Working out how to be a Part-time working Mum

So, since Lockdown number 1 lifted I have been getting used to juggling being in school some of everyday as the chaplain with all the other tasks & joys of life. To be honest it’s still a little odd getting my head around actually being an adult having an actual job! It’s a whole new way of juggling the needs of family life – any advice do leave a comment!!

One of the things I’m currently not sure I’m winning with is the washing – you’ll know I’m sure that its never as simple as working methodically through the washing Himalayas – there is an almost daily urgent need to prioritize particular items needed straight away… which I kind of (well very loosely) kept on top of before but now seems rather tricky and incredibly last minute. Sounds rather insignificant written down, but believe me it is certainly not insignificant when the only item of clothing that is acceptable to be wearing is in the mountain and not back in the draw in time!

Other than the practical logistics – which I’m sure will settle into some kind of routine – I find myself working out in a new way how to pace myself emotionally and energy wise. Family life for us can be draining, a lot of the support needed that is over above what you might expect as a parent of my age kids is emotional support and the creative finding, teaching and prompting of coping skills to deal with relentless anxiety (which has been through the roof this year), sensory overload plus self care and interpersonal skills – all of which require deep deep wells of patience and empathy, the negotiation skills of an international peace envoy and the imagination and energy to keep finding new approaches and adaptations. I need energy.

In many ways going out to work has been energy-giving in that it is a step away into a different world. I have a lovely base in the school, neat, calm and relatively quiet – which now has its very own colourful bespoke ‘stained glass window’ display. And I am loving the role with its opportunities for building relationships, offering support to the community and helping to shape the faith provision and culture of the school. But of course it is tiring too. Its as much about being fully me, fully present as any of the tasks I have to do and so introvert me is tired as I walk home. So I am praying for extra doses of patience and energy on that walk each day to arrive ready to be fully me, fully present and available to the needs at home.

I am becoming more aware that I need to get better at self-care myself! Eating healthily, trying to get more sleep when I can, doing exercise, and getting back into a routine of writing – about time too I guess many of you are thinking as you read this!! Watch this space. Something I read this week that struck a chord was an invitation to write ‘Ta Da’ lists at the end of a day rather than ‘To Do’ lists at the beginning… so here’s the beginning of my visual ‘Ta Da’ list from this week:

Girlguiding volunteering – the groups have started up again
Act of Remembrance for school and collective worships
Loads of emails and admin
planning our next student service

Apologies – and the guilt coming out of lockdown

Is it true, what I’ve been reading on social media over the last 2 months, people have been redecorating houses, getting fit, taking up new hobbies? Apparently lockdown has been an opportunity for such things – for some!

Isn’t it hard not to face coming out of lockdown with a whole load of new things to feel guilty about. The untidy, unclean house let alone not re-decorated; the really few number of ‘good days’ of school at home; the fact that I’ve not been able to sit here with a cuppa for a whole 2 months!!; the non-existent new hobbies and achievements. Oh dear, if comparison is the thief of joy this is going to feel rather tricky to negotiate!

Surely I’m not alone!

Well, to try and help myself, I’m going to sit here for a moment and list my lockdown achievements – however different they may be:

  • We have (just about) always had clean clothes to wear!
  • Everyone has eaten something every day (even if it wasn’t at the right time, or in the same place as everyone else, or particularly nutritious)
  • School work has been printed out and talked about – a lot – enough said!
  • I have discovered and explored new places in the house and garden to create semi-permanent dens and tents. (safe chill out spaces and divide and conquer!)
  • Church has come into our living room, and study, and kitchen, and sometimes bedroom and even behind the sofa on Sundays.
  • I have become quite used to filming, editing and leading myself in worship and reflective activities of various kinds.
  • I have created film studio zones in the house and garden – that can be rediscovered under the mess when needed.
  • My volunteering responsibilities and my work have been done – that should be in capital letters, what an achievement in these circumstances!
  • And I have learnt all about green screens, stop frame animation and some basic editing. Watch out world!!
  • I have continued to exercise my extreme parenting skills – juggling, multi-tasking, peace keeping and hostage negotiation, wrestling the octopus-es or is that -i?, mentoring, counselling, resilience under a regime of sleep deprivation and red-coat entertainment as required.
  • We have bought and settled in 2 rabbits – Flapjack, and Tiffin.
Flapjack on the right, Tiffin on the left
  • I have tried new baked goodies – A has been baking lots of bread, and cake.
  • As a result I reached my ideal weight for the first time in years – even if fleetingly.
  • T has made it into the bath and shower enough.
  • I have made fabric masks for all of us.
  • I actually rang the doctors – yes me – if you know me well you will instantly agree it has to go on the list of achievements.
  • I have smiled, and laughed, played games and spoken to extended family regularly.
  • (I have also sighed, been tired, grumpy, frustrated and very anxious in equal measure)
  • I have not fallen out (permanently!) with any family members!!

Thanks for listening! It really helps to list things sometimes – there have been plenty of achievements – but as always they might not look the same in our family. What do they look like in yours as you ease out of lockdown?

It must be desperate when God sends a self-care opportunity out of the blue: crazy busy autism household in lock down.

Social media is giving me the impression that everyone has managed to achieve great and exciting projects during lockdown. I think I’m developing a good dose of lockdown envy, and guilt that I haven’t! There have been no home improvement DIY’s, no de-cluttering, no clearing out – the house is in fact messier and more chaotic than usual. I haven’t learnt any new interesting skills (apart from with tech for our ministry tasks). There just hasn’t been the time or the energy!

Doing work, ministry, volunteering, schooling, family life; being Mum, carer, wife, author, a disciple, a human – all simultaneously, all in the same space for all these weeks has been an intense challenge with no respite. The worries of the lockdown and the virus have made T more clingy than usual, set back our sleep (which lets face it wasn’t great anyway), caused bigger and more frequent waves of anxiety that have had to be managed… and everything has had to be done differently – and we don’t like change in this household!

I’ve been counting it as a good day when we are all up & dressed for some of it, and we get to bed having been fed & watered (which we are always – thank you Andrew!) and still in one piece!

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Just for a moment this morning we all went to the garden, at the same time and stood looking up at the house martins circling the garden, and trying out our house walls and window ledges for size. It was breathtaking – the birds, and the all stopping together to take it all in.

In a whirl of busy-ness where when ‘work’ (voluntary & now job as well – that’s taking some getting used to) can be put down, something or usually someone else needs to be attended to it was like a long drink of cold water on a hot day!

I do thank God for those unexpected moments he provides which, of course, turn out to do self-care and rest so much better than anything you could have planned … and not quite achieved.

 

Butterflies and a rainy week in lock down

The news in our house this week is that our butterflies have emerged from their chrysalises, and also a tiny green caterpillar we had collected from the garden has transformed into a two tone tiny moth. Very welcome addition of interest into a rainy week in lock down!

And a reminder of how impatient we are! And how beautiful and transformational the plans are that God has for his children – his new creations.

 

 

Love is patient, love is kind…practicing family love during lock down

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The trouble with lock down is that it is magnifying our weak spots! It is intense being together 24/7 for this length of time!! (Or is that just us – please tell me it isn’t)

Loving each other as a family cannot stay as words only, this pressurized time needs us to step up big time and become much more conscious of our actions towards each other. Not at all easy! Our actions means our tone of voice, our assumptions (often based on un-forgiven baggage lets face it), our body language and facial expressions (which of course we don’t all read in the same way which adds another layer of complexity), our acts of service and choices that affect each other.

The Bible gives us a daunting description of family love…

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

from 1 Cor 13

… and of course shows us what that love looks like in practice in the life and death of Jesus. The passage finishes with ‘LOVE NEVER FAILS’. Oh help!

Truth is, when I rely on my ability to ‘try, try, try again’ with even just one of the adjectives in the passage I run out. My fragile, incomplete ability to love is not enough to never fail my family. It is true that being a Christian is not to be perfect – but rather to know we need perfecting by the grace of God.

This week one of the new words for T in her school work at home was ‘invoke’, to actively invite and welcome in, to call upon the presence of. A word that for me conjours up a picture of embrace… which is not simply me embracing an abstract concept when it comes to God, but rather a real living, holy presence who is also actively invested in the embrace! I’m reminded of Jesus’ parable of the prodigal’s return and the Father who out ran the shame and disgrace to reach his child and clothe him with honour, and crown him with love. We are invited into an embrace full of love – love so abundantly given that there is enough to fill us to overflowing.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Col 3:12-14

We still ‘try, try, try again’ – but wrapping the clothes God gives us really close, fully embracing his loving grace-filled presence (yep – on a good day!!), allowing his love to embrace us – our thinking, our actions and words.

God’s not finished with me yet!