Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sweet, simple, slow

Kate commented on my last blog post, saying,

"I know what you mean about having several children and maybe having to shuttle them around but I think if the kids truly want to do the activities and benefit from them, then it may be just one of those *seasons* in your life that we all go through, as (if I had 3-4 kids) I would not make them choose simply out of my inconvenience if the gas money was not too much trouble, if that makes sense. Esp if I was a FT SAHM I would find a way to make it work so we could all enjoy what at "out and about" lifestyle had to offer us and still maintain family unity. If it doesn't work, then it doesn't work but I think if the kids really want something then it's worth giving it a shot and not dismissing it outright."

I've already replied in the comments section, but I just had to say this...

As I'm writing from my (very limited) experience, I can only talk about what's working for our family, at this particular season of our lives. I can't say what will work for you, or declare that such-and-such number of activities for such-and-such number of children is good, best and right. Perhaps you are a much more "hyper" person than I am, and enjoy a lot of action going all around you most of the time. Perhaps you homeschool, and have older children, and decide that they could do better with more organized activities. Perhaps you have a child with a very pronounced particular talent, a gift that it would be really tragic to stifle, and you decide to come out of your comfort zone (as we mothers so many times do) for that child. 

Having said that... right now, the primary need for my family is a balanced, orderly home, and a peacefully flowing routine. This means, for us, that we spend most of our time in the home (and its surroundings! We do love to take advantage of the lovely weather). Now, I'm lucky enough not to have a car *smile*, so I can't really be expected to drive here and there (to get to places when my husband isn't home, I carpool). 

A serious problem in our society is that the wife and mother's tasks at home are not sufficiently acknowledged. This leads to people thinking that a stay-at-home wife has a lot of "free" time on her hands - and then come expectations and demands, even if you aren't doing paid work, to always be doing something "more". And so I witness women caught in a flurry of activity - for themselves and their children. Lectures, seminars, classes, and a lot of shuttling. And volunteering, and committees. A lot of it may be good, but it comes with a price, as everything in this life does. 

We have to evaluate our strength, our time, our inclinations, honestly and without reference to what others may be thinking. And we have to stop squirming with guilt if sometimes, we find we have to say no - for a short or long while - to activities, places, experiences... even people outside our family. If you feel you and/or your children are stretched too thin, overwhelmed, it is possible to slow down. Even having a hobby, or talent, doesn't mean it has to be pursued at all costs, all times, all seasons. It can wait. Again, quoting my dear friend Jewels from memory, beyond the essentials of home, family, our close relationships, "everything else can wait, and will be all the sweeter for having done so."

Neither I nor my husband were ever driven to any extra-curricular activity. We both grew up in families that had no car. Afternoon classes were available in the neighborhood, within walking distance, and we went to some when we were old enough to go alone. Also libraries; I don't remember ever setting foot in the library with my mother, only by myself when I was old enough to go alone. I'm not saying that's the only way to do things, but it's an acceptable way. 

Sometimes we have to let go of good things, really good things, when we feel they are coming in the way of the essentials. 

There's a certain restlessness in our culture, a rush, the expectation to be out and about a lot. But at the same time, most of us are soothed by simple things - the chirping of birds, the small hands of a child, the smell of fresh bread, a walk beneath trees, laundry on the line. Ignoring this natural inclination has led, on a global scale, to profound dissatisfaction. 

"Natural resorts" are popular, and people pay an arm and a leg for them. Why? Because we still crave peace and quiet. But these can be brought, with careful thought and effort, into our homes. When we free time for relationships, for peaceful stillness time, for being with our Maker, for digging in the earth, for making things with our hands, we aren't being "lazy" or "backwards". We are responding to the need for gentleness, tranquillity, peace and order that flows from deep within, and is most important for children. 

Now, even very young children know amazingly well what they want (my 2-year-old won't be coaxed to put on a yellow t-shirt when she has her eye set on the red one!), but it's up to us, as parents, to evaluate the general picture. A child can tell you she wants to do swimming practice, dancing and, say, clay modeling. You know all these things are wonderful, and you'd hate to disappoint her, but you also know it would put a strain on your schedule, and perhaps your budget. So you draw limits, re-evaluating as you go. 

There are no rigid frames. We are traveling down a path, and the path is winding. That is one of the things I love so much about it. 

PS: Just as a side note, today we had our first lovely rain of the season! It was wonderful. The girls stood on the balcony, their hands outstretched to catch the falling drops, laughing in exhilaration. Then we went inside and listened to the pitter-patter of raindrops on the tin roof. It was short but sweet, and everything already looks so nice and spruced up outside! The plants are greener, with the layer of summer dust washed off them, and I can only guess our roof is cleaner too. 

Rainy day photo from last winter. 


Anonymous said...

I live in an apartment in a city. Thus, I have no yard, no livestock (my little chihuahua dog is low maintenance!)no crops I'm growing, etc. None of the women around here sew their own clothes as clothes are cheap, and all have access to washing machines, stoves, and dishwashers. Doing laundry and cooking meals are thus simple endeavors (really, how long does it take to shove clothes in a washing machine? or to clean a toilet?) The point is, the reason why many women where I live either have jobs or volunteer outside the home is simply because we DO have more time on our hands than our grandmothers did! Even out in the suburbs, the fact is that labor saving devices made housework easier.
While I vehemently disagree with over-scheduling,I also believe that parents should want to expand their children's horizons and expose them to enriching extracurricular experiences outside of their home. I am grateful that my mom was not too lazy to shuttle me to piano and ballet lessons, as both enhanced me and to this day, I still love to play piano. My mother doesn't know how to swim and so my mom also shuttled me to swimming lessons in the summer. Take in mind, Anna, that not all children have parents who know how to speak foreign languages, play instruments, or do crafts, and that the only opportunity some kids get to have any enrichment is to go outside of the home.

Linnea said...

I agree with you.

It's also true, that children need FREE time, time that is not loaded with organized action. I'm a teacher, and currently working with 9 year olds.

Quite many of them have something going on 3 or even 4 nights/week. I quite often hear them saying, that it's too much. Some activities are happening quite late, too, like football training that ends at 8.30 pm. Even the kids realise, that's way too late for them.

And yet - they go, because their parents want them to, and because they do like the thing (playing an instrument, football, dancing). But too much is too much.

living from glory to glory said...

Greetings, I can also say when my children were little we did spend most our days at home. We did have a car but we lived far from town. Home is where my heart is, even now I prefer my home and hubby:)
Blessings, Roxy

Mrs. Anna T said...

I agree that we DO have more time than our grandmothers. My grandmother was exiled under Stalin's regime to Syberia, where she and my grandfather had to do hard physical labour to survive. I've never faced anything like that and hopefully never will. BUT, there's also this mentality that every minute of free time must be "utilized". My point is, we must all draw our limits. Sometimes a woman is far from lazy, yet she feels she must, for the sake of everyone, limit the number of her children's extracurricular activities per week.

Kate said...

Oo! I appreciate you expanding more on my topic. I think it's good to have discussion like this. And let me expand more on my line of thinking when I made it. I just came across a homeschooling blog in which the Mom described their current schedule. She had 4 teenage children and 3 of them were heavily involved in what could be termed extra-curricular activities (I don't know if you've heard or researched of the term 'unschooling' but this is the type of family dynamic/type of homeschooling they pursue). 1 was sort of taking a break from stuff, but for the other 3 it was solely their motivation and choice to do those things they wanted to do.
So I guess my line of thinking was sort of coming from that sense... I think it would be remiss of that particular Mom to say "you know what, that's too much for me" and dismiss it out of hand just because of her preconceived ideas of how the home should be and thinking that maybe she was doing too much shuttling around, etc. So like I said towards the tail end of my comment "if it doesn't work, it doesn't work" but I would at least be willing to give it a shot if my kids wanted it, rather than thinking it would be too much of a burden. And I think that's all we can ask of ourselves as parents whether the question is "I'd like to stay at home, but I don't know if I can make it work" OR "My kids would like to do soccer 3 nights a week, I don't know if I can make it work". That's the fun thing as mothers is we are challenged to provide that peaceful retreat for our kids whatever our condition/current circumstance. So for me, I work FT (although I have the flexibility that it's quite a bit less than the 40 hours/wk) but I can either look at that as a struggle, throw my hands up and give up on my "SAHM-type" propensities... or I could look at it as an opportunity to do what I can to be the best Mom I can be in that situation.

Hope I've explained more fully. I truly find you to be a kindred spirit Anna, we are halfway across the world from each other and our lives are SO different, but very much the same as well. I very much admire and appreciate your thoughts as you bring such a fresh and unique perspective, and aren't afraid to ask the hard questions. You are *right* in the fact that you are judging what is best for your family at this time, and as time goes on and your girls get older and get involved in other pursuits I know you will keep a peaceful, joyful home life at the forefront, you are doing such a wonderful job with your girls.

Anonymous said...

When we had our first we did ballet , tap, soccer, gymnastics, library story time, swim classes ,etc. Second daughter missed out on most of this , what was I thinking?? We were running around half the time the kids were crying about not wanting to go anymore I felt obligated to teach "we finish what we start" ,Using up gas money and buying expensive dance dresses. The only thing I now look back and find worthwhile would be seeing all those very plump little 3 year olds in their little ballet and tutu outfit standing on stage attempting to stay in line and do a little dance.My own was puking and the other wet her pants so I think I should have bought a ticket to see other peoples cute 3 year olds and saved our family a huge hassle... neither one of them remember any of these actvities..Karen.

Rose said...

Excellent post!! I came to visit through Rosie's Blog and have really enjoyed reading all your posts. I totally agree with you on this topic. Very well presented. God bless, Rose