Organising things….and family culture

Over the last few weeks I have found myself moving into full blown nesting mode. It seems a little early at only 23 weeks but experience has taught me that the third trimester is so exhausting that the things that need to be done must be done now.
I upended the house changing around rooms in preparation for the baby. We have been back in this house for over four months but I still haven’t got it sorted out in a way that pleases me and makes me feel at home. But bit by bit we are getting there and I think by the end of the week it should be done, inside at least.

Homeschooling requires space, we will now be using the kitchen table and a room that I have organised for children’s activities, kind of like a kids living room. This room contains all the toys, the children’s books, a cupboard full of art and homeschooling materials and a small tv and dvd player. It’s a lovely room that overlooks the fruit tree’s in the back garden.

The front lounge room will now be an adults living room or at least a controlled family space meaning it has rules, no toys, no food. Basically I want to keep it clean at all times. We can gather together in this space for quiet family activities, sitting together and talking, movie nights, dhikr and prayer but it’s not going to be a playroom.

So much of the week looked like this

But now there are only a few remaining piles and once the organization is finished then I can get stuck into some deep cleaning….or at least delegate it.
I am becoming increasingly better at delegating!

It really is a relief to have older children who are able to help in the house and so different to previous pregnancies when the maintenance of everything really only fell on my shoulders. I have not had the benefit of having extended family around to help and things like pregnancy and illness were really testing times. This time I am far more relaxed and far more rested. I recently watched a media report in which they stated only 1 in 4 parents required their children to do household chores and it made me feel kind of incredulous, how can this be the case and if it is then what kind of society full of entitled kids are we really creating? I definitely don’t want to overburden my children with too much early responsibility but I think it’s important they grow up within an atmosphere of mutual contribution. I also want them to learn practical skills. But if I ever feel I have to ask too much of them I recompense them financially.

Whilst I have a certain free-rangeness about my approach to learning, I’m really not inclined to a radical unschooling philosophy and I’m almost certain it won’t work outside a niche environment. If the suburban norm is a McDonalds mentality then my children will live on junk food and computer games if I leave them to it regardless of the ethos I promote personally. It is what they see around them. What I can do is set household boundaries.

I often think about the way I grew up and feel frustration that I cannot recreate aspects of my upbringing for my children. There are some things that I felt really shaped me as a person that I simply cannot develop in our family circumstances. My Mum and Step-Dad always had friends that they gathered with from time to time who shared their values but more importantly our daily life was always filled to the brim with stimulating discussion. I definitely have friends, smart, interesting and good friends but we don’t meet often. And whilst I have a fairly rich intellectual life that I pursue alone it isn’t something the children really see or hear.

But it is as it is and everything balances out somehow. Our family has it’s strengths and stabilities in ways that were absent in my own childhood also. All people are different and we do the best we can in the circumstances that present to us.

There may be something in me that craves an aliveness that is beyond the norm but my goal for our family is really centred around warmth and stability.

So I’m kind of in the process of determining these things and creating a plan….

Your problem is not my problem

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spectacularly beautiful Romanesca cauliflower

Little by little the children grow and our home life patterns itself into a rhythm of comfort and closeness. Gone are the days of post natal chaos, no longer just in survival mode we can appreciate the details.

Enthused to create a nurturing, loving and supporting space I take joy in parenting, in menial and mundane tasks, in fashioning this house into a nest. I feel gratitude for my role as a mother, appreciation for the safety of my home.

And then suddenly I see myself blown into something ugly in the eyes of another and momentarily my joy is punctured, this great role we are granted slips into a noose again. Until I stop and realise your problem is not my problem.

Your expectations of women and family are not mine. Your priorities are not mine. I value you, I am in awe of your skills, your speed and attention to detail, your ability to use a knife and decimate an onion in seconds, the amount of children you have birthed. These are all things of great value but I am not you. I was grown in other ways in another world. I have other skills, my worth as a woman cannot be weighed by the cleanliness of my floor or my ability ( or lack of) to cook your cuisine or speak your language. I am not you.

And when you cannot find good in me, your eyes are small. I have small eyes too, there are times when I have retreated into my own cultural vision like a sea anemone poked in uncomfortable places. Sometimes I have even hated, written you off, an entire people tarnished by my resentment, by my inability to carry your expectations without disgust. I made your problem my problem.

But not anymore.

I will love my role as mother and homemaker because I am doing it my way, prioritising what I believe is important, I will not be squeezed into a mould that doesn’t and will never fit.
I will not allow the expectations of others to puncture my own vision, my own joy.

And that is that!