I am taking advantage of a rare bit of time without the children to do some of the many things that I have had to put on the back burner since having Austin. I am writing so infrequently here, I wanted to take a look at the blog and decide how I wanted to proceed: delete it? Archive it? Revamp? None of these seemed appealing to me (although I can’t promise I won’t update the banner, a new theme is not necessary).
For someone who is usually only too happy to share her thoughts and feelings, it always catches me off-guard when I realise I have been bottling things up. I can always tell when I am feeling stressed because it shows in my face. Not in my expression. In my actual face. For a few days now, I’ve been plagued with itchy eyes (rampant hay fever I think) which has made the skin around my eye red and inflamed. I have eczema around my mouth and a nasty cold sore has just cleared up (I managed to ward off two other cold sore attempts with Zovirax).
When I was preparing to leave to go on maternity leave just before Christmas, I had a lot of teaching colleagues make a lot of envious noises about how lucky I was to go for my ‘year off’. If I were doing any other job, I would have been incensed by the implication that having a baby – and maternity leave in general – is a doddle, a break, a holiday. However, as a teacher, I found it hard to get annoyed.
I am now 7 weeks into being a mum for the second time and even with the night feeds and the long cluster feeding evening sessions that seem to last forever, I can still say that I am less tired and more emotionally balanced than I was when I was teaching. Instead of being constantly aware of all the ways I am failing (as a teacher, this is something I was always feeling), I feel like a success. I have a thriving baby that is proof of my success – he is still alive! He is smiling! He is feeding! He is sleeping (sometimes)! I did that. And people are telling me all the time what a great job I’m doing, how well I am looking, how brilliant I am at being a mum. Compared to how I feel as a teacher, my confidence is through the roof. My oh my, the power of positive feedback! Fancy that!
It has left me to reflect on how I was feeling as I stepped out of the classroom: relieved for the ‘break’, disillusioned, lacking confidence in my ability to teach and unvalued. Despite having a fantastic team around me – my department are just superb – I constantly felt like I was falling short of expectations.
Now I am at home, spending large amounts of time sitting and thinking (breastfeeding is special but tedious too), I am feeling energised to get back into the classroom. I want to use the time I have to get on top of the new course content and exam specs. I want to take back some control by going back over the theories of teaching that were explored during my training (but then largely pushed out of mind in the whirr of the real-life teaching environment). I want to stop feeling like a failure and remember I have the ability to succeed.
I just have to get past Nicky Morgan’s speech which is still reverberating around my skull.
I haven’t had a proper think about New Year’s Resolutions yet. I might. But I haven’t yet. They seem to follow the same tune each year so it seems somewhat pointless to rehash the same old wistful optimism that This Year will the year where I eat better, read more, write more, watch less TV and generally make better use of Time.
This year, though, I have an imminent arrival of a new human to care for and as such, I do not feel inclined to load myself with the usual expectations. This doesn’t stop me from wanting to do things differently; I just am not sure I am ready to commit those wants to the screen.
I have decided what my Word will be for 2016. Last year, I wanted to be Positive, the year before, Tough. This year, I will focus on the word Nurture. This will apply to our new baby, our daughter, my husband, my parents, all my other relationships and, not to be forgotten, myself. I am only a good mother if I remember to take care of myself too.
One of the best things about blogging, which I hadn’t realised I’d been missing until I started up again this year, is that it gives me time to reflect properly on what is happening around me. The fog of teaching often means that you are too tired or busy to be properly present in your life and I am so looking forward to rediscovering what it is like to live in a more simple, intentional way. I don’t even care how ridiculous that sounds! I will be able to make this blog be part of my nurturing as I take time to just think.
I am still working my way through Organized Simplicity and the latest chapter deals with Time. As I predicted, the key takeaway for me is that I need to cut down on screen-time, both TV and iPad/laptop/iMac. I knew that this was going to be an area that needed tackling and despite my best intentions, I still spend far too much of my time in front of the box – especially in the evening.
After reading the chapter in the book, I felt like I need a strategy for this. Sheer willpower won’t be enough and I actually value a lot of my television viewing as a way to unwind and be entertained – it is not all rubbish that I am watching. By refocusing on just watching Quality Television, I should be able to carve out quite a bit of time to spend on both fun tasks like crafting and the less fun stuff like housework.
I also find that during the day when I am home, I can waste at least one of my daughter’s naptimes watching something which does not fall into my definition of Quality Television. This tends to happen more if I am particularly tired, under the weather or feeling down. In other words, I am comfort television-watcher. A bit of structure to my week will help this – I always work better with specific goals and a deadline! So step one: Make a list of the things I need to do and the things I want to. Step Two: draft a weekly schedule, including downtime so that I stay balanced.
I have also organised my craft area a bit (MUCH still to do here!) so that I can quickly access some smaller projects. When I feel like I need some downtime, I will be able to pick up my Halloween mini-quilt (see, I like a deadline!) or my Liberty bibs (that deadline is approaching too – my daughter will be off bottles in a month!!).
Next chapter: Money (and therefore, the dreaded D word).
I have just started reading this book because ricardo and I decided that this year, we were going to wrestle our finances into order and simplify our lives. I have been reading Tsh’s blog Simple Mom for a while as it is a great source of inspiration when it comes to organisation and home management. However, now that I am a mama myself, it has become even more relevant.
The term Intentional Living refers to the idea that you don’t just let life happen to you but instead you live with conviction and have more certainty about why you make decisions. It seems to me it is activity versus passivity and proactivity versus reactivity. This approach is very appealing to me, especially since I would like to get a hold of the things that constantly need to get done and shake this constant feeling of falling behind. I want to be able to sit down and spend an hour sewing without feeling guilty. I want to want to sit down for an hour to sew rather than watching year-old episodes of Oprah. I want to be able to fully enjoy this incredibly blessed life I have. I have a feeling that one of the changes will be ‘watch less TV’ but, you know, baby steps…
As a first step, I have made a short list of my goals for 2011 with this in mind. I will share my progress with you here and I have even changed one of my horizons to ‘Simplify‘ so you can easily find posts about frugality, the simple life and all that good stuff.
Finally, I will be participating in Project: Simplify over at Simple Mom. The first hotspot is the wardrobe and that is definitely an area that needs attention.
Sidenote: The ‘z’ in the title caused me more pain than it should – I am no pedant after all – but it is the title of her book and who am I to impose my British spelling?!