5:30am – Alarm
I don’t even beg the morning for more sleep.
Swing my legs. Sit up. Walk to the stove top.
Heat water for tea.
Make lunches for school.
“How did you sleep?”
Hug the one that needs a lot of hugs.
“Get ready for school.”
“Yes, you have sport today.”
“Formal uniform for you, yes.”
“Is this enough lunch for you today?”
“You can’t play until you have your shoes on.”
“Try and do it yourself first and then I’ll help you if you need it.”
“Who left the bowl on the table? It goes in the sink please.”
“Don’t forget to brush your teeth.”
“Just let me finish my tea and then I’ll help you with that.”
“What are we doing in your hair today?”
“Can you empty the dishwasher this morning please? Thank you for that.”
“Remember your homework book.”
“No, library is tomorrow. Check the calendar.”
“Your talk is not until next week so we still have time.”
“I still have one lunch box sitting here! Whose is it? Come and put it in your bag!”
“Does everyone have everything? Lunchbox? Hat? Bag? Everything?”
“Get in the car.”
“It’s time to go!”
“Love you. Love you. Love you. Love you.”
Kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss.
Hug for the one who always needs an extra hug.
“Have a great day.”
And…Take a breath.
In many ways, I’m doing well at home here. I’m on my own with the kids 99% of the time during the school week. I’m quite organised this year and have a system that’s working relatively well. Uniforms are ready and washed every day; socks sit neatly waiting in a box. Nutritious lunches are provided 99% of the time; and that stat goes with dinners too: 99% are healthy homemade dinners. The house is in good lived-in order. The kitchen is clean before I go to bed 99% of the time. I get the kids to school on time 99% of the time. I’m juggling after school activities and getting the kids into bed at a good hour 99% of the time…all fed, watered and clean. I’m managing my work deadlines okay. Personally, I’m eating well and sticking to my exercise plan 99% of the time.
99% Robot. That’s me right now.
I mean, seriously, I read the paragraph above, and I’m totally smashing it. 99%! Dude! That’s awesome compared to your effort last year!
There’s a switch somewhere inside me, and it flicks sometimes. Hello Robot-Mode. H–E–L–L–O ROBOT-MODE! You know what? Part of me likes Robot-Mode because I become mechanical and go and go and go; and manage and manage and manage. Go me.
This time I’m whispering: “Go me.”
Robot-mode is easier. It means I can sustain 99%. I smash out each day and get it done. Meet that expectation. Arise to that deadline. Get there on time. Be strong. Be patient. Be kind. Be patient. Be patient. Be patient. Good you put that alert program in there Kelly. Healthy food. Must remember to buy fruit today. And carrots. What’s for dinner? Anticipate. Anticipate. Be proactive. Think ahead. Wash. Wash. Wash. Work. Work. Work. Afternoon tea: sorted. Sign that note. It goes there. This here. That up. Down. Side to side. Nod.
Robot-mode is easier.
But is it better? Well, certainly looks that way on paper.
And yet, I have no idea what I’ve been doing for the last month. It’s a blur of mechanics. People ask me, “How was your week?” and I don’t know what to say. I pause and think for a moment. Truth to be told: I don’t know how my week was. But I got it done. Yes siree, I did. It’s like those times when you drive a familiar route, and arrive at the destination not remembering how you got there.
Is that a good thing?
Here’s the quandary.
The only way I can smash it out, do well and sustain it all right now, IS to be in Robot-Mode.
Another factor: The kids respond very well to the routine I have going; they are pretty settled all things considered (as much as variable-ness of family life can be settled). On surface appearances, it appears everyone does better when I’m in Robot-Mode. I’ll say that again: everyone seems to do better when I’m a robot.
Because I’m good robot. I even programmed it to be nice and kind. You see?
Everyone does better when I’m a robot.
I let the thought weigh on me for a moment. And I realised it hurt.
It surprised me to find tears well in my eyes. I didn’t know I felt sad inside because I was so busy “smashing it out”. I guess a bit of resentment crept in too.
But I don’t have time for tears! No! They must go! Shut the iron door on them!
Keep doing it. Left, right, left right. Morning. Night. Day after day.
Kids are happy. Happier because the switch is on. Happier and more settled because Robot-Mum is here.
And so it makes me wonder if that is all I am: A robot keeping the boat a float.
I wonder if that is what I must be: A robot serving to keep the harmony of family life.
Because I am a mother.
I listen to the voices telling me:
“You just need some me-time.”
So often it’s one of those surface lines people say that hold no real value.
I can hear a voice saying to me:
“Well, you’re just doing too much Kelly.”
Yet I know that’s not it.
“Don’t be so hard on yourself.”
And I know that’s not it either.
And more voices chime in:
“Stop whinging, and just be grateful.”
Fighting the conflict between the weight of sadness against the steel of resolve; I sort through the echo of voices in my head — and I realise something.
There’s change tied up with Robot-Mode.
A life season change.
THAT is what flicked the switch.
For me, Robot-Mode is activated during times of shift in family life. I remember it when I first became a mother, during the long days and sleepless nights. I remember it when adjusting after the Queensland foods in 2011.
All of a sudden, I stopped to realise the current big shift as my husband works further away and we all see him much, much less. I recognise this new phase of life now with all my children at school, their growing independence and my desire to facilitate expereicnes. Then there’s the opportunity to for me to work more and the juggle that comes with that. The combination of change hit.
Robot-Mode is Captain-Mode.
It clicks in when the waves are challenging or the water is deep.
It’s for when there is change in the air and leaves fall; when the chill descends; the flowers bloom; or the heat comes.
But does Robot-Mode define me? Does it overtake me? Is it required of me?
No. Not forever. Yes. (I qualify: Yes for now).
The trick is knowing when to turn Robot-Mode off. Yes? Because it must come off: despite the appearance of everything being better when the arrow is up, Robot-Mum is only necessary for a time. Extended too long and cracks will form in relationships, in connections. Left unharnessed and there will be long-term personal regret. Somehow, I know that. And I don’t want to be a robot, managing life into a blur of doing, done.
So I will do two things, no three:
1. I will leave the switch flicked for now. However, I will look at it slightly differently. I will embrace my God-given capabilities and sail through these transition waters. And I will stand with confidence and a happy heart knowing this level of servitude leadership is required for a time for the harmony of those most precious to me in the world. There’s beauty in that. There’s privilege in that even.
2. When the waters are less challenging — when the transition has passed into a steady hum — I will seek to be aware of when to turn off the switch. I will.
3. And I will find a way back into my body again. It will come.
The grind will once again, become the journey.
And that is better.