Do You Ever Have Off Days?

This was the question posed from a long term reader, Katie, asked me last month. With Katie’s permission I share this extract from her email:

I am just wondering, do you ever have Off Days?
The following is completely intended as a compliment: there is something almost intimidating about the way you organise and live your life.

It can be daunting, when on days when I feel like going on strike I read a post you’ve published detailing a meal plan, homework tips or a TV-less afternoon spent doing craft with your brood… I feel both admiration for you and slight disappointment in myself for using the TV to entertain my ONE child whilst cooking poached eggs for dinner!

…..But if you would be able to let us in on a little of what does send you to that place as Mother, you know – where you enter the cone of silence with a cocktail in hand, trying not to cry big, fat, hot tears of frustration… that would be so endearing and relate-able, I’m sure, to oh, 100% of your readers! 😀

Short answer – yes I do! But the email obviously deserves a longer answer.

The aim of this blog has always been to share with readers what has worked for our family. I am continually on a path of process improvement when it comes to the family. Along that path, things go wrong, I get tired, I get impatient and I behave in ways that if I had my time over I would change.

My post in July Keep Calm and Talk Quietly highlighted how June had pretty much been an off month on my behalf.

My Off Day Yesterday

Yesterday was pretty much an off day for me too. What sent me to that place? A couple of things:

  • Tiredness.
  • Disorganisation.
  • Taking too much on.

We had an intense weekend. We were out at sporting activities Friday night. We left the house 9am Saturday morning to return home after 5.30pm to feed the kids a quick meal (fish and chips bought on the way home by Mr I), introduce them to a new baby sitter and then Mr I and I both headed out, but in different directions. We didn’t make it to bed until after 1am.

Sunday was a special day for the family. Mr I’s Nana turned 100 and we had a lovely lunch out, which saw us leave at 11.45am and not return home again until close to 5pm. By early Sunday evening, I was yet to write any posts, I hadn’t baked anything for lunches, the kids were yet to do any reading or homework and there was literally a mountain of washing in the sitting room.

I went to bed just before midnight Sunday night, woke to my alarm Monday morning feeling exhausted. The kids were also tired and a little on the cranky side. The morning went okay, but from after school pick up it pretty much went down hill.

Monday nights we do swimming, so we have an early dinner, then have a snack after swimming. I had washed master 3’s hair Sunday and combed it through (which takes at least 20 minutes). I was tired, Mr I was not going to be home until late, so informed master 3 he would not be hopping in the pool. I didn’t want to hop in myself, nor did I want to have to do his hair as well as my daughters.

This made him cry solidly, generally lying at my feet for about 15 minutes. I did the bring him in close, sit him on the bench distract him things, none of which worked and to be honest, I didn’t have the patience to keep trying, so I gave up and let him cry at my feet. I kept doing the usual after school stuff, like emptying the lunch boxes and eventually while not happy, he did stop crying.

During this time I found that we were missing two containers from the lunch boxes. The kids have been great at keeping track of them, but we lost one last week, which found its way back to us, so to find two missing made me very grumpy.

My response was really quite poor. I advised the school kids, that I was taking $5 from each of their pocket money savings to buy new ones. That naturally sent my daughter off crying as she has been saving for an iTouch.

As we were leaving the house everyone was a little titchy and there was sniping and general unpleasantness in the car. I tried to be positive and turned up their favourite song in the car, which worked for a little.

At swimming I read stories to the little one and at one stage almost fell to sleep. I was literally counting down the minutes until I could get home and bundle them all off to bed!

When we got home, the younger ones had their bath while the older two started their homework. The eldest was home already working on his homework and their was arguments about who was using what computer, who was making annoying sounds, etc etc.

I tried to stay out of it, but entered the fray and made the 11 year old move out the room, which he vehemently complained about me being unfair and the like. During this time the younger two made their way out of the bath and could not find their pyjamas and proceeded to whine about that.

I had to spend five minutes tracking down the pyjamas, in which time another altercation over a balloon erupted, which made me have to take a deep breath and use all my restraint not to pop the offending balloon.

I could feel bedtime was close and was trying to get the younger three off as quickly as I could. When I finished brushing their teeth and took them to their room, I found dirty clothes and towels littering the floor, so proceeded to rant about how annoying that is and how I would refuse to read bedtime stories until the room was tidy. More grumping ensued from the kids, but the room was tidied and we did manage to have a nice story time, before I sung them a good night song each, then breathed a sigh or relief and left the room.

I thought the hardest part of the day was over. I reconstructed the rest of the house, put on a load of washing and made up the lunch boxes. During which time the 13 year old brought me an essay and asked me could I read over it. This would have been about 8.30pm and naturally it was due the following day.

I made him go away and proofread it himself first, which he did. I read the essay and gave him feedback in hindsight with no tact at all. I was quite furious with him, as he had been home all Saturday afternoon on his own, had time to finish it on Sunday and when he went on the computer Sunday night I asked him had he finished all his homework, to which he had said yes.

It was evident the essay had been very hurriedly written and I told him I thought it was the worst essay he had ever written. I did follow it up to say that I know he is capable of much more, so asked him to show me his plan for the essay. And you guessed it, of course there was no plan for the essay!

I explained that I thought he had two options, 1, to try and fix the essay or 2, to start all over again with a plan. I strongly recommended option 2. His study desk is in my home office area. So it was now 9pm, I was yet to start any of my work and was being interrupted with questions every five minutes by a teenager who had left his homework to the 11th hour.

While somehow I did manage to remain calm with him, when Mr I arrived home and I went downstairs to see him, I did that thing where you sort of take your frustrations out on someone else! Thankfully he is an incredibly patient man and had worked out what was going on, chilled me a diet coke and gave me a shoulder massage.

At 10.30pm master 13 finally went to bed with his essay printed out. He did thank me for my help and we talked about how we need to do better next time. We also talked about how you cannot expect to do your best work at 9pm at night (especially when you have had the essay for over a week!).

With the house now truly calm I really started to get into my work and worked solidly for a number of hours and went to bed well after midnight. Mr I went to bed earlier, but folded the mountain of washing before he went.

Thankfully I am a morning person, even if I haven’t had much sleep and a session at the gym improved my mood. The sun was also shining and master 13 was being very social and helpful in the morning.

While this is just one example of an off day, the reason why they happen are usually pretty consistent:

  • Tiredness.
  • Disorganisation.
  • Taking too much on.

Which is why I love planning so much. Done well and done right it helps improve on all of those issues above. Things will still go wrong, kids will misbehave, kids will leave their homework to the last minute, I will accept one (or two) project/s too many, but if the base foundations are good then I don’t have quite so many off days.

What about you? What are your triggers for off days?