Don’t forget about your happiness

29 Apr


I never realised how pressured I’d feel as a mother to book my kids into activities. All the ads, brochures and newsletters I was handed in hospital and the baby clinic left me thinking that to be the best mother I could be, I’d book my child into activities to improve his flexibility, brain function and growth potential. Without these activities, who knows how long it would take him to walk, talk, read and tie his own shoelaces?

I started with Water Babies swimming lessons. My little baby and I would get in the pool together and splash around and play with other mums and babies. Babies possess a natural ability to hold their breath under water, but he always look a little startled that I’d done that to him. Then, while discussing his swimming future with the teacher (he was six-months-old at this stage) I asked when he’d be old enough to do lessons on his own and I was told two-and-a-half. I commented that he’d be pretty good at lessons after the optimal start I’d given him and the fact he held his breath so well under water. She laughed and said, “Oh no, they forget how to do that by the time they are two-and-a-half. He’ll pretty much be starting from scratch.” What?!? I attended a handful of swimming lessons at the age of 8, but my dad pulled me out after I contracted glandular fever. He was convinced swimming lessons were the cause but with my new knowledge of the effectiveness of chlorine I seriously doubt that.

As a child my parents didn’t take me to any extra-curricular activities. When I was older I was restricted to those that were free and within walking distance to my home. When I was really young wee lived on five acres, most of it bushland. Gymbaroo was climbing trees and rocks, we optimised our cognitive function by chasing chickens, trying to figure out which way they’d run so we could corner them and hold them. We’d play games like hide-n-seek, we ran around with our dog and we helped our dad in the garden. It was amazing and we were never bored.

My eight-year-old son does swimming, art class and karate and that’s pretty full-on as far as I’m concerned. My 4-year-old and my almost-3-year-old do swimming only – I want them to myself a little longer! I took my first born to Gymbaroo for a short time but after being chastised for holding my son’s hands while he tried to walk (“He’ll never learn to balance on his own if you do that!”) I decided I didn’t need any other reason to feel totally inadequate as a mother as I was good at doing that to myself, without having an ‘expert’ confirm my worst fears.

We have a small backyard at our house and we have a lot of fun in it but I do feel my kids will benefit from a couple of activities while they are young. But there’s a limit. My eight-year-old wants to do soccer as well and I said no way. Our schedule is busy enough without adding to it, but I feel really bad. It’s just that when he did soccer he hated it. It made him too tired, I had to drag him there…if he loved it and was enthusiastic about it I might be motivated to take him.

I need time too. If I over-schedule the kids, I over-schedule myself, and my favourite times are those when we are at home sharing a bowl of popcorn and watching a movie or going bowling at the spur of the moment for some unplanned fun with no instruction needed. I need room to breath, think and imagine too, just as my kids do.

And there’s not enough coffee in the world for me to get out of bed early on a Saturday morning during winter…hats off to the thousands of mums who do it. You’re awesome and I hope you know it.

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

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