Stop shoulding on people!

I am probably the one-millionth blogger to write a post on this subject. This is not an original thought. The title line is often a plea to “stop shoulding on yourself,” by saying no to things you are constantly feeling you “should do” when they aren’t right for you. Or something like that. You understand.

Scrolling YouTube in search of an entertaining BuzzFeed food video (there are so many!), I noticed the thumbnail for a “clean your house in thirty minutes,” video and it reminded me of tips I’ve gotten from friends or online about keeping my house clean. My mind wandered and I thought about cooking and how apparently if I was a serious cook, I “should” totally have my own garden. I could hear friends or acquaintances saying it in memory – “Oh, you should totally have a garden! Your kids would learn so much responsibility!” And then everything else. I “should” do the _______ diet plan because it works so well and it’s not even that hard to follow. I “should” do something different with my savings because what I’m doing now isn’t good enough. I “should” get a certain curriculum for my kids because it’s just so amazing. On and on and on.

I will admit that sometimes these well-meaning friends and acquaintances “should” me because I have mentioned that we’ve hit a roadblock with learning and need to figure things out, I’m having a hard time losing my baby weight or I would love to garden but just don’t feel like I have the time. I know mentioning these things sounds like an opening for advice but sometimes it’s better not to go there. I try not to complain because I know it’s an open door for opinions but I also attempt to be honest about where I’m at and admit that my life isn’t perfect.

I’m getting better at owning my decisions. I’ve been married for thirteen years, and I’ve been a mother for twelve. I’ve decided that a garden is just not something I can invest in right now. I have seven kids and going to the gym (or doing a DVD workout) and being on a diet of any kind, let alone one that requires me to prepare my own separate meals, is just not something I can do without sacrificing my sanity. My house is NOT going to be perfectly clean – ever. A little bit of clutter is at least a semi-permanent fixture in my home.

I have a suggestion (not a “should”). If you feel tempted to tell a friend that they “should” do anything other than have a wonderful day, try using a question instead.

“Have you considered having a small garden and letting the kids do all the work?”

“Have you thought about the _____ plan to lose some weight? It worked really well for me.”

“Have you heard of the _____ method of decluttering? Maybe that would help.”

Etc.

It is a much gentler method and even if the answer is, “No,” down the road if she’s struggling with the issue again, she’ll remember a gentle response from you instead of a “should” that might make her question her decision or her abilities.

I believe that we can all help each other out by sharing ideas and experience, but we don’t always know what the other person is going through and how our “shoulds” might come across.

 

Table Time

For lack of a better term, borrowing from what friends call theirs, we have started having a bit of time at the table together every day. I want to keep it up because so far, it’s actually a positive change for us. My boys have been just a little bit more interested in learning lately and I’m trying to run with that while giving Jenny time to do a few more things that might be requested by her teacher. Yesterday everyone did their own thing – Jenny working on various things, Ben reading a book (the only book he says he can read), Erik and Elias working on printing, Sam tracing in an Usborne wipe-clean book and Oliver moving back and forth from one activity to the next. Today we did an animal facts game. I read the facts on half a card and the kids had to guess which animal it was. Ben got five right and each of the three oldest got ten. It was fun and low stress and didn’t feel overly structured.

The fact is, we have structure but very little of it has been devoted to learning. Kids get up, have breakfast, the kid of the day has their two hour computer turn and usually a few others watch or help them. After that, they clean up the designated room in the basement, have lunch and start their one and a half hour turns on the tablets and/or Xbox. This means most days, they only have an hour and a half of personal screen time and some days they have two hours more. A movie is watched occasionally by one or all but generally they spend any other free time they have making up games, playing cards, Lego and every so often reading. With the recent push to get Erik and Ben reading and the start of my Usborne selling (and therefore buying), there has been an increased interest in books. But really, by the end of every day, I found myself wondering if they really would catch up. Or even start pursuing learning more as they got older. Or would it be like this every day? So two nights ago I had a sudden inspiration to ask them what they thought of a daily time at the table doing “schooly” things. It was a mixed response but we tried it out anyway. I have no desire to start traditionally homeschooling but I have toyed with the idea of enrolling Sam next year which would mean reporting to a teacher (and increased funding for him). A little bit of routine in this area would make it a lot easier to do that without stress.

Sometimes change is necessary and good. Sometimes it’s also hard. This change is likely going to be harder for me than my kids, though.