I've been thinking lately about the importance of positivity. For me, taking control of my own happiness is the most critical part of the job as a stay-at-home parent. It's connected, somehow, to the life-shift from individual responsibility to mama-land - a whole different kettle of fish fingers.
A happy house is welcoming and warm. The people in it cheer when you walk through the door, and it pulses with it's own personality. Negative emotional energy is a terrible house-guest. As the one running the home-show, my mood can effect the tone of the family, for good and for bad.
Lots of things get in the way of positivity. Small people can be so frustrating, housework is endless, and life can be lonely. My body hurts. Keith has to travel. My family live too far away. Viruses keep arriving and things never turn out at 4pm as I had planned them at nine. But as John Lennon- or was it Jesus?- said, life is what happens when you're busy making other plans.
It occurs to me that becoming a resentful, put-upon mother is an easy path to start treading. There's a hell of a lot of boring, repetitive invisible work that goes into running the machine of a household, and having a good long whinge is so satisfying in the short-term. But raising kids is a job, with crappy parts like any other job. I'm working on turning my own dial to happy, avoiding the martyr trap, choosing not to do those motherhood mathematics of 'everybody else first.' Trying to find the Zen of the washing-up, as they say.
Here's where the theory gets attractive:
Mamas must- for the sake of the family - take agency over their own happiness. For some mothers, that fulfillment would be found in an office, or a sports team or an occasional visit to a gay sex club. (No judgement.)
For me, it involves a creative approach to homemaking that selectively ignores dust-pockets in favour of half-arsed projects. Wonky curtains. Clutter-buckets. Baking bread, not cleaning showers. Enthusiastically washing clothes and pathologically failing to put them away. It requires taking time alone to write, to soak my pains in the bath, to read and retreat into myself. Floors can go uncleaned and washing-up can breed, if I need to step out from my work when my bitter/contented dial is tipping into the red.
Not for the first time, I'm thankful to have a partner that appreciates me in full: the good, the bad, the ugly. When he's away, my work is intense; and when he get's home, I take time to be joyfully, fabulously lazy whenever I can. It's good for the pain that ails me, and it balances out the non-stop action that characterises life with two small people.Is it self-indulgent? Yes, it is. Do I feel guilty? Yes, I do. Have I suddenly begun speaking in the manner of Kevin Rudd? Yes, yes I have. (And I will stop.)
But, man, there will always be unsorted washing. Corners to sweep. Meals to freeze. There's not always a Daddy around to play Murder In The Dark while I read Grass Roots Magazine and eat chocolate. I'm not the perfect, industrious, creative and nurturing mothering machine I wish I was. I try my best, in bursts of enthusiasm, but in the final analysis, I'm kind of a lazy slattern.
So I'm choosing to embrace my need to step back and be lazy in order to recharge; so that when I'm back in the game I'm match fit for kissing, dancing, cleaning, crafting and cooking. Primed for fun.
If I'm happy, goes my theory, Keith's life is sweeter. The kids laugh more. The cheers are louder when anybody returns home. If there's a choice - and I'm increasingly convinced there is- between the negative path in everyday life and the positive one, I know which one I'm taking.
I choose Happy.