Due to the popularity of last week’s post entitled Project Me: Taking Care of the Carers I have prepared a follow on, which explores the philosophy further.
Carers are not unlike dams. We hold back a lots of water and if we start to crumble, bad things happen. Here are some more ways to keep the water from coming in over your head.
1. A wise man once told me that there are two types of people in the world; radiators and drains. A radiator radiates energy and laughter and enthusiasm and makes those around them feel better for having stepped into their glorious presence. Drains are the very opposite. They suck the very life from a person, their optimism, their hopes and dreams for the future. They love nothing more than telling you the ways in which their lives are so much more difficult than yours, in fine tooth-grinding detail. They dislike everyone and everything around them. The simple advice is this – surround yourself with radiators and avoid drains like the plague (see 2. below for more). Your energy, your optimism for the future, is the mortar between the bricks from which the dam is constructed.
2. Resign from all committees, with immediate effect. What? You say that your PTA, your village hall committee, your board of governors, whatever it is, cannot possibly function without you? That unless you are the Vice Chair or the Treasurer or whatever, all the little children will suffer? I have been there, I have the clip board and the t-shirt and I can tell you, that committee that you have sleepless nights over, will carry on without you. And you will have more time to devote to Project Me, which is of course for the good of everyone.
3. Essential as a follow-on from 2. above, practise the use of the word ‘no’. Do it now. Pretend I’m an alpha mother and I’ve rushed over to you in the playground. I have brushed my hair and have marvellous children.
Me: Now that you don’t have anything else to do (laugh), you could serve the tea and cake at the sports day.
Me: Come on, it won’t take long.
Me: Perhaps you could make a Victoria Sponge then.
Me: I’ve made five already and my children play the saxophone.
You: Well done you.
Followed by: drawn out and awkward silence during which you must not be the first to crack.
It may feel painful at first, especially if you are the sort of person who likes to say ‘yes’ and be an all round good egg. But remember, you can’t make omelettes without breaking eggs.
4. The received wisdom says that your children will drown in a swimming accident unless you take them for expensive lessons at very inconvenient times of the day for 45 weeks of the year, for at least ten years of your life. Project Me is about testing received wisdoms. Unspeakable though it may sound, especially to the try hard middle classes (which I used to be one of), you don’t have to inflict swimming lessons on your family. Patch together something in the holidays, take them swimming yourself, accept that they may develop ‘interesting’ swimming styles.
4. And talking of try hard middle classes – music lessons. Forget them, until your children want to do them and are old enough to manage their own practise time. Otherwise there will be shouting. You all have enough on your plate without adding more.
5. Do your children’s’ homework for them whenever needed. I recently dictated a 500 word essay on Oliver Cromwell. We got it done in 10% of the time it would otherwise have taken, there was no shouting and nothing got broken. Result. (And I might add I got a very good mark.)
6. There are objects to be found in most good homes which contain children, which, although do not serve a critical purpose appear to now be considered essential for child development. These include nail varnish, body glue and body glitter, mouth wash, toilet wipes, vitamins disguised as sweets, pain killers disguised as sweets, paints which pour and I could go on, but you get the picture and your list may be different from mine. Put them in the bin with immediate effect. Your children will no longer have to spend time dreaming up ways to torture you with them. Everyone will be relieved.
So much of what we burden ourselves with is about outside pressures, what other people consider to be good practice, good manners, good child rearing. We are doing it differently because we have to. So sister and brothers, stay sat down, and let me hear you say ‘NO’.