Last week was the first actual week of summer in my household and it was surprisingly difficult for me. Sometimes it can be hard to find our center as a parent. As I thought back over the week, I noticed some of the things that contributed to my difficult adjustment.
We were invited to attend the wedding of two friends in the Dominican Republic, and our departure date happened to be the day after school ended for my kids. This added a huge volume of stressful, deadline-related tasks to the last week of school (packing, finding passports, arranging airport transportation, checking last minute details, etc.). And when school ended, instead of being able to take a deep breath and relax into low-structure days with my children, we had to go to bed early so that we could be up and on the way to the airport first thing the next morning.
The trip was absolutely delightful, relaxing and wonderful. The wedding was magical and our friends seemed so happy to seal their love in matrimony. We stayed at an all-inclusive resort that was directly on the Atlantic Ocean. Sitting in the pool the first afternoon, I remarked to my mother-in-law that it is pretty awesome when your most difficult two decisions are where to eat dinner and whether to swim in the pool or the warm ocean.
Time to come home
I was hoping that we would all come home divinely relaxed after such a great trip. But to my surprise, I allowed stress to seep in almost immediately. Because of the remote location where we were, I was 98% unplugged the entire time we were there (which was fabulous in its own right). But upon returning, I felt like I was a mile behind in my work and had a mountain of things to catch up on. I felt like not only did I need to hit the ground running, but I needed to hit the ground running 100mph!
As I dove back into “regular” life, there was unpacking to be done, bills to be paid, cleaning and grocery shopping to be done, and work to be caught up on (and I was knocked off center). My children, in the meantime, fell easily and gracefully into the less-structured pace of the summer. Normally, I would be grateful about this, but when I was running around feeling so stressed, I ended up resenting that they were so carefree when I felt so tense inside.
How could I blame them for how I felt inside?
As I sit here writing this, I realize that they were doing exactly as they should have been doing. It was me who was off-center. It was me who allowed stress to creep in. It was me who was not in proper alignment to where I should have been. The house did not have to be cleaned the day after we returned. The laundry did not have to unpacked and cleaned the first day back either. The only thing that even sort of needed to be completed quickly was to get to the grocery store to replenish the perishable items.
If I had held myself only to that, I would not have felt the stress that I did. But without being mindful, I slipped back into my old, stress-filled way of moving through the world. I can assure you that this helped NO ONE in my house. My bad mood helped to put everyone else on edge, I snipped at my husband and kids, and ended up apologizing more than once.
How can we find our center again?
It took me three or four days to get back to my center upon returning home. I worked to tackle the items on my to-do list, but that was not really what was helpful, because that did not get to the root of my stress. That only addressed the surface stress that I was feeling. When we stay on the surface – in our actions and behaviors as well as our attempts to “resolve” the issue at hand – it is much like pulling only the leaves of a weed. We haven’t really resolved the actual problem.
So what did I do when I did not feel like myself?
This may sound cliche, but meditation, focusing on my breath and returning to a gratitude practice is what turned me around. These are things that I normally try to keep in my life on a daily basis, but the end of school, working and preparing to travel messed up all of my routine, not to mention the vacation itself. Our vacation was extremely relaxing, but this did nothing to “remind” me of all my usual tools I put into my days to keep myself grounded and centered. So when we got home and the vacation was over and the regular work returned, I was thrown completely off balance.
These three things brought me back to myself. Now as I sit here writing this, I feel grounded, centered, calm and peaceful. I remember back to last week and how foreign my state of mind felt to me. I used to be in that state of mind constantly, but now I am not and it feels so good. This is why I am so passionate about helping other parents to get grounded and centered and start to enjoy parenting instead of being stressed out by it. I am living proof that it IS possible to not merely survive, but to enjoy your life and THRIVE!