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Monthly Archives: January 2013

applesWhile requesting permission to use The Parenting Course postcard design on my blog, I struck up an email conversation with the editors of the Relationship Central website at Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB). They asked me to write a short testimony about my experience of the parenting course. I was flattered to be asked and enjoyed the challenge of writing a piece although I struggled to know what to exclude as I learnt so much. My solution was to focus on two aspects of how the course had improved my relationship with my daughter. The editors were delighted with my article and it is now published on their website. Click on the link below to read it and I have also included the full article below. Apologies – it is longer than a normal blog post!

http://www.relationshipcentral.org/article/2013-01-07/apples-and-love-letters

Apples and Love Letters

I have discovered that my daughter loves gifts! A rose at her table place, a wild apple that I picked on my walk home or a note in her lunch box makes her feel loved. I had found giving gifts for no reason was difficult because it felt materialistic and had resisted it until I thought back to all the pebbles, the dandelions and the paper presents she has given me. We all have different love languages and during The Parenting Course we studied ‘The Five Love Languages’: affirming words, affectionate touch, time, small gifts and actions. ‘Gifts’ for Isabel is her primary love language, they don’t have to be extravagant just thoughtful. I am learning to meet this need and also to recognise this is how she expresses love.

The Parenting Course is a practical 10 week course based on biblical principles that will help you parent effectively and is written by Nicky and Sila Lee from Holy Trinity Brompton. It follows Christian principles but it does not alienate those with other beliefs. Richard and I are delighted to finally be running the Parenting Children Course. I am currently a stay-at-home mum and met Richard at Holy Trinity Brompton. In 2000 we moved to Oxfordshire where the horizon is visible. Nicholas was born in 2003 followed by Isabel and the last (we are sure about that) was Harriet. Our children are now aged 9, 6 and 4.

Even though I was leading The Parenting Course, I have learnt so much about my relationship with Isabel. Isabel will always be dreamy, distracted, creative and contrary. I have now realised that my daughter’s intrinsic character won’t change so I must not allow day-to-day struggles to destroy our relationship. I need to keep the channels of communication open and build our friendship which is worth more than a daily quarrel about welly boots. Rob Parsons said that your six-year old will test you and the conflict will be worse when she is sixteen but on the rollercoaster ride keep hold of the relationship because one day you will have a beautiful friendship with your grown-up daughter. I have learnt that I can shape Isabel and direct her strong character but I can’t push her into an ill-fitting mould.

Isabel is the child who likes to pick wildflowers and admire autumn leaves with me. She has a delightful sense of humour, can laugh at herself and is never in a hurry, bored or impatient. We will always have a dynamic relationship and are now connecting better and that is exciting because I love her so much. No doubt in a few years time I will be buying iTune gifts for my daughter.

buy nothing newSo what is this all about then?

It’s a one month challenge to buy nothing new with the exception of essentials like food, toiletries and medicines. Buy Nothing New Month isn’t buy nothing new ever again nor is it about going without. It’s about taking one month off to think, “Do I really need it?” If I do, “Can I get it from a second-hand shop, borrow it or rent it?”

I visited one of my ‘blog friends’ website a few months ago (Thanks expatsincebirth.com) where I first heard all about the Buy Nothing New Month which is meant to be in October. But I found out too late to participate so thought I would give it a go in February. I would love to encourage readers to do likewise – let me know if you are in! You have a few days to think about it. I have prepared a little and planned my mum’s birthday gift so she needn’t worry! If you join me in this fun challenge let me know how it is going during the month of February. If you think this is radical, it pales into comparison with another mum who has decided to buy nothing new for her child for a year. Have a look at her site at www.freeourkids.co.uk

Visit the official website for further information and tips: www.buynothingnew.com.au (They also designed the great logo above)

moneyThe challenges of being a stay-at-home mum and combating them – Income

One of the main difficulties of staying at home is the drop in income. In some families it is essential that mothers work, either because they are single parents or because they are the main breadwinners. Phoebe, who is a good steward of money and earns more than her partner, said to me that they can only budget for her to take six months off, then her salary will be needed again. I greatly respect that because they don’t live extravagantly and Phoebe’s income is necessary, but they were still prepared to budget for her to be with their children for a period of time.

As a society we have become used to living on two incomes and items that were luxuries a generation ago are now considered necessities. Too much value is placed on money, possessions and appearances and we end up working for these luxuries believing we owe it to ourselves.

For some families, choosing to have one parent at home will not have serious financial implications, but I think that many mothers could consider not working for a period of time if they make financial sacrifices. We may need to stop buying new clothes on a whim, buy cheaper brands of food and sacrifice overseas holidays for a period of time. By giving up these items we can give children what they really want – our time.

You and your partner are a team with different roles; one is earning money while the other is caring for the children. I think we have got confused into thinking that if you are not given a monthly financial reward, you not earning your keep. We consider a salary to be the determining factor of how important our work is. Rethink your banking and if you have separate bank accounts, consider making them joint accounts: after all, you are meant to be interdependent. When I have felt frustrated that I am not ‘earning anything’, my husband has looked at me surprised and said, “But, you’re doing a much more important job! You’re caring for our children.”

There are not always easy answers or solutions but we can still challenge our own preconceptions of how much money we really need to survive.

This is part of a series of considering the positive and negative aspects of being at home. Choose the category ‘Why am I a stay-at-home mum?’ to read more in this series.

boredThe challenges of being a stay-at-home mum and combating them – Bored and Frustrated

‘I find it difficult that at the end of the day I can’t say what I have achieved’ is what a stay-at-home mum said to me recently. I agreed that sometimes being at home is as exciting as watching paint dry. The enemies of stay-at-home mums with young children are tiredness, frustration, impatience, discontent and boredom. They strike between the dead hours of 3:30pm and 5:00pm when you have exhausted your stock of games, you are tired and he is whining, your eyes droop closed but it is too early to start the evening routine. The days ahead stretch out relentlessly and you wish you were anywhere else but here with a pre-schooler. The idea of working seems especially glamorous if you can be removed from your dull routine. You pause to allow a new emotion of guilt to arise – shouldn’t you always desire to be with your child?

We all have days that we feel tired, lack energy and being at home is tedious. Recognise this and cut yourself some slack. Keep a few easy activities in reserve for dull afternoons such as jigsaws or board games. During my second pregnancy, I didn’t have energy to constantly entertain a boisterous toddler and it was then that I introduced ‘Bambi Hour’. In the late afternoon, we would watch a video for about 45 minutes. When I say ‘watch’, he gazed while I dozed comatose. As my energy returned, I reduced the length of time and regularity of television, but during a difficult period it was a helpful tool.

If you are feeling frustrated over a longer period of time, explore your feelings and try to decipher your difficulties with being at home. Write a list of everything that is bothering you and talk it through with a sympathetic friend. Sometimes sharing your frustrations will help, or it could galvanise you into action. Maybe you need to find activities outside the area of children or participate in a part-time course to gain personal space. You may even decide to try working part-time.

Remember that it is hard work to care for children and recognise that you will not enjoy every moment as it can be a struggle to accept your role and joyfully repeat dull chores. Remain calm and don’t chastise yourself if you feel grumpy at times but don’t allow a negative angry attitude to take hold. A sense of perspective and humour will see you through the next few years of mess and muddle.

This is part of a series of considering the positive and negative aspects of being at home. Choose the category ‘Why am I a stay-at-home mum?’ to read more in this series.

new yearHappy new year and a toast to 2013! My friends laugh at my attitude towards new year resolutions as I set them out in categories! I don’t plan unrealistic resolutions but rather reflect on the year passed and consider what has worked and what I would change. I then think about the year ahead and set 4 or 5 goals in each category of ‘Family and Marriage’, ‘Spiritual’, ‘Household’ and ‘Personal’. Sometimes the goals are plans we have already started to set in place such as a family holiday in Cornwall and others are to help me to achieve fulfilment in aspects of my life. I am specific and write things like ‘do a photographic course’ rather than merely ‘be creative’. Household goals tend to be two or three items we want to buy for the house or DIY that is required. In ‘Family goals’ I include something that I would like to help each child achieve. This year I’ll teach James to make filter coffee, Sophie is longing to start art classes and Ella will learn to ride a bicycle.

The important thing about setting goals is to review them periodically – say every three months – and but also not to let your goals intimidate you. They are there to guide what you hope to achieve but not to govern you.