My year of less is more: I like being more available for my kids, but...it's exhausting!
While there have been so many upsides to simplifying our schedule, on reflection, I've found that it has been quite draining for me. What I've discovered is that by us having more time to be together, share life together, and by me being more available and less busy, I hear more of what's going on for the kids. Not just rushing from activity to activity, we have more time to chat about their days. I see them more, so they share more (or in some cases, less 'sharing' and more 'hurling' of words as they unfurl their frustrations on me).
So that's all lovely. And what I was hoping we'd have more time for.
But with five kids, I can be going on and off for five hours of these debriefs. As children stumble in through the door throughout the afternoon. As they finish their assignment and decide NOW they're on for a chat. As they remember something AFTER I've turned the lights off (this is common, and being honest, my least favourite form of the debrief - The Patience has left the building ...). And always, just as I think there is a lull and have started to do something of My Very Own (capital letters, because it is a worthy and valuable concept), hello, the next episode of, 'How I feel left out at school', will be aired for my viewing.
As they talk, I have to process it all for myself. How am I going to respond? What's the best way to actually help and not aggravate? Say nothing? Give advice? Empathy? Humour? Witty story from my own adolescence (accompanied by obligatory teenage eye roll)? Discipline? There is a lot of fast thinking going on. (And as an aside: when people tell me that being a Mum is not very stimulating, times like this go through my head and I do wonder, um, what?! This stuff hurts my poor brain.)
Sure, as they say, it's all good. This is all part of sharing life together and learning to understand each other better. But it is still draining and messes with your head so you start to feel a bit insane after a while. Actually, now I think about it, it's not all that different to having a toddler asking you maddening questions from dawn to dusk (except they mostly went to bed before 10).
So if you're talking to a mum with school age children who says 'But I need the time they're at school for myself', it's not because they're selfish. It's actually because they're often working hard to foster new depths of patience and love and wisdom for caring for their kids through this stage.