I had to. We had reached a point as a family where things were really hard.
In the midst of modern day life we had become so tied up in the ‘busyness’ of it all that the fundamentals of what make a person and a family happy, were beginning to suffer, or rather, were suffering.
So it was time to simplify.
For a long time I just kept plugging away, knowing I was busy, too busy, but not knowing what to do about it. It’s an all too common occurrence that we don’t get motivated to make change in our life until there’s a crisis or we hit rock bottom. So with a great feeling of despair upon me, I decided enough was enough.
I was sitting at my kid’s swimming lessons. I was looking at Facebook on my phone when I really should have been, and wanted to be, watching the girls in the water. What’s with that? Why would I do that? I feel it was indicative of what was the crux of our problem – there’s always something else to be doing, something else to be busying ourselves with instead of being committed to the real and the present. Life has become chaotic in a sense and we are too often living in the past, the future or the un-real when in fact, we only ever really have the actual and the now. In that moment, I literally said out loud, 'what the hell am I doing?' So I logged out, deleted the app and decided right then to begin an extended break from social media.
That was my starting point for implementing a number of changes to simplify and calm our life. My husband was right on board. Once I began with something, it felt easier to change other things. We’re around six weeks in and have implemented a few other modifications too:
We’ve taken the kids out of those swimming lessons. The two older girls do dance class on a Monday, netball on a Friday night and had swimming lessons on a Thursday arvo. 3 nights per week of being in-and-out of the car, trying to squeeze readers, bath time, a healthy dinner and some downtime in and around their scheduled activity is too much for kids aged 8, 6 and 3. As well as for their 30-something parents! When the weather warms back up and netball is finished, we’ll get them back in the water then. Bor now, no swimming works.
As I mentioned, we gave up a very dear friend; our beautiful dog, Doug. It breaks my heart that we did but with barely enough time in each day to give our girls what they need, an energetic, smart, affectionate Border Collie puppy wasn’t really something we should have added to our plate. He’s gone for a stay at our family’s farm and if he settles in well, he’ll remain there. Running around in a paddock with sheep all day and riding on the back of the 4 wheeler with the wind in his face is what he deserves – not being left alone in our backyard getting one 40 minute walk and a quick hug each day, if he was lucky. You see our eldest has a fear of dogs (she was determined to try her own pet but hasn’t taken to him like she and we’d hoped). My husband isn’t really into animals and whilst the younger two loved him, they found his boisterous puppy ways a little much at times which left me to love, feed, exercise and discipline him. I told myself I had the time for it but soon learnt it wasn’t really the case. It took me a long time to admit we weren’t the best family for him and even longer to let go of the notion that real families with happy kids have a dog. So often the pressure we feel around these situations, we bring on ourselves. We miss him a very much but it was definitely the right decision to let him go.
We’ve restructured our weekly schedule to ensure there’s now one week day at a minimum where I don’t have to go anywhere. This is a day which now allows me the time to get the kids off to school with no other distractions and our 3 year old the chance to stay in her pj’s if she wants, watch play school and generally potter about with no timelines to follow. It’s proving therapeutic to the both of us and flows onto the rest of the household by way of things being organised and calm when everyone else arrives home. We're also trying to have at leats one day on the weekend where we can stay home and make the day about resting, making and eating great food and generally doing as we please. It’s a great feeling to have a day where there are no deadlines or demands.
We’ve started saying no. And the world hasn’t ended! If I’m feeling a little under the weather, I’ll be an apology at the meeting. If it’s going to stretch things for one of us to keep an appointment, we’ll reschedule. If we’re tired or just don’t feel like going out, we’ll cancel. If we don’t want to do something, we’ll say no. Hardly rocket science hey. Then why did it take us so long to feel we could do it? Since when was making our own needs, health and wellbeing not a priority?
I’ve made a conscious decision to stop investing in a quantity of people and invest only in the quality individuals in our life. This is something my husband has always been very good at. Me, not so much. It’s so important not spread yourself too thin. As individuals we can’t be everything to everyone. Whilst I try to always be kind to all I encounter, from now on, it’s in those who really matter, and return the love, where I shall be investing my energy.
I also spent some time and a little money on attending a weekend retreat centred around positive mindset, self awareness, being present, nurturing yourself and those you love. Investing in yourself and therefore your family is so rewarding. Learning from people you admire and immersing yourself with like-minded individuals is one of life’s simple pleasures and has certainly given me the tools I need to effectively reset, reprioritise and revamp.
On the social media front, I am easing back into Facebook slowly and will get back onto Instagram soon. After all they are both things I enjoy and that can bring good into our lives. But I had, to a point, let them take over. The break from it all has been so refreshing. I went from admittedly spending multiple hours per day using the medium to zero use overnight. Cold turkey. And did I miss it? Not one bit! It was so nice. In fact, I now wonder how I used to fit it in.
The break has been very beneficial and I now feel rejuvenated and ready to restart with it. I have made a number of modifications to simplify my future online experiences though, including reassessing who I interact with on FB, un-liking many pages, leaving a few groups and turning off most notifications. Going forward, I’ll be limiting my use of social media to ensure I’m more present with my family and engaging in the real life I have right in front of me. I’ve also unsubscribed to most of the meaningless emails we were receiving and stopped answering calls from unidentified numbers. If it’s important they’ll leave a message.
With these starting changes in place and more to come, I’m already feeling much calmer and our home is a nicer place to be. More often I’m finding delight in the simple things like the kids playing, a great cup of coffee, warm hugs and the beautiful sunshine. I’m laughing more and feeling overwhelming gratitude for many of the people and things I have always taken for granted. Of course, there’s still the emergence of the day-to-day problems and negative feelings and emotions but I’m handling them better and not allowing them to dictate my overall frame of mind.
We still have a way to go, and in reality will probably always be striving to create a better/happier/calmer environment for ourselves and our girls but things are looking up and right now things feels great.
Life is good. And what more is there than that?