Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Paradigm Shift for Me

Over the summer I decided to try a new approach regarding my life, my role as a mother, my role as a homeschooling mother and the role of the person in the family in charge of the family schedule and running the household (including house cleaning duties).

I have been applying this for about a month. This is a major change for my style and so far it is working well.

I am trying for more of an even-keeled balanced approach.

While working this summer on doing a big decluttering job on the rooms of our house (not the unfinished basement, not the garage), and while going through papers to discard or file them properly, I had an epiphany. I realized that I was dealing with lots of stuff that I had not dealt with previously (letting the papers build up etc.). I know other families are more diligent about staying on top of projects like that. Due to procrastination on those projects I was left with gigantic projects that were hard to catch up on and sucked up a lot of time and energy. It was draining to have to spend three full days going through paperwork, for example!

I started asking myself how does our family spend our time and how I do spend my time? I won't share all the details but the fact is that we were sometimes reacting to crises and things not in our control that we had no choice but to deal with in a reactionary manner, such as dealing with emotions from deaths of close loved ones. However other things we did were totally in our control and we chose to deal with them. In other words we chose to do activity A, B, and C and in doing those we didn't have time left to say, keep on top of clutter in a certain room or to file away all the necessary papers and instead had piles of papers waiting to be addressed.

I decided to start saying no more often and to do less outside the home, do less appointments and less stuff even if it is fun stuff, in order to be able to spend time doing things that we really should be doing. In other words instead of doing four fun things we can do two fun things and spend that extra time at home doing whatever has to be done and in leftover time, relaxing and having more laid back fun here at home. Instead of focusing on the missed out on fun of the other two things we could savor the fun experiences of the two things we did do.

I also reduced my volunteer work, saying no and letting go of things from May through August. I have a longer blog post on that drafted that hopefully I can polish up and share more in detail about that. I am not feeling guilty about reducing my volunteer work further. I have had eleven years of volunteering under my belt.

In the past I would do things like really want to get a lot of homeschooling lessons done in one day so we'd do that like crazy and I'd not do a single housecleaning thing that day. The house might get messy all over then I'd spend a full day doing tons of cleaning. I had a more 'all or nothing' approach previously.

My new approach is moderation and balance. Things don't happen as fast but they are happening gradually and in a more do-able fashion.

It so happened that our trip to Maine was put off until Labor Day weekend and the first week of Maine. I decided to take along some homeschooling stuff and start lessons there, doing half the subjects that week instead of doing none and then coming home to start later than I'd hoped but to do all the subjects. It worked well.

Second my orders of homeschooling materials were delayed and were not physically here when I needed all of them. So we worked with what we had and did that. I didn't stress over not doing a certain subject yet. We have time to catch up.

Instead of doing one day of laundry per week and having the washer and drying going non-stop on that one day I have been doing one or two loads per day. I also have been doing a little house cleaning every day. It doesn't look as nice all at once but it is easier to do a little every day then to look around at a growing mess then spend all day doing grueling work. For example one day I decluttered the kitchen counters and washed them. I swept the floor and ran a load in the dishwasher. I ran out of time. So the next day I cleaned the half bathroom and mopped the floors in the half bathroom, hallway, and kitchen. I am spreading the cleaning out to a little each day.

We are doing less outside appointments this fall. I keep getting invited to wonderful things as do my children. I have been saying no! We did have a big social week this week as it was the first time my kids have seen some of their homeschooling friends since June so I did agree to numerous playdates now that everyone is getting back into the fall routine and is finished with summer travel and summer camps. Rather then focus on the fact that we didn't do as much homeschooling lessons this week as I had hoped I am happy that the kids and I had a lot of social time catching up with our friends. (At about half of the playdate things I was socializing with my own friends.)

Also regarding homeschooling I have decided that rather than parcel out the work to equal amounts and trying to do every subject every day we are doing some things a lot more now and will finish them early. For example my older son has wanted to do math 90-120 minutes a day so he is flying through his new math curriculum. That is more math than I wanted or expected him to do in one day but he is enjoying the new program and he is scoring well on the work so it means he is not mentally overtaxed by it. I am not mad that he has slacked on history due to running out of time. Younger son loves a logic program he's doing so at this rate he may finish the whole book in two months, that is fine. Who ever said the 'right way' is to space it out evenly for an entire academic year anyway? And if some education experts of homeschooling gurus do recommend it but I do it differently then who cares if I'm not conforming to their ideals??

I am loosening up and becoming more flexible.

I am not allowing myself to beat myself up about not having done as many homeschooling lessons as I thought we would have done by now. I am trying to look to the positive side and be happy that in some subjects they are ahead.

Still to be factored in is time carved out for me to exercise. That will be an intentional new project that I have to make time for and use discipline to accomplish.

I am a perfectionist but for years I thought I had conquered the monster. I have realized instead that on the surface I was acting like I wasn't a perfectionist but my high standards and wanting to do everything all at once and to try to do so many things all the time was driven by the perfectionist deep within me that I didn't realize was still alive. So I'm trying to squash that perfectionist inside of me.

This is a major change for me and so far, so good.


Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Being a perfectionist myself, and also one of those unable to say no, I know just where you're at with this. Last fall for the high holy days, I decided to repent of perfectionism. It has not been easy, but I am getting better at delegating, saying no, and forgiving myself for not having a perfectly clean house during the week.

It's all good!

Jess said...

Hi there
sounds like you a really making an effort to focus on the possitives in life. I going through the same sort of thing at the moment. I have an 11 month old boy and have left my perfectionism behind. I am embracing a happy and messy life. Not that my place is filthy hehe but i dont run around cleaning as much as I used to. If its a nice day I will take little Bailey out and do the dishes later and if i happen to get mud or chalk all over me i just smile because i see that Bailey is having a great time. Its refreshing in a way not putting restrictions on myself :)

SusieH said...

Just found your blog while hunting for cub scout patches (great post, btw, but as we are in the UK, I had to keep looking!). This is a great post about balancing life - I can really identify with a lot of this. It's very easy to get caught up in doing stuff so you end up go, go, go all day and come home to No dinner, and nothing done in the house, which for me is a huge guilt trip/stressor. I'm trying harder to balance things myself :)