was that same year, I started to get very tired: tired/fuzzy in my brain and tired physically in my body. A dear friend who has chronic fatigue looked at me critically, then spoke up saying she could see in me the same early signs she had ignored in herself. It was the clear voice I needed to hear. Husband and I spoke about it in detail right away and decided to pull me out of a whole lot of stuff. I alluded to it a little here.

Upon reflection, it was an interesting time. I was expecting to have this great clear year with all the kids at school and in the end I was quite tired and worn out. Husband’s theory (not medically backed in any way, but still with some sense in it) was that my body/brain had coped well for 10 years, but once it finally realised it could relax a little it kicked back and spoke up saying it needed to rest. Sort of like how you get through the sleepless baby nights and then once you start to sleep again, you get really, really tired!

It was also a good time for me spiritually. I have always been someone who could see their value in what they can do rather than who they are in Christ. It was a good chance to realise that whether I could ‘do ministry things’ or not, I was still a child of God and that I have value in his sight because of what Christ has done, not because of what I do. My prayer life grew too and I wrote out lots of prayers from which I am still benefiting from.

In the end, we viewed 2013 as a recovery year and then 2014 as a ‘down year’. I still committed to less last year, which was a good decision. In about October last year, I felt like I woke up. I felt like I had been at a lowered brain output for about 18 months and that both my body and brain were picking up again. It was quite an exciting feeling. I was excited about doing new things, able to run again, keen to do more marriage ministry, talks, etc.

2015 looks good at this stage, I have some things planned, but not too much I think and I am looking forward to the one more year of the same school-wise before Mr 11 starts high school in 2016.

So, that’s what happened. As for my thoughts one to two years later?

1. Husband was right - I had been home with little ones for almost a decade and my body and brain needed a break. My body apparently decided to take it into it’s own hands to force it, perhaps knowing I wouldn’t have done it properly by choice!

2. The idea of a ’down year’ was a good one. Upon reflection I think 2 years is a good option too. The next stage for me is 7 years with all kids at school, and then another 5 till all are out of school. In the midst of it, it seems like forever, but I know how quickly the last 10 years went and we still, God-willing, have at least 30 years in us for ministry and parenting and so want to do it well, long-term and sustainably. Therefore 1-2 years at a slower pace every now and then seems wise when considering the long haul.

3. There is no extra time once all kids are at school. In some ways there is less. With a pre-schooler, the cleaning, shopping etc happen with them, not only because it has to, but because it is a good way to fill in the days. With school aged children, all the shopping and cleaning happens mainly now in school hours, so that we are free to either chill out at home after school, or do extracurricular activities, which are now creeping to our lives more as the kids get older.

I bought the lie for a while that I would have more time and then couldn’t figure out where it had gone! Children at school does not make the day 26 hours long!!

I need to try keep 3-7:30pm clear for the kids every school night. So I can be taxi, cook, confidante, homework & piano practice enforcer, bible time encourager and read-aloud-er! It has taken a mindshift for me to not creep over to my email or other things in the hope of getting them done in that time frame. So all the things I do and plan for that I count as ministry outside the home have to happen in school hours. Once you account for all the other things that happen in school hours (catch ups, etc) there really just isn’t that much time. I am amazed at women who also manage to work, although I realise they are usually trying to do less other things than I am.

4. Part of this has been a realisation that since we have decided my main role is wife, mother and household manager - a decision I am happy with - it does still take up most of my time and I need to learn not to be dissatisfied with it. I have been amazed at how much more time goes in to maintaining this house which is bigger than our last one, but also - and I think this is the real difference - a house that we own. I had no idea how much home ownership changes your attitude about a house and what could be done in it. That’s one of my personal issues, but it definitely gives weight to my advice to young couples not to buy a house for a long time!

5. One final thing that I always have to take into account is my own ‘introversion’. If I overload with people in any way, I don’t have the energy for my own family. If I view my day as having 3 time-slots - morning, early-afternoon and evening; I can function fine if one has extra people in it, 2 is a stretch and 3 is way too much (I don’t have words left for Husband at the end of the day!) So, just because I have the time-slots free, it doesn’t mean I have the emotional capacity free. I make sure every day (if I can) before school pick up I sit down from 2-2:45 to have a cup of tea and clear my head. If we have a very busy hospitality weekend, I schedule a quiet day for the Monday to recover. If we have lots of nights busy, I keep the day slots free-er. That way I have time for my family when they need me. I have made it an extra priority in recent years to have energy for Husband at night, so that we continue to have fun together!

So, that’s my thoughts about transitioning into having everyone at school. They may or may not be relevant to you, but they were helpful for me to think about again.


Naomi B said...

Hi Wendy

Thanks for sharing your well structured reflections!

With my little one 19 months I can only dream what it must be like to have them all at school!!!

Its interesting how you talk about having 1-2 years off after the full on younger years. For those that can I've heard its quite common. After 15 years in the senior corporate world I've decided to take some time "off" to recover from a stressful 2014. But reflecting to a friend - Im actually not having time "off" - instead living life at a manageable pace instead off too busy. I'm in two small groups - leading one & do two volunteer book keeping roles - but nothing extra to make me silly busy. Even after this realisation its not actually a total break I'm ok with this.

Thanks again


Emily said...

Thanks Wendy for sharing your insights and reflections. I find it really helpful to see how you place boundaries around your time and energy so that you can say 'yes' to the most important things (and people). We are still a long way off from our kids being at that age... nappies and night wakings is where we are at. I feel as though the only way to make the priorities happen at this stage in our life is to short cut other areas... e.g. house cleaning. I'm reminded that it is but season of life. But it is great to hear your insights about taking time off when this stage of littles is over, to recover and regroup. A wise plan, staying well for the long term. I will store away this idea for the future :)