Finding the Balance
Being a mom to my two daughters is the most rewarding job I have ever had. I was lucky enough to spend the first five years of motherhood at home raising my daughters, which gave us a lot of quality time to develop a special bond. When my oldest turned five, however, I made my way back into the workforce. I knew there were going to be some adjustments but I didn’t realize how much of a change it would be on all of us.
Nights were what seemed to immerge as the most challenging for our family. I was often frustrated and angry in the evenings, because I wanted to be on a schedule. I felt that my time was limited to get everything ready for the following day. I needed to prepare dinner and lunches as well as be in bed by a decent hour, but my girls seemed to just wanted to play and make a mess. Typical evenings consisted of me yelling at them to put their toys away while they would try hiding from me to continue carrying on with what they were doing. The atmosphere in the house was chaotic, everyone was stressed out and upset with one another, there was lots of arguing and crying, and all of this just to go to bed and do it all again the next day. It felt like we were in this horrible cycle of being miserable every night and life was out of balance. Something needed to change.
One night while getting ready for the next day I was getting outfits set out for the kids and as I laid out my 5-year old’s clothing she began to tell me that she wasn’t going to wear what I had picked out. Once a month my daughter gets to be the VIP student of her Kindergarten class and she apparently had a special outfit that she wanted to wear for her VIP day. I told her, “We don’t have time to pick out a new outfit, its bedtime, and you can wear what I picked for you!” After all, I am her mother and the adult here. She immediately began crying and stormed off to her bedroom. My husband came into the room to find out what happened, so you can imagine I relayed to him what the problem was, our stubborn daughter… My husband listened and then explained to me that she had been telling her teachers and friends at school all about the outfit she was planning on wearing, that it was something very important to her. My first reaction was to roll my eyes and dismiss it, so I did, it was time for bed and she needed to get over it.
As I continued getting ready that night for the next day and dreading the repetition of this process in the day to come, I started to feel guilty about how I had reacted towards my daughter. Why was I feeling guilty, she is 5 and I am the adult here? When she is older she can choose, but for now, I am the boss, right? Then I remembered a workshop I had just been through and one of the ideas I learned there was to not see others as objects. Did this apply to my 5-year-old just as much as it did people at work? I began to consider for the first time in a long time how she must have felt and how this was a big deal in her world. I then found myself walking down the hall and into her room, all of a sudden, I was curious to know more about her. I asked her to let me see what it was that she was wanting to wear the next day, so she eagerly jumped up to show me. As I sat at the end of her bed that night her eyes lit up as she showed me the dress and shoes she was wanting to wear for her special day at school. But really her eyes lit up because, for the first time in a long time, I actually cared. I started to realize that I had seen not only her as an obstacle each night, but both my children, I had failed to take the time to understand their needs and actually be curious about them.
I went to bed that night feeling overwhelmed with sadness, guilt, and accountability for how I had been since going back to work. I realized I had been so focused on myself every day that getting everything ready for the next day was a burden. I wasn’t taking advantage of the time I was getting with my family each day, with my girls. I knew things needed to change, I knew I needed to change.
After that night, I started letting the kids help pick out their outfits for school, which they loved, and there were a lot fewer arguments over outfits. As I think back I realize it might have never actually been the outfits causing the arguments, rather the way of being I had toward them. We also let them help us in the kitchen with cooking dinner, and various other things began to change, what a difference all of this was making! As an unexpected result, they actually started eating what we were making when we let them be involved in the cooking process, in the past that never happened!
I’m not saying that every night has been perfect, but it has made such a difference involving them in what we are doing and taking time to actually listen to their needs. It makes me sad to think of all the nights that were wasted because, I refused to care, but it allowed me to realize that I need to take time to enjoy the present and the moments that I get with my family. I realized that finding the balance was realizing the changes I had to make.