Monday, June 22, 2015

The parenting progression to less anxiety (too tired to care anymore)

For years, YEARS, I felt anxious just being in the house with my children, especially during the summer.  I couldn't ever relax and do what I wanted, whether it be work on a craft project or read a book.  I felt like I had to be in their faces, engaging them, structuring their minds and activities, completely and totally present.

I have blogged about my struggle to have some kind of routine in the summer, which is impossible when one child awakens at 6:00 am, another between 7:30-9:00 and another whenever I haul her butt out of bed (between 10:30-11:00).  No matter what "system" I tried, whatever routine I tried to implement, it failed or felt like a failure.

Somewhere along the line I stopped feeling anxious in the house with my kids during the regular course of the year.  I stopped worrying every second about interacting with them, engaging them.  I certainly didn't make a conscious decision to stop worrying; it just happened.  I think I just got too tired to spend so much mental and physical energy on it.

And now, I think this has finally happened with summer.  I think I just don't care anymore.  The only anxiety is feeling like I might suck a bit as a mom because I don't care.  It feels a little like giving up, and I'm generally not a "giving up" type of person.

I think I'm to the point where "Just leave 'em alone and let 'em do what they want" sounds like a pretty good idea.  Maybe because I just want to be left alone to do what I want?

In one way, that sounds callous to me, like I don't care about being a mom, but that is anxiety talking.  That is the brain that felt like it had to be engaged every second with my children.  The more rational, more tired part of my brain knows that I give a ton of my energy to my children, their education, their lives.  It knows that there is something valuable about just being available to my kids if they need me.

That part of my brain also knows that I have sacrificed 11 years of my career and interests and friendships and sanity to raising a young family, and I want a break.  And even though my life will change dramatically in August when all 3 kids are in full-time school, it isn't like I'm not going to still be sacrificing many of the things I would like to do in an effort to raise my kids.

The truth is that, if I wanted to, I could put my kids in all kinds of camps and structured activities, but I don't want to.  I don't want them to have 8+ hours (or even 4+ hours) of their summer days doing something.  One of the best things about not working full-time is having the summer flexibility to let my kids kind of have the summer I had as a child.  Waking when you want, doing nothing if you want, that much-needed down time, which often makes a kid rather ready after two months to get back to a routine.  They've had ample time to wind-down and feel ready to get back to doing something structured and organized like school.

Because to structure their summer time in this way would be more work for me. I'd have to drive them, thereby putting myself right back into a schedule which I was ever so grateful to get a break from when school ended.  No more piano lessons, no more Girl Scouts, no more speech sessions twice a week.  And I'd have to pay for it.  Having a 1970s-type summer is extraordinarily cheap.

It's not like I don't have any anxiety over this because I'm blogging about it, which is where I go to explain my own anxious feelings to turn them over and examine them closely.  But there is some feeling of triumph in identifying that I might not have the energy, I might not care to fight this battle anymore and feel okay in not forging ahead on a more productive, more involved, more structured path.

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