Friday, January 24, 2014

Look Ma! No Hands!

I hit a bump this week.  Bumps happen in all aspects of life.  This particular bump was the recurrence of the foot injury that had me laid up for weeks last fall.  It messed up what had been feeling like a pretty calm (for me) groove I've had going since starting my Clean Eating program and working with my new tri coach.  Like many funks I get myself into, this one ended with me talking to my mom.  Who basically told me that I was spinning up way too fast and was over-scheduled, doing too much, and dragging the entire family with me. (She said it much nicer than that though).

"But what can I stop?" I wailed in response.  It's not like I can stop working.  The kids lessons are paid for.  I promised to teach them piano and swim - that's important.  I can't stop the cake business cold turkey because I've made commitments and frankly we need the money to cover  barely dent pesky things like the credit card bills from Christmas.  I'm sure as heck not going to stop training for triathlon, because on tough days having already put in a good solid workout is the only thing that makes me feel human.  Often a tired, sore human, but a sane one that isn't likely to scream at her kids or kick the cat.  Just kidding.  I would never kick my cats.

Mom didn't have an answer for me.  I didn't have an answer either.  I gave up trying to finish my work early enough to take the kids swimming that day, wrote an apologetic note to my coach, told me husband I had zero clue what to make for dinner and decided to just hang out and do some yoga after the kids went to bed.

The kids have been on me a lot lately.  Constantly (and literally) wrapped around my legs, demanding to be taken to the bounce park, to the movies, to the spa (yes, we've gone a little overboard lately).  But mostly what I hear is "Mommy I just need more time with you!"  Which is incredibly guy wrenching for me, and also patently ridiculous as I am lucky enough to spend more time with my children that most working parents.  I go to their ice skating lessons, their dance classes.  I work remotely.  I take days off just to spend with them.  All of which still adds up to, in their little minds, not enough.  It kills me.

So last night instead of rushing around like a crazy family, I set up the trampoline in the playroom and let them take turns bouncing their minds out to my workout mixes, and making those rainbow loom bracelets that every child under twelve seems to go for like meth addicts looking for their next fix.  In the midst of a particularly high bounce, my daughter yelled out, "Mommy!  This is the most perfect evening I could ever have with you!!!!"  Huh.  That easy.  She just really does want time with me.

(Notice in this video that she never, ever stops talking.  This is how we know she has never met her anaerobic threshold while exercising.  She has also talked nonstop through both 5ks and the kid triathlon she's done.  Unreal this kid.)

After the kids went to bed, I read a review of Rachel May Stafford's new book, "Hands Free Mama".  And purchased the book immediately.  And read the first two chapters.  Stafford's story rang very true to me - a busy working mom who was always on top of everything, who was constantly asked "how do you do it all?" and yet still felt stressed and disconnected.  In her own words, her solution is:

"If technology is the new addiction, then multi-tasking is the new marching order.  We check our email while cooking dinner, send a text while bathing the kids, and spend more time looking into electronic screens than into the eyes of our loved ones.  With our never-ending to-do lists and jam-packed schedules, it's no wonder we're distracted."

 Stafford simplified her life, and has inspired many more to do so, by implementing small but significant changes to minimize distractions.  Put away the phone.  Turn off email for a portion of each day.  Be truly present for your family, and for yourself.  She also takes a hard look at what she considers meaningful... and what is an unnecessary distraction.  Powerful stuff.

In her first chapter, she says that honesty hurts.  It hurts me to admit that I could do much better in this area.  I live with my cell phone - it's practically an appendage.  I spend way too much time on Facebook.  As much as the habit of constantly watching phones drives me crazy in others (the other night I talked to the Jedi for a good two minutes about something I felt was really hard and meaningful, only to have him eventually look up and say "What?  I thought you were talking to the cat...."), I do it too.  Two night ago I was texting with my coach while putting my son to bed.  My son had to actually ask me to stop texting because the phone buzzing was keeping him awake.  Shameful.  So so shameful.

My New Pledge - to be a Hands Free Mama

  • When I get home from work / shut down from work, I will put my phone away in my bedroom and not use it again until after the kids go to bed.
  • I will not check anything on my phone until after my first cup of coffee in the morning (which occurs after working out and/or showering)
  • I will only look at Facebook twice per day - once around lunchtime, once after kids go to bed.  Limited to a few minutes only.  (I've already failed this one today.  More shame).
  • Non-work emails will be returned only after the kids are in bed.
  • Even if he is watching football or Dr. Who, I will make and effort to sit with and talk to my husband in the evenings.

Things That Are Meaningful to Me

  • Health of my family.  A big part of this is nutrition, so the clean eating and switching my son to gluten-free will continue
  • Being creative.  Whether it be crocheting hats for the kids, sewing quilts, painting, or decorating cakes, I need the act of creation in my life
  • Being a role model for my children.  I want them to look at me and see a hard-working, kind, healthy person who has her life and priorities in balance
  • My personal health.  This includes triathlon training, what I put in my body, but also my mental and emotional health.  An ongoing project.
  • Inspiring others.  Egotistical?  Maybe.  But I love writing, and if even one person gets something out of this blog and some of the other places I write then I'm going to keep it up.
  • Having meaningful friendships & relationships.  Involving actually seeing people in person, calling them, and being there for them when it is important.
So my friends, if I am a little harder to get a hold of in the future, I apologize.  Please call me instead, or wait until after bedtime.  I'd love to see you and hear your voice.  If anyone sees me posting anything on Facebook other than lunchtime or evenings, please call me on it.  If something is actually burning down or you need to talk to me right now, I will of course answer.  But otherwise, I ask your support in my new project.

I can't give up any of the big things in my crazy chaotic life, but I can try to take control of all the little moments in between.  


Sue @ This Mama Runs for Cupcakes said...

Wow, this really hit home for me. I am guilty of all of the above. One of my new year goals was to play with my children more and not FB, email, blog, tweet, etc as much. It's hard. I stay at home (I work once a week) and those things are an outlet for me as I try to stay sane with 2 boys under the age of 5. It is so hard, and reading this made me realize that I need to set some specific time limits of when I will allow myself to do those things. Thanks for the post. I plan on sharing!

Miranda Greenhalgh said...

Thanks Sue and thanks for sharing. It is hard - I use these things as an escape and sanity as well, but I've found that they actually are adding to stress. it's been 2 days now and I feel calmer for not needing to know every little thing going on in the media world. Truly this is a "moderation" issue.

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