Each year I write a post reflecting on the state of family life. The first post in this series was back in 2009 when our youngest son was still a baby. At the time we had five kids under 10 life was full – both with joy, challenges and hard work. At this time in my life when I remarked to other parents that I looked forward to things getting easier as the kids grew older, many parents said to me it actually becomes harder.
This was something I simply couldn’t fathom at the time, so thought I would document the pulse of family life once a year and share how I was finding it. You can read previous posts here:
- Late 2009 – Does It Really Get Harder?????. I contemplate comments from other parents with older kids who suggest that it actually gets harder as the kids get older! Our youngest was 10 months old at this time.
- April 2011 – Easier……for the moment!. Not every individual part was easier, but overall I did feel family life was a little easier. Our youngest was 2 at the time.
- April 2012 – Family Life – New Challenges. While the last year had brought new challenges for me, it was certainly easier in many ways than the last couple of years.
- April 2013 – Family Life – Mostly Easier. Many elements of daily life were much easier as the kids grow in independence, but parenting a teenager posed some new challenges for me.
- May 2014 – Family Life – Easier. Overall family life is definitely easier than when I first started writing this series in 2009 when our youngest was still a baby. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t have challenging parts. It does. But it is wonderful to see the kids growing up, developing their own opinions, styles and preferences.
- Apr 2015 – Family life – the roller coaster years. The easier parts are really easy and the hard parts are really hard. While the hard parts are really hard, they don’t have the relentless frequency of the hard I had when the kids were younger. Overall it is easier, a bit like a roller coaster though with high highs and low lows.
- Aug 2016 – Does it really get harder? – 2016 edition. My experience to date has shown me that how I feel about family life in terms of whether it is easier or harder, is very dependant upon my attitude and behaviour. Experience also helps. Handling a teenager second time around is definitely easier as I have made mistakes and learnt from them!
- Aug 2017 – Does it really get harder? – 2017 edition. Day to day life was definitely easier. Adjusting to having an adult university attending (or not!) child in the house was challenging. My big learning from this year was that I had better coping strategies to get me through the harder parts like running, meditation and gratitude.
- May 2018 – Does it really get harder? – 2018 edition. 2018 felt like a smoother year than 2017. I had adjusted more to life with a uni student in the house and the younger kids increased in independence This did bring with it some sadness for me as the youngest started walking to school by himself. It is moments like this that make you really appreciate the small things and that there are so many opportunities for me to turn the mundane of every day life into memories.
Even if you don’t blog, I can highly recommend writing down some thoughts on what family life is like for you at this point in time, then come back to it at this time next year and see how things are going.
In 2019 these are the ages and stages we are at:
- a third year uni student (20 y.o son)
- a year 12 student (18 y.o son)
- a year 10 student (15 y.o daughter)
- a year 7 student (13 y.o son)
- a year 5 student (10 y.o son)
The easier parts
There are definitely many easier parts of family life compared to when I started writing these reflections 10 years ago. In 2009 I wrote about some key areas of family life that were particularly challenging when I had 5 kids under 10 years of age.
They key challenges were running errands with little ones, trying to have a shower in peace, sleep deprivation (we had a baby), the tiring work of lifting, carrying and chasing little ones and managing after school activities. None of those areas of family life are a challenge for us at the moment! In terms of many of the key parts of daily life, things are definitely easier:
- School mornings – we only have one child at primary school now and even he walks himself to school. If allowed I do join him a couple of times a week on the walk! Mornings are pretty calm in our house. On the whole the kids all wake themselves up (there is the odd sleep in!) and have their own routines to get themselves out of the house on time. It varies from the year 7 child who has enough time to sit and read quietly before he leaves for school to the year 12 who often has to jog to the station to catch his train!
- Homework and after school activities – years of working with the kids to set routines for their homework has paid off and the kids really do self manage their homework. I do check in and keep and eye on things, but I really try my best to allow them the space to sort themselves. I offer advice and help where I can and when needed. Sometimes I say too much and I get push back from the older kids! I take on their feedback, but also take into consideration that I am them adult and sometimes I do need to step in.
- Night time routine – again everyone has their own routines that they work through. The year 5 is currently finding it hard that he is in bed well before everyone else and at the start of the year employed a wide variety of creative delaying strategies before going to bed. This has now stopped thankfully! I am next in bed most nights and there are times when the year 12 and year 10 student are up and both parents are in bed. We rely on them doing the right thing and going to bed at an appropriate time.
- Weekends – with compulsory Saturday morning sport for the Year 7 and Year 12 boys, Phil’s footy, then two games of Footy on Sunday our weekends are generally pretty full before we even add anything special to them! But the kids are great at knowing we are limited by parent numbers and will help out when needed by getting themselves to places by public transport, being dropped off early or waiting a little for us to come and get them.
- Going out – it is also much easier for Phil and I to decide that we would like to head out whether it be at night for dinner, morning for breakfast or a lunch time run. The kids are at an age where we can easily leave them and head out on our own without any planning!
The harder parts
This year feels like quite a calm year so far. We do have some big years – one in Year 7 and one in Year 12. I think because we have done both before and the kids themselves have been exposed to those experiences through their sibling/s it has meant that things have been smoother.
Of course there are some harder parts though – it isn’t all rainbows and unicorns! These are the key areas that I am finding harder:
- Meal times and food in general– the uni student works many nights a week, the 18 year old works at least one night a week, the 15 year old is very active in extra curricular activities at school so is often home later and there are a couple of training sessions through out the week, all of which means having all seven of us for dinner each night happens only a couple of times a week. I do miss having our post meal chats. Keeping enough food in the house is also a challenge. As I choose to limit the amount of processed foods I buy, it means I have to cook quite a bit to have food that is quick and easy to eat for the older boys. There is definitely complaints about our fridge looking like Old Mother Hubbards’ if there isn’t food about.
- Sharing rooms -maturation by both the older boys, means that while neither loves the fact that they share, they are working together more to make the best of it. There are still issues that arise from it and while not huge, the complaining becomes pretty wearing after a while.
- Teenager behaviour – we now have our fourth child into the teenage years. I have learnt so much about teenagers over the last seven years. Each teenager has done and does teach me more about how to parent. I found the first few years of parenting a teenager with our first super hard and upon reflection, I realise a lot of that was due to me and my actions (you can read my tips on parenting teenagers here). The subsequent teenagers have thrown me plenty of challenges and attitude, but I haven’t found it quite as hard as the first time around as I think our first son taught me to be a better parent. With that said though, teenagers can still be hard. The mood swings are phenomenal. It is hard to know if you have done something to upset them or if they are just having a moment. There is also the alcohol, drugs and late nights worries that come along with teenagers that make you lose sleep on the odd night.
- Time with each child – with the older kids having work, school/uni and their own social commitments it is much harder to spend time with them. As I go to bed early I don’t always see them come home from work at night. There are mornings when I don’t see some of the kids before they leave for school, so I am having to make sure I really take advantage of the time I do with them when we are at home together.
Overall family life is definitely easier now than it was 10 years ago when we had 5 kids under 10. I write this in the hope that if you have lots of little ones at the moment, you can know that one day you will go the toilet by yourself, you will leave the house without taking half of it with you and you will have wonderful conversations with teenagers and adult children.
I do think that so much of how we feel about family life is also caught up in the stories we tell oursevles. If we are constantly telling ourselves our lives are so busy, we have no time, it is all so hard, then that is most likely all that we will see. I have been practicing gratitude for a number of years and have found that this practice has made me more conscious about seeing the good (of which there is so much) and I am very grateful to have the family I do.
The fact that 10 years later I am finding things easier is also no doubt a result of the work I have put in all those years ago to set up routines, plans and processes to help organise family life. It did take time and effort to have the kids able to get themselves ready for school, to do their homework and their household tasks, but the time and effort spent all those years ago is really paying dividends now!