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Parenting Sacrifices

Every family sacrifices. Some more so than others. But the fact remains that in some way sacrifices are made. Though in our family, and I hope in yours too, the sacrifices we make don’t feel like sacrifices for the simple reason that the things we give up aren’t important to us.

In a previous post I mentioned that if I cleaned my house, my children would be neglected. I’m willing to have the messy (not dirty, just messy) house in order to have time for all the other things. For me, in order to have a clean house I’d need to give up something else. Time sitting with Ryan, reading, soaking in the tub, sewing, baking, surfing the net, writing posts, or any other number of things that I do regularly. I’ve given it up, and I’m okay with that. I wouldn’t be okay if I had to give up something else in order to have the clean house.

I don’t necessarily believe that parents with clean homes don’t spend time with their children, but I do believe they give something else up. For one person I know she spends huge chunks of time with her child – more so than I spend with mine (but I’ll talk about that some other time) – however she rarely makes her own meals. It would be a lot easier for me to keep up with the rest of the house if I didn’t spend so much time in the kitchen. Just ask Ryan, when I cook, I make a mess. I use every available counter space, and every pot or pan we own (and that’s just for scrambled eggs :p). That’s not far from the truth.

The sacrifices people make might not be in relation to the cleanliness of their home, or time spent with children, but something else. Maybe someone who used to read for pleasure no longer does, but has time with the family and a clean home. Maybe there’s something else.

It doesn’t matter what a family chooses to give up. After all, like snowflakes, no two people are alike and therefore no two families are alike. What does matter is that the decision was easy to make and your particular family doesn’t feel like it’s missing out.

Of course I’m not talking about sacrifices that are beyond our control due to life or financial situation. A family with a new baby sacrifices sleep, a family without a large sum of disposable income will sacrifice the live-in housekeeper and chef. There are certain things we can’t change, but others we can.

When our first baby was born we were told, “You won’t be traveling anymore.” Before her first birthday she’d been to three different countries (including home). When our second baby was born, we were told, “You really won’t be traveling now.” She took her first steps in England. Strangely enough no one’s told us we won’t be traveling now that baby number three has arrived. We like to travel and as such we do give up other things in order to do that. Others may not travel as much as we do, but use their money and vacations in different ways.

Life is full of sacrifices, decisions made, determining what is most important to us as individuals and families. We don’t miss having ATVs or a boat, or a pool, or three TVs or cable or a dozen other things, because other things are more important to us.

I believe that in day to day life the sacrifices should be so subtle as to be barely noticed. If you find yourself constantly wishing you had time for X,Y, or Z, maybe look at what you do spend time doing and see if your time has been spent on things that shouldn’t be placed so high on the priority list.

Some people might think we’ve got our priorities wrong, but that’s okay, they’re our priorities for a reason. Do you realize what you give up day after day? Are you even aware that a sacrifice has been made, or was it so natural that you can say “I don’t give anything up”?

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A Happy Home, Is a Messy Home

I’ve been feeling particularly inadequate recently. Not as a wife, or a mother, but as a housekeeper. Most of the time I don’t really care what others think. After all, it’s my family, my house, and we’re happy. I couldn’t ask for more than that.

But a few weeks ago I visited a friend with a joyfully clean home. Everything had a place and was in it. then I visited a new neighbour and as I entered her house for the first time, she says, “Excuse the mess.” Her house was immaculate. Okay one bed was stripped since she was doing the washing, but otherwise her house was perfect. And she asked me to excuse her. I felt horrible. I’d invited them over to our house, but she invited me in instead. What would she have thought of my house?

I was horrified just thinking about it. I have my sewing machine on the table, fabric on the floor (in both my office and the dinning nook). I have books and papers piled high on my computer desk (spilling onto our coffee counter). There are various items on counters, and toys. Toys everywhere. From one wall to the next. On each level. Stickers attached to my carpet and even paint on the carpet, not to mention remnants of baby spit. The laundry is often just tossed into a closet, rather than actually put away. And that particular day there was toothpaste all over the girls’ bathroom counter. Our house is messy, but clean. Bathrooms are washed regularly, floors vacuumed every couple days (at the least) counters washed, dishes done, laundry washed, garbages, recycling, and compost taken out every night.

Today we arrived home from a day out and I almost hit the roof. There were dishes everywhere, the bathrooms hadn’t been cleaned, the laundry hadn’t been switched to the dryer. And supper needed to be cooked. It was all I could do not to start barking orders. But then I paused. Why should I be upset? Because the neighbour, who admits to frozen meals and take-out at least twice a week, has a spotless kitchen? I think not. Because someone who is either childless or who’s children have been grown for a number of years (and who doesn’t go out when there’s house work to be done) points out how many socks we have under our couch. I don’t think so.

Instead I thought about yesterday. We drove to Drumheller to see the Royal Tyrrell Museum, and we hiked the interpretive trail with the girls. Today I slept in, while Ryan played with the girls. We gave Agatha her birthday present early and we went for a walk, then to the playground. We had so much fun. Ella rode her bike, she was proud of how fast she rode, of how she kept her balance. I wouldn’t change that for anything. If my house were cleaner, I’d have had to say no to driving to Drumheller, I’d have had to keep the girls inside, the playdough would have stayed in the bag. the games wouldn’t have left the shelves. But we did do all of that, and at the end of the day I don’t want to clean either. I want to sit and enjoy a bath with Cordelia, then snuggle and read books. I want to watch her explore without fear of her sisters tackling her or taking toys, or just being bigger and louder than her.

I will not appologize for a messy house, because that messy house is time spent happy with my family. It’s taken me almost two weeks to realize this, but now that I have I won’t forget it easily. I hope everyone out there can also happily claim the mess associated with time spent having fun.

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Mommy Behaving Poorly

Today was a bad day. Or rather today was a great day, but I behaved poorly. Our house is for sale and a showing was booked for this afternoon. That meant a lot of cleaning. Despite what some people think, our house is clean, cluttered, lived in maybe, but clean. I very rarely tell the girls to pick up their toys. I don’t see the point.

First, most of their games extend from day to day. They have both little people and playmobil play sets. This week Ella set up an entire city, including landscaping. At the end of the day her game wasn’t over. I could’ve forced her to put the buildings and people away, but it would’ve resulted in a lot of tears – and she’d have been upset too. Instead the city stayed out and the next day she ran downstairs, passed the TV, and picked up where she left off. If I put the toys away the night before, she might not have pulled them all out again. Her chance to explore her imaginary world to it’s full extent might’ve been denied. Her city remained set up for just over a week, out of everyone else’s way, but easy for her to play with. Last night I  put it all away so we could show the house today.

Photography by Ella

The second reason I don’t see a point in forcing the girls to put their toys and such away is because it’s easy to see how their play shifts from topic to topic, requiring one thing and then another. While playing with their babies, they’ll decide they need to feed them. So they get plates, forks, spoons and food out. The babies lay, seemingly forgot while they sit on the floor and have a snack. Once they’ve eaten, they need to wash their babies. The picnic is left, seemingly forgotten, while they take a bucket and head to the bathroom to get water. They come back and start washing their babies, the floors, the walls, the desk. The babies and picnic are left, seemingly forgotten. Then they run off to get something else for their babies, and slip on the wet floor. The bucket and water is left and they run to get towels. They wipe the water up and bring the towels to the dirty clothes. Then it’s time for their babies to nap. Stuff is strewn from one end of the house to the other, but they’re using it. Every item is part of their game. Eventually the babies will be forgotten and they will move onto something else, but that doesn’t mean they’ve finished with everything from the initial game. Last night all the toys and crafts, every one of their creations was sorted through, put away

Fluid Fun

Today the girls woke up to a (mostly) tidy house. They knew why everything was put away, and they tried to keep it that way. But to two little girls who’re used to using pretty much whatever they want, whenever they want, clean means only one or two toys at a time. And that’s when I behaved badly.

I can give a million reasons (excuses) why I did it, but none of them really matter. What matters is I could’ve done things differently and we could’ve had a wonderful day together. I got hung up on making the house clean, I forgot that my little girls love to help and would have, if only I invited them to join me. Instead I pushed them away every time they got close. I finally told (yelled at) them  to sit on the couch, not move, and watch shows until it was time to go.

I could’ve given them both rags and asked them to help wash the floors. I could’ve given Ella the mop and she’d have happily spent an hour doing nothing other than washing floors. I know that about them on a daily basis, yet today I forgot and by forgetting I told them their help wasn’t good enough. But even worse than that: I yelled at them. All they wanted was to help me and I pushed them away.

Ryan ended up getting up and rescuing the girls.

Once I calmed down and sat on the couch with the girls, Ella turned to me and said, “Mommy, you used your angry voice with me. I didn’t like it, so I used my angry voice with you. Now that you’re using your calm voice with me, I’ll use my calm voice with you.” She then proceeded to tell me she just wanted to help, but I was too busy yelling to hear her offer.

I wish I were as wise as my four year old.

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