Never Say Never – Just In Case

So last night twitterville took off whilst watching Cutting Edge’s program on 8yr old girls going to boarding school.  Now I admit that I’m way too hormonal (No2 is more than imminent, she’s literally seconds away!), so I only managed 5 minutes and had to turn off.  But I chatted to a couple of Mums and thought it through a little afterwards, and regained a more balanced perspective, because there are Pro’s and Con’s to all options.

For one thing ‘Never say never‘;  It does tend to come back to haunt you!

I remember saying that I thought it was pointless to pay for Primary School education, when there was perfectly good state education available, and that I would ‘never’ pay for a 4yr old to go to school!  Ahem – oops!  So what am I about to do, oh yes, you know it, I’m totally about to send my 4-5yr old to a private primary.  Now thats a whole other story, as the the whys and wherefores, which I’m not getting into now.  However, it’s a good example of this very old and wise saying.  Whilst searching through all the local private schools, many of which are part boarding, one headmaster waxed lyrical about their very flexible boarding system.  He looked at all our rather naive and horrified faces, and rather wisely said ‘I know at this moment it is the furthest thing from your mind, however, in another 4yrs time that very well might change!’.  Then in the process of chatting to a mum on twitter last night, I remember actually requesting to become a boarder as a child.  Now I was older than eight, so it would obviously have been less difficult for me.  But still, looking back I can see that if my parents had gone ahead with it, I would have been gained a more stable environment, with much less heavy responsibility.  I wouldn’t change my childhood now for all the tea in china, but I can see how a ‘strong’ parent would make a difficult decision and sacrifice what they might prefer for the sake of a child’s stability and education.  It gave me an interesting and different perspective; after all, we all do things that make our children cry, because we know we have to in order to protect them from something else.  There are those of us who refuse to ever hurt or challenge our children, but does that work?  Nope, it creates spoilt, over-protected monsters, who are dependant and incapable of coping on their own.  So I go back to my rather repetitive advice of balancing support and challenge to your child.  If you find that you do end up boarding your child, then rather than panic with guilt, instead look for proactive ways of ensuring that you are creating a balance elsewhere.

These last couple of weeks have been full of husbands in the media having affairs as well, it’s been quite bizarre how many have been found out: From Tiger Woods, to John Terry, to most shockingly Vernon Kay (sorry mate, skype and texts do count), and potentially Ewan Mcgregor.  Of course, loads of husbands have been saying ‘I would never do that’.  But I warn them to think again (plus read all my blogs about affairs), because if you are naive about the potential for temptation and the predatory nature of some ‘other women’, then you are not going to be prepared for trouble.  There is no doubt that this is what happened to Vernon, who probably trusted himself as much as Tess did, and then when he got into trouble, it just spiralled out of control, partially I suspect because he couldn’t work out how come he had ended up there.

I remember warning one wife, that if she didn’t get her head around her husbands infidelities totally, then within a couple of years, she would find out how come it happens.  Have you ever noticed that?  You find yourself thinking ‘I would never do that, how on earth did they get themselves into such a situation’, to find yourself there within a few short blinks of an eye.  It can be anything from affairs, to drinking/eating unhealthily, to making ridiculous business/financial decisions, to picking the wrong relationships.

This is because of a very ironic rule of life that I was taught by my mentor, which is short and not very poetic, but the ramifications are huge when you really think about it: ‘Whatever you condemn, you breed, attract or become‘.  What it means is that judge someone or something, and you will either end up doing exactly the same thing yourself, or a close person in your life will do it, or your children will.  It’s as though life is trying to teach us the other side of the story, and because we weren’t open to learn about it ourselves, it provides us with the opportunity of experience instead. I’m not even suggesting that this is a ‘punishment’ or ‘karma’ gig; just that it is purely about seeing both sides of the story and gaining more understanding for life.

The other thing about ‘never say never’, is that however shocking it seems, we all have our price.  The price might be massive, and often not financial, but instead an alternative type of price that matches our value systems (our values are what we really love about life); but there will be a price.  Here’s me pregnant with No2, talking about not being available for work for a long time after she is born, and thinking about ways of making sure that she gets as much time with me as No1 did.  But then the phone rings, and someone offers me something that would absolutely catapult my blog, my book, my business, my mission, everything, and so yes, I am totally considering it and looking for ways to achieve it and balance out the potential ramifications.

If there is no price that can push us, there can be pressures.  Many people are terribly shocked the first time that someone who is close to them succumbs to depression, or a break down, or any kind of mental illness.  They wonder how on earth someone could let things get so bad that they would prefer to commit suicide (often considered a ‘selfish’ act).  But I can totally understand how suddenly it can feel as though your life has fallen apart, and your head becomes so full of noise that you can’t think straight.  I can’t imagine how parents can go one step further, either from anger or desperation, to take the lives of their children, but I suspect that it is similar, just magnified.  So next time you hear of someone struggling with mental illness, remember that the official statistics are that 1 in 4 of us will experience some kind of mental illness during our lives.  So rather than judge, you might want to think ‘there but for the grace of God go I’.

So remember, be careful when you find yourself say ‘I’d never do that’, because it might just come back to bite you in the butt!

What can we expect from our Men?

Fay Weldon has just written what some people are seeing as a shocking article from a feminist, where she is telling women to pick up men’s socks.  But I salute her, for her realism and I’m going to explain why, but maybe in less shocking terms!  (She is making a distinct difference between home and work – with work where she stresses that we shouldn’t pick up the socks! i.e. make coffee)

I’ve talked before about having realistic expectations of your children, rather than expecting a 2week old to sleep through the night, or a 3yr old to be able to articulate clearly, or a teenager to manager their emotions.  Every child will mature at their own unique speed, with some areas that they excel at and some that they are slower at.  Every child is just as great and clever as the next child, it’s just that they do it in different ways, that’s all.

The same rule applies to all ‘humans’.  We are all great at some stuff and rubbish at other stuff.  Not all men are rubbish at picking up socks, but there probably is a healthy majority, which doesn’t have it as a key skill.  Just as not all women are great at looking after a house, but we do have a tendency to be better at it than the men.  It’s all down to what we value in life, because if we value it, we will do it automatically and better than the things that we don’t value.  Everyone has different values, which affects how we see the world that we live in.  Some Mums will have a huge value on being a SAHM and will therefore judge others for not doing it.  Some Mums will have a huge value on eco-living and judge any mum using a disposable, even if it is eco-friendly (believe me, I’ve been at the receiving end of ‘nappy-date’ in our local NCT! – but thats another story!).  The eco Mums will wonder how come the other Mums can’t manage to wash nappies.  The disposable nappy mums will probably be thinking that they’d go mad if they attempted to do that as well, which is because it isn’t in their values, so it doesn’t come easy to them.

So we all have different values, and the man in your life will have very different values from your own.  They are MEANT TO BE DIFFERENT!!  There’s no need to us all being the same, that would make us unnecessary, so everyone has a different combination and hierarchy of values.  Everyone is totally committed to their OWN values.  They might say that they are interested in yours, in an attempt to appease, but it’s what they do that counts.  Everyone has skills according to their values.

So it is unreasonable to expect yourself to be anything other than yourself, and it is unreasonable to expect the man in your life to be anything other than who they are.  There are times in our life when we have to do things that we don’t want to, especially as a Mum.  But it probably wouldn’t work for us if the house was a total disaster area, so even if we don’t find it the most fulfilling job (and I’m jealous of those who do enjoy it), we still do it.  Now your bloke probably doesn’t notice or care as much when the house is in a state, because they have totally different values filtered eyes to you.  (Like the fact that my hubby can see a Ferrari on the opposite side of the motorway going past at 100 miles an hour, but can’t find the tomato ketchup sitting stock still in the cupboard).

We are ‘equally’ as valueable to society as men.  But that doesn’t mean that we all have to be the same.  It’s more about embracing our differences and who we are, just as we are.  You maybe an exception and much more interested in typical ‘male’ activities – that’s great, that’s who you are.  Or you maybe the extreme opposite, loving baking and home making – perfect, that’s who you are.  And the same applies to our men.

So what to do, if it’s winding you up about the socks?!  Well, one thing definitely won’t work; shouting at him that he ‘should do it, and is unappreciative of what you do!  Here are a number of options, let me know if none of them work and I’ll come up with some more:

1) If you can afford it, get some outside assistance – my hubby likes the house clean, is not so good at doing it himself consistently (can do it in an emergency), but as I’m part-time working, there is no way he expects me to do it.  So I employ a cleaner.  I probably only just cover the costs of the cleaner, nursery, and a few other bits & pieces, but I’d prefer to be working part-time than not.  If I clean all the house, it doesn’t suit me, and I get overstressed, and my self-esteem drops.  So this is a good compromise for us.

2) If there is a chance that you can persuade your other half to help out then learn the art of negotiation – have a think about what your other half values and enjoys in life.  Then have a think about the things that you would like to delegate to him.  Which suit him best?  For example, bins is great for mine, because it’s not every day.  Emptying the dish washer was our agreement for getting one, because I’ve always hated doing that for some reason.  None are too ‘heavy’.  Then have a think about how you can sell it to him in a way that works for him.  It worked for me to say that doing the bins was tricky because were I am it takes ages to sort out the recycling and that would lead to a stressed and frantic child.  I’ve also asked for help in getting my little boy into his pj’s, because if hubby gets home before DS is in bed, it will delay things, and then if I do everything, we won’t get much chance to sit together in the evening before I’m shattered and off to bed.  If he helps, it gives us 10 more precious minutes together.  Now these might not work for your bloke, but something will.

3) If there is a task that you know would be totally pointless to delegate, but you hate it, then sit down with a nice cuppa one night and have a think about how it helps you with what you value, the people you love and the things that you would love to achieve.  For example, I used to get stressed about being in a 3 storey townhouse and trying to be ‘efficient’ in always thinking of what needed to go up/downstairs before heading off.  It was a bit retentive!  Instead I realised that if I was less efficient, then I would be getting valuable exercise if I was less organised; and exercise is something that I have problems with fitting into my schedule of family/work.  It went from something that made me stressed and freaky, to just another thing that easily fitted into life.

So, what I’m saying is, forget what society says men should be doing at home.  Comparing your other half, to a fantasy picture of what he should be like, will just cause trouble between the two of you, and mean that you aren’t appreciating what you have.  In the meantime, you won’t be much fun to live with either!  Instead, work with the reality, make it work for you, not against you.

If you would like a starting hint at looking at values, there is a free audio on my website here: http://www.mummywhisperer.com/Pods_Vods.html

Let me know how you do!

Update

Had lots of comments about this one on my facebook fan page!  Many mums pointed out that sometimes when you are trying to sell helping out with things like the socks as I mentioned, that it doesn’t always have to be selling by offering a reward.  With some people offering a consequence or cost instead!  The great options were, anything left on the floor ending up in the bin, or only what is in the washing basket getting washed.

Remember, I’m not suggesting that you attempt to do EVERYTHING!  I’m just suggesting you be realistic about what you can and can’t expect from your other half.  Plus be appreciative of what they do do, rather than always complain about what they don’t do.

This works the other way as well of course, for any men reading!  Don’t expect your other female half to do things that they don’t have the skills or motivation to do.  Luckily my husband doesn’t expect me to be a cordon bleu cook, because he’d be really disappointed, just as he would be if he wanted me to be toned, tanned and a size 10 ;o)

Even Kids Need a Purpose

I wrote this a year or so ago –

I was watching my little 2 and a bit year old today filling the washing basket full of washing to be cleaned, and realised that the same truths for adults apply to babies, toddlers and children. 

We all need a ‘Purpose’. When we feel ‘purposeful’, we feel a sense of confidence and settlement with our lives, which spreads out into all other areas of life. 

So if you find your little one appears to be going through a dissatisfied period, one tip is to see if they have a ‘place’ in the family, a little responsibility, something to feel they are contributing to the world with. Maybe it is stirring a pot of dry pasta while you cook, so that they are included, or maybe they like to feed the dogs, or maybe empty and fill the washing machine. Max loves to ‘rescue’ people in trouble with hugs – he loves to pretend he is a superhero like ‘Sportacus’! He is rubbish at spreading butter on bread, but really enjoys doing it ;o) So it can be a made up purpose, anything that suits them and what they love to do.

It is amazing what a child can be responsible for, and undoubtedly there is a balance to maintain to ensure that they do not become overwhelmed with adult type worries. However, if there is no choice, and your child becomes one of those young carers, do not worry. They will regain their childhood at a later time, because nothing is ever lost forever. Plus, it will definitely teach them skills which they will be able to use at a later date.

Looking at my childhood, I would not be the same, and loving my life so much if I hadn’t been left with my very sick Mum at 5yrs old, and worked out how to call an ambulance when she collapsed. Later, I expanded to running the whole household at 10 when she had one of her numerous trips to hospital. Ironically, the hardest time was as a teenager when I was nursing my parents just after my ‘O’ levels – that was when I started to rebel and suggest they get a nurse so that I could go party! But do not fear for my ‘lost’ childhood, in my case I regained some of it in my 20’s, and the rest is steadily returning with the arrival of Max, my little boy.

If you would prefer to not include your little ones in the household tasks because it takes 3 times longer, just think of the potential downside of them not being included; In a few years you might be regretting that choice when they refuse! I did just that, when my Mum returned from hospital and kicked me out of the kitchen at 10yrs old – I vowed strongly to never cook again, and the power of that belief turned me from a 10yr old who could cook a full roast dinner, to someone who struggles with scrambled egg! I know many a 16 yr old who appears to be incapable of doing their own washing, or using the dish washer.

If you think that a baby doesn’t have a purpose, then I’m not so sure. Max was never happier than when he was making me learn to ‘Be’, by spending hours being cuddled on my lap. Maybe your baby’s greatest purpose is to teach you about yourself by giving you strong hints as to what makes them feel contented or loudly dissatisfied?

What do you think? Need any hints on finding a purpose for your family members? Let me know, I would love to hear your thoughts.