I embraced the slow & then I felt like a failure

Last year was my year of 'Less is More'.  You can read all my posts here.

We also had a really sick child.  You can read all about that on my blog too.

Giving up so much of our routine was exhilarating.  At the start I was so relieved to not be rushing around.  And it was OK because we couldn't have juggled our old timetable with a sick child as well.

But as the year went on I became increasingly anxious.  On one hand (the calm and logical one) I wasn't regretful because the kids weren't complaining. They seemed happy and relieved that life wasn't so frantic anymore.  We actually had family meals together most nights of the week where everyone was there.  We had lots of laughing and talking and sharing.  No one had to rush off to be somewhere.  We had time to get through homework and reading without stress.

So while I wasn't regretful, I became stressed because I felt that I had failed the parenting exam.  I had given up.  I had stopped pushing my children.  I had stopped filling up their life with every opportunity known to humankind.  I wasn't doing parenting the way a university educated, upper middle class Australian mother was meant to.

I started waking up at 4am in the morning faced with my parenting failures.  The clarity of the darkness of the early morning where nothing rational exists, yet at the same time everything seems so sure of itself.    I hadn't spent enough time reading with the youngest.  I hadn't helped the fourth get into sport.  I hadn't checked up on how the second was going in maths.  When I'd wake again a few hours later none of the 4am clarity made any sense.  I'd look around and tell myself we were actually going OK.  Why the disconnect between 4am and the rest of my day?

I think my 4am self was revealing my deep fears.  That our kids would be missing out and end up left behind their peers.  My rational, day-time self could see that it was OK.  That life isn't a competition. That I actually don't even agree with all the helicopter/over scheduled parenting gig.    But my 4am self revealed that I hadn't actually let go of it properly.

So while I'm all for advocating for the slow and the less, in what box do you place the emotions that come with that counter cultural shift?  The encouraging news is that I am waking up less and less and sleeping with more peace.  In fact we've continued to pare back the children's schedules, mostly in response to their requests and changes in interests.  I've shed some tears at the loss of my hopes for them in these activities but I'm starting to get better at listening to them more. Starting to see them for the people that are they are growing to be, independent of my own plans.

It's good.  It's been strengthening for our relationships as a family.  It's been humbling for me.  But I share this because making big shifts, good shifts are not always straightforward.  Mostly for the person making the big shifts.

Everyone else is just relieved the craziness has ended!


Jane Lister said…
Thanks, Jenny, I needed to read this.
Joy Joyjen said…
I understand the 4am thing, I was doing it for a while! I would even talk about it as though it was a normal part of my routine: "at 4am I do my worrying for an hour or so". But it wasn't healthy for me and I had to stop. I very effectively cured myself by watching 5 seasons of Downton Abbey in 3 weeks (mostly on my laptop)and found that my worries had disappeared as I was pretty much living in 1920s England! But I strained my eyes (quite badly) so it wasn't a great solution after all.

Reduction in craziness is the answer! Give yourself an 'A' Jen.
Vicky said…
'Starting to see them for the people that they are growing to be, independent of my own plans'. I can really relate to this and starting to see my kids as the individuals they are has really helped me change to a 'less is Ok' model for life. Their life doesn't need to tick all the boxes of my expectations for them or society's expectations for them. It's taken a lot of struggling within myself to change though and there are regular panic sessions about whether I'm doing the right thing and whether I should be doing more. As you say though, acceptance increases over time and you know they are going to be just fine.
Nicole G said…
You Are not a failure Jenny... you are an inspiration..we to me anyway. :-)

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