Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Dealing with Boredom as a Stay at Home Parent

Being a stay-at-home parent is everything I've ever hoped for. I absolutely adore spending all my time with my kids, day in and day out. They keep me young, hopeful and playful. They teach me new things and help me grow every single day. And I get to guide and nurture them and help them grow into people who love themselves, love each other, love their world and love God.

For the most part, being a stay at home parent (and work at home, as in my case and the case of many other parents who take in either part time or casual work to help supplement their spouse's income) is too busy to be boring. But there are times when boredom does creep up. It happens to everyone. Maybe it's a lull during summer vacation, maybe it's after a stretch of rainy or cold days -- it doesn't really matter. Parenting can be boring, and that's the simple truth. For all its marvel, it can be monotonous.

Little ones need routine, and for the most part, I like routine, as well. I like getting up anywhere between 7 and 8 in the morning, taking the kids downstairs and setting up the house for the day. I like our trips to the park and the library, and our visits to their grandparents who live just under an hour away. I love our crafts and our colouring, our baking and our cooking. But sometimes, it does get a bit repetitive. Thankfully, if you know how to deal with it, boredom as a stay at home parent doesn't need to lead to feelings of unhappiness or a lack of fulfillment. In this post, I'll share my tips on how to beat -- or endure -- the boredom that can come as a stay at home parent.

1.) Don't just stay at home -- explore your community! We live in a fairly small town, but we have a super fun public outdoor pool, and we're there nearly ever nice day in the summer. We also have an amazing library that is very child-friendly, with story-time and craft activities for the children. We're at the library at least once a week. And if you live somewhere even bigger, take your kids to the museum, play groups, all different kinds of things! Which leads me to...

2.) Join a play group! In almost every community, no matter how small, there will be some kind of playgroup where parents can take their little ones to play and where they themselves can get a bit of adult interaction. If there isn't one in your community, why not look at trying to start one up?

3.) Spend time outside! Children thrive outside, and we do, too. But many of us have lost that wonder at the great outdoors. Try to spend some time with your kids outside each and every day, except when it's too hot or too cold. It's raining? That's okay, whip out the umbrellas, and splash in those puddles! Go for a walk, go to the park, play in the yard. And leave the cell phone at home.

4.) Spend less time on your phone, and social media especially! This may seem counter-intuitive, because when we're bored we usually automatically reach for our phone or tablet, scrolling social media. But I find that the times that I'm most invested in my day, and therefore less prone to boredom, are the times when I leave my phone somewhere in the kitchen -- with the ringer up, in case I get a call -- and treat it more like a landline.

5.) Make some parent friends! Having a "mama tribe" is one of the best things you can do for your own mental and emotional health as a stay at home parent. Even if it's only just one other mom that you really connect with, try to meet with them on a regular basis and take time to enjoy that relationship.

6.) Relive your own childhood! My kids greet every day with enthusiasm. Whether we're simply watching a movie, doing a craft like painting rigatoni noodles and stringing them on ribbon, or we're going on an outing, every moment can seem magical through the eyes of a child. So ask yourself -- what did you absolutely love doing as a child? Did you enjoy imaginative play? How about dressing up? Puzzles, board games, Barbie dolls? Whatever it is, initiate that with your children, and forget for awhile that you're an adult with responsibilities -- revel in play!

7.) Take time to learn something new! I love reading and learning. Lately, I've been really enjoying doing different Bible studies and reading books that help me learn more about the Catholic faith. But I also love reading different cookbooks, and books about history, and different places. Learning should be a life-long thing, and if we're excited about something, that's a surefire way to bust boredom. Perhaps you want to even learn a new language -- go for it, and involve your kids -- their aptitude for learning a new language will impress you.

8.) Get a hobby! And if your kids can get involved, all the better.  Maybe you want to try cake decorating, or knitting, or simply colouring those great adult colouring books. It's nice to do something for yourself. And so...

9.) Spend time by yourself! Once the kids are in bed, yes, it's important to spend time with your spouse. But it's also important to spend time with yourself, alone. I like to take a nice warm bath, read a book, and do a meditation. I also like to phone my parents and my sister and my cousin, and enjoy talking with them. Sometimes I like to go to the library by myself, and I love to go and get my hair done a couple times a year.

10.) Don't feel guilty! We all feel bored sometimes in whatever job we have. And we stay at home parents work incredibly long hours. It's also arguably one of the most emotionally invested jobs you can have. So don't beat yourself up if you're feeling a little bored and tired. Stay at home parents are not the norm, and I know for me, I just feel so blessed and fortunate that I get to be one that when I complain about it, part of me feels guilty. But guilt. in situations like this, is not productive, and will only make you feel worse. So toss out that guilt and share with your spouse and a close friend when you're feeling a bit run down -- you'll feel so much better, especially if you follow it up by counting your blessings.

May God bless us in all our endeavours, and open our eyes to the treasures that surround us.

photo credit: marco sees things <a href="">Gaia on her new mattress</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

The Power & Practicality of Prayer

Have you ever found yourself stuck in a rut? Not moving forward in your career, your relationships, or your spiritual life? Or have you ever struggled with seeing someone you care about head down a path that is not good for them, or making bad decisions?

Sometimes we're not comfortable telling ourselves the truth. Sometimes we're not ready to face up to what we need to change. Sometimes, when we try to help others, they don't listen. Sometimes, we just can't work up the courage to approach them with words we are longing to say. At times like those, the best and most effective thing we can do is to pray.

The book of Job is one of the hardest I've read in the Bible. It's painful to hear about the utter desolation that Job's life became, despite being faithful to the Lord. But it also has much wisdom we can glean. See what happens when Job prayed for his friends:

The Lord also was turned at the penance of Job, when he prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. Job 42:10.

Here, we see God's faithfulness. He listens to people of upright heart when they pray to Him.

In the letter to the Hebrews, we see that Christ is our perfect example of how to treat others -- and this includes praying for them:

Whereby he is able also to save for ever them that come to God by him: always living to make intercession for us. Hebrews 7:25.

I was very close with my grandparents on both sides. My father's father, my Poppa, passed away when I was a young child. His wife, my father's mother -- My Nanny -- passed away when I was 18. My Nanny and I had personalities that sometimes clashed -- she was quiet, dignified and traditional lady with a French-Scottish background, and I was a rambunctious, goofy, high-spirited young girl. However, there was so much love there. She always, always prayed for me, and I have fond memories of her teaching my family and me to say the rosary when she'd be over for her visits. We'd sit at the kitchen table after supper, dim the lights, and pray. It was a very, very special time.

My mother's parents, my Grandma and Grandpa, also played a big part in my life. I looked up to them so much -- they seemed, to me, to be perfect people. I know now that I put them up on a pedestal, but who could blame me? My grandmother was impeccably classy, never leaving the house without a flattering hue of lipstick on and her hair done, but also extremely practical and optimistic. Though she had more than her share of physical pain (and emotional, losing her father in a mining accident when she was 8 years old and her mother shortly after she was married to my Grandpa), she did not often complain about any of it. She never complained that she was lonely, either, in the nearly 10 years that she lived on after Grandpa died. She was extremely wise with her money, but generous, and family was the most important thing to her.

Grandpa was a legend. Is a legend -- for he won't soon be forgotten. He was the hardest-working man I've ever met, the son of German immigrants who is rumoured to have kept the first dollar he ever earned. He did very, very well for himself in the mining world, and, though careful with his money, was extremely generous, gifting large sums of money to his children and their children. It's thanks in part to him and Grandma (and my parent's scrimping and saving, of course) that neither my siblings nor I ever had to get a student loan or pay out of pocket for our secondary education.

Grandpa was quiet, thoughtful, careful. He also had a sentimental streak, and a sprinkling of mischief, which he liked to make use of in his teasing and joking with (at?) my grandmother.

One of the most comfortable things, growing up, was knowing that both my sets of grandparents loved me, and that both sets were praying for me. My Grandma, especially, always told me she was praying for me -- that she prayed for me every day. And I'm just one among her seven grandchildren! Then there were also her children, their spouses, her siblings and their families... the list went on. I believe my grandmother had a very rich prayer life, and I wish I had asked her more about that. I also got the impression that, barring any big incidents, once she prayed about something, she didn't let herself worry about it. She was far too practical for that, and far too smart to think that she could handle something better than God Himself could!

Another great thing about Grandma is that she pretty much never scolded anyone or tried to interfere in their lives, no matter what they were up to or what they were doing (once her children were grown, that is -- she certainly did properly discipline her children). She wouldn't say a negative word about anyone, and if anyone brought a quarrel to her, expecting her to take sides, she'd wisely refrain while still displaying her love for both parties involved.

How much I still am learning from my grandparents, though they have passed on to a brighter realm. How much they still guide me and protect me, from up above. How much, I know, they still pray for me, and all they love.

Sometimes, the most powerful thing we can do for someone is to pray for them. And we also must not neglect to pray for ourselves! So I encourage you, in whatever situation you're facing, or whatever situation someone you love is facing: lift it up in prayer. If you don't know what to do, pray. If you don't know what or how to pray, don't worry. For...

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is in the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27.

If you need any more motivation to pray, in closing I'll share with you some quotes on prayer from the Saints.

"The prayer most pleasing to God is that made for others and particularly for the poor souls. Pray for them, if you want your prayers to bring high interest." Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich

"Have confidence in prayer. It is the unfailing power which God has given us. By means of it you will obtain the salvation of the dear souls whom God has given you and all your loved ones. 'Ask and you shall receive,' Our Lord said. Be yourself with the good Lord." Saint Peter Julian Eymard.

Happy praying, my friends!

photo credit: byronv2 <a href="">Killearn 09</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>