Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Balance and boundaries!

In recent weeks I’ve had quite a number of people say to me ‘I don’t know how you do it’. They sadly aren’t referring to my parenting skills, the way I dress, or my cooking …but to the fact that I’m currently balancing being mummy, working full time, settling into a new family setting, launching my new book and moving house all at once.

So as I stood in the kitchen one evening last week having one of those moments – you know the sobbing, exhausted, uttering ‘I’m a bad mum…I mean I know I’m not a bad mum…but I wish I had more patience’ moment…I thought I would share with you the ‘not so shocking news’ that I don’t balance it all, all of the time.

This was in fact one in a series of moments last week which told me that things were getting on top of me. The other less dramatic but equally clear signs were:
  • Waking up in the morning feeling like I hadn’t slept at all despite the fact that I have slept a solid 9 hours (apologies to anyone who is dreaming of a 9 hour straight stint, I do know it’s annoying to read and I won’t mention it again)
  • Hearing my daughter yelling at me to stop shouting at her – and realising only at that moment that I was actually shouting
  • Eating more chocolate, crisps and pretty much anything other than a decent meal for at least four days on the run
  • Frowning more than I’m smiling (I’m one of those annoyingly default smiley people so this is out of character)
There’s no doubt that right now I’m burning the candle at both ends and in the middle and I do feel like my ‘to do’ list (yes I’m one of those people who write endless to do lists!) is just growing. Add to that the fact that Ellie is currently doing what I believe children do best ‘pushing the boundaries’ and it’s clearly a recipe for a tough ride. Suffices to say that I am currently trying to find and re-acquire my balance.

Most of the things I need to sort are simply a case of needing more time and a little focus – the book launch, the house move, some key work projects – I know what I need to do to resolve them. What’s typical of course is that when it comes to Ellie I find myself somewhat lost.

It’s not the first time she’s ever pushed the boundaries and I really believe that it’s quite normal, but it is exhausting. On this occasion however there are also two new elements which are baffling me and making me question whether this is normal and whether I’m doing it all wrong. Read on and then please do let me know what you think.

The first thing is that in the last couple of weeks Ellie has developed several new skills which act to me, very much like a red rag to a bull. She has taken to constantly answering me back and trying to have the last word – whether it’s a normal conversation or when I’m telling her off about something. She’s also developed a new face which I can only describe as smirking and she chooses to use this either when she thinks I’m not looking and she’s getting away with something, or when she knows she’s doing something she shouldn’t, but blatantly does it anyway.

Second, she is definitely doing things she knows she shouldn’t more often than I’ve ever known her too before…today’s examples are:

·        refusing to get dressed in the morning and then screaming when I explain she will now not be getting her sticker chart sticker
·        this evening throwing a Christmas card on the floor because it apparently wasn’t christmassy enough (I am cringing as I write this!)

The latter example I really struggled with because it simply smacks of spoilt child, but my biggest issue is the sheer quantity of incidents we’re currently having. It is quite simply exhausting.

So far my usual arsenal of tools (e.g. doing time out in her room, pointing out that she’s not getting a sticker on her reward chart and telling her how disappointed I am) don’t really seem to be having sufficient impact. What I mean is they help the incident at the time, but it doesn’t seem to be addressing the volume of incidents.

On the positive side she’s clearly behaving well at school and loving learning. She still tells me she loves me and I still get great hugs at bedtime so I can at least hold on to that. What I’d really like though is to know that I’m doing the right things, that she’s not turning into a delinquent child and ultimately… for this phase to quite simply be over. 

As always, I’d love to hear from you and I’d be delighted for any advice. Please use the comments below or contact me via twitter @sharonmsmyth


  1. Hi Sharon, I've just happened across your blog via mumsnet while trying to get inspiration for my own blog - I really like your style of writing :) but on with the point at hand...pushing the boundaries. I don't have any answers but I'm going through the same thing but with my step-daughter who is 6. It's the answering back that really pushes my buttons! - I can be up 2 flights of stairs and still sense a back answer that'll send me running down the stairs shouting 'get your shoes on and don't answer back!' ha - I think the main way to tell you're doing an alright job though is how they behave with other people and Ellie sounds like she's doing really well. Good luck with this is just a phase ;)

    1. Really glad you like the blog Hannah - it's so good to get some feedback. :-)

      It's so nice to hear that it's not just me who finds the boundary pushing stuff so difficult! Thanks so much for the reassurance that this is just a phase!

  2. We're not at the answering back stage yet (my son is 3.5) but I think it's not far off. I think its easy to forget sometimes just how much we try to cram into our lives and it sounds like you've got a lot going on!

    I think all children go through these phases, from what I've heard and so although you might worry that you aren't doing the right things, chances are that you're doing just fine...and in a few weeks, she'll be on to the next phase, whatever that may be!

    1. Hi Mummygadgetgeek - thank you so much for your comment and reassurance. We definitely have a lot going on at the minute and when I calmly put it into context I guess it makes sense that we are all tired and a little grumpy! My new mantra is definitely going to be 'it's just a phase'!
      Really looking forward to a bit of a break at Christmas too!