(I’ve been blogging my way through my new book, Humpty Dumpty Just Needed a Nap: What Children’s Stories Teach Us About Life, Love, and Mothering. Last week we started with the first vignette in the book about Winnie-the-Pooh and being the kind of Hundred Acre mamas we were made to be. This week, we’re chugging right along to The Little Engine That Could…which is about staying the course on our mothering marathon when the blisters start, but, better yet, how to avoid them in the first place. The following is your homework assignment for after you’ve read that vignette. So, pull out your mama journals…and, don’t worry, there are no grades in Humpty Dumpty School;))
The Little Engine That Could is a story of perseverance when things get hard. And, if mamas aren’t in need of that kind of perseverance, who is?
Do you ever get to the end of the day and say to yourself, “I don’t think I can, I don’t think I can, I don’t think I can?” Maybe they kids are down with the flu (my most unfavorite kind of day). Maybe baby kept you up til the wee sma’s…again. Maybe you and your man argued the evening away instead of having the leisurely time you were hoping for. You climb into bed thinking of the hill you need to climb tomorrow and your Little Blue Engine feels squeaky and too weak to even get out the gate.
We’ve talked about pacing ourselves on this marathon called motherhood, but, with a houseful of toddlers, or a crew of teenagers, or a few of each, how does one do it?
What can you do to even out the terrain in front of you so that you aren’t pulling your load up such a steep incline? Can you get rid of a few activities? Can you enlist outside help (chauffeuring, babysitting, cleaning)? Does every corner of the house need to be cleaned every day/week/month? What can you let go?
Sit back and examine your ‘hill.’ Is it as steep as your mind makes you feel it is? What would happen if you trained yourself to think of your hill as a small bump, rather than a craggy, ice-covered, fourteen-er?
Notice: Where are you running breathlessly? Is this a pace you can maintain? For how long? Is this a temporary sprint or the speed you feel you need to run to keep up for the long haul? What in your life is missing because of the speed at which you are choosing to race? What are you missing out on? What is your family missing out on? Are you getting a side stitch yet?
Notice: How does it feel when life forces you to slow down, say by illness? What are you missing out on when you sit down for a day, or part of a day? Anything life-altering? What can you learn and take away from those days or weeks when you are forced to jog at a slower pace?
Notice: We assume most women are running at too fast a pace, but the opposite could be true as well. A too-slow pace exacerbates the drag of your load. The people who follow the Slow Exercise movement know this all too well. Yes, taking seven to ten seconds to lift the weight builds good, deep muscle, but it hurts far worse than when we use a little momentum to lift those twelve pounds. Are you going so slow that you are significantly behind at home or at work? Is your family suffering because your house is drowning in clutter? Are your kitchen counters so messy that it is nearly impossibly to make dinner? Do you struggle with feeling perennially ‘behind?’ If so, maybe you need to pick up your pace a little. What would improve in your life if you chose one area to jog a bit faster?
Think through the number of years it will take you to ‘finish’ raising your children. What stages will you all go through? At your current pace, will you be able to finish strong?
List twenty benefits of finding a good pace (Hint: I’d enjoy the kids more, I’d be rid of that tight band around my chest, I would have more time for…)
What is running full boor costing you? (Hint: Refer to the last question)
Ask your children if they like your current pace? Are you always on the run? Too busy to sit on the porch and just ‘be?’ Cranky? *Beware, as children do, they may be honest. What does your husband think? What is your gut saying?
I hope you’re listening to it. I know I’m not when I start to resent every tug on my time. I know I’m not when I wake up grumpy. I know I’m not when my kids fuss every time I suggest a ‘fun’ activity outside the house. That ‘fuss’ is our mutual guts saying, slow down already, we’re tuckered out! And it would behoove me to listen carefully, unless I actually look forward to getting shin splints at mile 22.
Not us, Little Blue Mamas. We are learning how to pace ourselves. In musician language, the ‘tempo guisto’…the right tempo for each song. Slow when we can; fast when we need to. The funny thing is, if we conserve energy where we can, we’ll have what it takes when it comes time to sprint to the finish line. And, sometimes, stopping for a few days to repair that one coupling bolt is the best way to get to the end. Don’t make me remind you who won in the story of The Tortoise and the Hare…that’s for another time).
What is one small adjustment you can make TODAY to slow your pace to one you can sustain long-term? I’m eager to hear your epiphanies…