Sunday, 6:30 pm
Mothers are inherently bad at this. We, as a rule, are self-sacrificers. We tend to neglect our own needs, wants and desires to foster our children's education, talents and growth and development. I think it's pretty difficult to be a good parent without some degree of self-sacrificing. What we have to be careful of is not losing ourselves completely in our attempts to provide opportunity to our children and in day to day parenting.
When I look at the upcoming calendar for each month or even week, I have angina. As I get older, this could evolve into a serious health problem! I see my crazy and unpredictable work schedule. Appointments for the kids that always conflict with said work schedule, then there is twice a week tutoring, 5 time per week soccer practices (and it's the 'off' season!) between the two boys and various social engagements for us or them that are on the calendar but quite often conflict with something the kids are obligated to. Guess who doesn't get to 'play' much as a result... I'll give you a hint, it's not them.
As I write this, I am sitting at Panera, blissfully alone, sipping a HOT latte! Well, alone at this table. Without my family. My youngest son is playing soccer about a mile away at a 2 hour practice session. I spend a good amount of time sitting on cold, hard bleachers or in cold camp chairs, watching, cheering, observing, chatting with the other soccer parents. Today I'm feeling anti-social. I'm needing some time to sit. Breathe. Think. It's only a practice. He gave me his blessing. "It's ok mom, it's only a practice, I don't mind". Love that kid.
I was going to read. Then I was compelled to write. Really, I'd like a nap. That is probably not a socially appropriate thing to do here in Panera, thus, I share the chatter in my mind.
I had a conversation this morning with my husband. He is not the biological father of the children, but he definitely fills a paternal role quite nicely for them. It was about the aforementioned schedule, putting the older and oppositional defiant ADD child on a contract until he's 18, how to 'deal' with soccer, the numerous household expenses that are looming large, summer camp plans and the stress they always cause, vacations and how we are going to find time for us to nurture our own relationship and our favorite activity, our ballroom dancing lessons and social dance opportunities.
It made me sad to realize that as soccer once again ramps up for the spring season, we will have precious little time for each other. Nearly all of the dance classes we want to take are in direct conflict with a soccer practice or game. Finding times to schedule our lessons is nearly impossible as well. Not to mention date nights or simply time to spend together. On some level, he feels we need to limit the kids and their activities.
Which is all well and good, but they only have one activity. Soccer. And they are both good at it.
As a parent, I want them to have all the benefits of a team sport. The exercise, the discipline, the lessons in teamwork and sportsmanship, the opportunities for friendship and growth in all ways. For one or both, potentially the opportunity to play at a highly competitive level and maybe even win some sort of scholarship for college. We all win if that verifies! If they have a passion for it, they are good at it and they really want to do it, how could I, as a parent, not support them in it?
It's not their fault I had more than one child and their schedules sometimes conflict. They should not be punished as a result of that. Of course, at the level they both currently play, it's very expensive. The fees for the team, the uniform, the equipment, the tournament fees, the gas money for driving all over creation for these games and tournaments, the entirety of evenings and weekends lost to soccer is a tremendous cost to me financially. Let alone socially and emotionally. I shoulder most of the burden of getting them to practices, games and tournaments as their mother. Their father participates when they have their scheduled time with him and their stepfather does what he can. Still, it's a tremendous commitment.
Despite the hardships I have imposed on myself by allowing them to play competitive soccer, I am fiercely proud of them. How could I say no? Obviously, I have not. I find a way to make it work. I give up things I'd like to do. That I really want to do. That sometimes, I really need to do, for them. I am almost always multi-tasking work and juggling their schedules during the week days. I have very little time at home on weekends to do routine household things let alone attend the social events we are invited to or just hang out with each other for family time. I neglect my wants and needs.
I do this to give them the opportunities they might not otherwise have. They are only young once. My parents did it for me, we found a way to make gymnastics and roller skating work. Those were my passions. Eventually, injury, a waning of the passion and real life got in the way and I focused more academically. And, well, I got interested in boys... :-) It wasn't until I was about 16 though. We are not there yet with my boys.
It wouldn't be any different if they had a passion for an instrument or singing or a different or even more than one less expensive, demanding more recreational sport. I allow them only one sport/activity. They have both chosen soccer. It is contingent on their full commitment and participation as well as keeping up their grades at school. The level they play at is try out based, so if they slack or don't keep their grades up or don't practice their skills, they may not be chosen for a team. For one of them, the decision may be made for him. Of course I thought that last year, too...
On the flip side, there is a little part of me that wishes they were one of those kids who didn't want to do anything extracurricular. I wish they came home after school, we ate dinner together every night at a consistent time, all together, that we sat and relaxed together, played more games, watched TV as a family, and spent less time in the car and more in our home. I wish I understood before I had them what a tremendous challenge parenting is. How time consuming and expensive it is. How difficult it is to juggle a full time job and full time motherhood. Not that it would have necessarily changed my decision to have children, it just would have prepared me more effectively for what to expect and maybe my timing would have been a bit different. Maybe not. I would totally prefer to home school or even work part time so I can BE there more for them, but I just can't. Not yet, anyway.
I'm still sleep deprived, worried and wondering if I'm doing it right! I secretly, or now, not so secretly, since I'm telling you, wish that I had more ME time. I want to have family meals and even cook them REAL meals, have family game night again, a chance to sit on the couch with the cat and read a book, go for hikes with the kids, pursue my love of ballroom dance, write that book, teach and speak and the list goes on. There is a part of me that can't help but wonder, would I be a better parent or a better person if I had more me time?
Clearly, something has got to give. But what? Ah, an impossible question to answer without feeling someone is being denied something they deserve. Is it mother guilt? Left over Catholic guilt? Sleep deprivation talking? A hormonal storm? The harsh reality of parenting tweens and teens?
I think the best answer is what I started with. Finding me time. Real, honest to goodness me time. Not just attending something I want to like my once monthly Reiki share, but a chunk of time where I have NO commitment to anyone but myself. Nothing scheduled. Nothing related to anyone else. ALONE time.
My fantasy? An oceanfront room. The sound and smell of the ocean. No one to be responsible for but myself. My laptop. I could write. I could order room service. I could sleep. I could walk on the beach. I could meditate. I could run. I could actively work on manifesting that life I want for all of us. I could rejuvenate and nurture my soul. If I were not feeling depleted myself, I'd have so much more to deal with the day to day craziness of my schedule. Of course taking off for the beach on a regular basis is not practical, but a girl can dream. If she dreams too much, she'll take her husband and her family along and although lovely, will defeat the purpose of said fantasy!
Right now I am gazing at the field stone fireplace here. I could stare at the fire forever. So much wisdom in the flames. The warmth. The sound. The mesmerizing dance of the flames. It's meditative. It...speaks to me. Or maybe, it's my higher self speaking to me. I should listen.
Monday 9:02 pm
In my flame gazing, I lost track of time and forgot to post this! I finished that latte before it got cold, by the way! I purchased some mac and cheese for my hungry soccer boy and some soup for myself and picked him up. We came home and ate together. He hugged me, thanked me for taking him to soccer. My older son was at soccer with my husband.
I got into bed at 8:30 pm. The cat eagerly joined me, purring like a freaking motor boat. I put on one of my angel meditation CD's, placed my Reiki hands on my heart and solar plexus and fell dead asleep in probably 3 minutes. It wasn't my oceanfront fantasy but it was me time. Me and my mind, body and soul, getting what was obviously a much needed rest and rejuvenation time, which was wonderful in it's own right.
I've learned the only way to get the me time is to literally schedule it in the calendar. Perhaps then, I'll honor that appointment with myself. I'm sure my family would be happier and better off for it.
Praise be, Google calendar and your colors. What color will me time be? They don't have sparkly.