Destination Anywhere…

th-24The last week has been a bit up and down for me.  I have found myself reflecting on the concept of life being much like an aeroplane flight.  If you missed the post you can read about that here : https://patchworkrainbows.wordpress.com/2015/03/27/family-planning/

I am starting to have a much better idea of what I would like my final ‘destination’ to be – although I’m sure my thoughts and ideas will change along the way as I grow as a person.  Also ‘my’ destination will have to become an ‘our’ destination at some point as I slowly start to involve other members of the family.

There are going to be plenty of times when we are going to be ‘off course’.  Just this last week I have had two evenings when Daddy has come home at 2 am extremely drunk when he is supposed to be looking after the kids the next morning (I leave for work at 6am).  So that’s two extra days off work – which I won’t get paid for, not only that I only received a promotion a month ago – so it’s not exactly a good start.  I am also currently sleeping on the sofa because I just can’t cope with his alcohol sweats, snoring and flatulence!  So I’m getting a lot of flack for that.

Other times when we are off course include times of stress.  These are usually for me when I am tired – taking too much responsibility for kids, not sleeping well due to the above, coping with his drinking, sleeping on the sofa!  For Daddy stress mainly boils down to having a bad time at work or dealing with me after he has been drinking! (He says).

Periods of stress then generally lead on to periods of conflict.  We have been snapping and back biting at each other since the drinking episodes, things are just finally starting to ease down again, and everything seems to get forgotten about and we carry on – till the next time.  Really stuck in a rut with this one…

I also worry about the future.  What effect will all this tension have on the children?  What am I going to do once they have flown the nest?  Are we going to make it?

On a more positive note, I have had some great ‘on course’ moments this last week or so.  On the days when Daddy has been able to look after the kids, he has not taken them to the pub with him which is his usual course of action (he doesn’t have more than a pint, but I still don’t like the associations that the kids will think this is a normal everyday activity).  On three occasions recently he has actually taken them to the park!  Three different parks at that.  This is a huge improvement and I hope he keeps it up.  I guess some of my being more positive and supportive is getting through somewhere, particularly surprising as it’s been such a dodgy week.

I have also brought up the idea of a family meeting with the kids and they are very excited about it.  Daddy’s LIttle Princess (DLP) wants to call it ‘planning’.  They do this in nursery and reception class.  So DLP has been drawing lovely pictures all week of the activities she would like to do over the Easter holidays.  Even Mummy’ s Little Soldier (MLS) has come up with an idea!  I know DLP has also mentioned it to Daddy and he seemed to be going along with it!  So more progress here.

Our biggest issue is dealing with the 2 am drinking binges.  Sometimes I deal with this well, sometimes not.  Overall I deal with it much better than I used to.  I used to go crazy – shouting and screaming, ringing him until he had ridiculous amounts of missed calls and him eventually turning his phone off.  That was when I had serious coping problems and most likely depression.

Since those days I decided to calm down.  I learnt about the Circle of Influence and the Circle of concern.  I realised I had more control than I thought.  I realised I could not change him.  I realised that only he could change his addiction – it was out of my circle of influence.  Instead I made him aware of the following ground rules for him and myself:

  • When I’m looking after the children the next day, he may do as he pleases until whatever time.
  • When he looks after the children the next day, he needs to be back by midnight. (He does this more often than not.)
  • He needs to get his priorities straight.  He can be back at a reasonable time when he has to work the next day.  His children should be more important than this.
  • If I have to miss work due to him.  I will take my lost salary from his bank account. (I control the finances as he once got us 27k in debt.)
  • I will not constantly ring him.  It does not help.
  • I will not confront him when he gets home drunk.
  • If I take too many days off work,I may eventually lose my job, he will then be the breadwinner (which he can’t afford).  He will need to accept this.

These things have actually reduced the incidences, and I’m extremely lucky I have an understanding boss.  If anyone else has any ideas, I would love to here them as I need all the help I can get!

th-15I have to keep telling myself it’s never too late.  It has been encouraging to see improvements at this early stage.  I keep trying to remember the story of the Chinese Bamboo Tree.  At first you see just a little shoot – maybe even for many years, then all of a sudden you will see great growth and strength.  I just have to keep trying.

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Family planning…

th-24I have been giving a lot of thought recently into what kind of family culture I would like my own family to have.  What am I hoping for?  I came up with the following ideas:

  • I would like my children to be brought up in a stable family unit.  I want them to see what a healthy relationship looks like.  I want them to know that relationships should be loving, respectful and supportive.  I want them to understand that their parents are also separate beings who allow each other space to grow as individuals.  I want my children to understand that their will be conflict and that there are mature, respectful ways to settle such differences.  I want this kind of relationship with my partner.
  • I want my children to feel loved, safe and secure.  I want them to know that I will encourage their development and interests without being overbearing.  I want them to have faith that I will notice what ‘sparks’ them and fills them with passion and I will do everything in my power to support these things.  I want my children to gradually gain independence when they are ready with no pressure.  I want my children to be the best version of themselves they can be and to have solid values and live by their principles.

This is the place I wish to get to.  Reading it back to myself it seems achievable but it will take a lot of hard work and commitment as it is still very far from the place I am currently in.

Stephen Covey compares our plans about the future of our families to the flight of an aeroplane.  The pilot starts off with a flight plan to get to his destination, but along the way their is wind, rain, turbulence and air traffic which makes us deviate from our flight plan.  So most of the time the plane is not even on track at all.  What we have to remember is that barring any major incidences the flight will always arrive at it’s destination.  During the flight the pilot receives feedback which allows him to make adjustments along the way.

Stephen Covey says “The hope lies not in the deviations but in the vision, the plan, and the ability to get back on track.

I look forward to developing my vision for an improved family culture and hope to come up with my very own family mission statement.

So, how am I going to get there?  What will my particular flight plan be?  Stephen Covey says you always need to start with self.  Therefore:

  • I will strive to create a stable family unit and a healthy relationship.  I will be more loving.  I will be more respectful.  I will be more supportive.  I will allow my partner space to grow as an individual.  I will find mature, respectful ways to deal with our differences and I will create this kind of relationship with my partner.
  • I will love my children unconditionally. I will keep my children safe and secure.  I will encourage their development and interests.  I will not be overbearing.  I will notice their ‘sparks’ and passions and I will support them.  I will let my children gain independence when they are ready.  I will not be a pushy parent.  I will allow my children to be the best they can be and I will teach them to live by their values and principles.

They will learn as I learn and I will be a good role model.  I think it is important to involve the children in the process from the start as the habits will then become part of their lives.  I am not ready to involve my partner just yet, but hopefully with time I can become what Covey calls an ‘agent of change’.  I will use the principles in the 7 habits to help me along the way.

Other things I would like to add to my flight plan include:

  • Having a weekly family meeting to plan, communicate, teach values and have fun together.
  • Having regular one to one bonding times with each member of the family doing something they choose to do.

th-15I know I need to be patient.  Stephen Covey tells the story of the Chinese Bamboo tree to reflect this.  The seed is planted and then you see nothing except a tiny shoot for the next four years, all the growth is occurring underground.  In the fifth year the Chinese Bamboo tree grows up to eighty feet!

Winston Churchill once quoted we must “never, never,NEVER give up!”

I completely agree, no matter how far we have deviated from our flight plan, we can always adjust and arrive at our destination.

Inside Out…

th-10As we progress through the ‘Seven Habits’, Stephen Covey takes us on a journey from dependence to independence and then on to interdependence.  Covey calls this the ‘Maturity Continuum’.  Dependence deals with the paradigm of ‘You take care of me’.  Independence deals with the paradigm of ‘I take care of myself’.  Interdependence deals with the paradigm of ‘We take care of each other’.  Stephen Covey calls this the ‘inside-out’ approach.  Starting with self.

Habits 1,2 and 3 take us from dependence to independence.

1.  Be Proactive deals with taking control of your life, focusing on the things you can do something about not those things beyond your control and taking responsibility rather than blaming others or your circumstances.

2.  Begin with the end in mind deals with knowing what you want to accomplish in life, organising and preparing in a way that reduces the need to work in crisis mode and beginning each week with a clear plan of what you want to achieve.

3.  Put first things first deals with being disciplined in carrying out plans, not allowing the important activities to be lost in the busy activities of your days and doing things which are meaningful and allow you to accomplish your overall goals.

Congratulations!  If you have managed all that you can officially call yourself independent.

I always thought that on the maturity continuum that I was at the very least independent and perhaps even interdependent in my work environment.  Looking back at the details of the first three habits, I see that I am wrong!

I have somewhat taken control of my life in that I have found myself again and I’m doing the things I enjoy.  I am no longer dependent on my partner and am doing most of the upbringing of the children.  However I do still occasionally worry about things I can do nothing about such as my partner’s alcohol dependency.  It took me a long time to realise that I could do nothing about it so old habits die hard.  I am getting much better at this though.  I do feel like I take more responsibility now but I do still hold quite a lot of resentment towards my partner and how his drinking has affected our lives but I’m trying to be more understanding.

I have real trouble with habit 2.  I just don’t know what I want to accomplish in life.  I never had a dream career and my interests and hobbies are constantly changing.  I can’t seem to settle on one thing for long.  I think about this too much and I think the answer is simple because all I want really is a happy, healthy family.  There, I just answered my own question!  I’m pretty good at organising and planning at work but at home I often feel swamped.  I have a general idea what I want to get done each week but it doesn’t always happen.

Habit 3 – well I procrastinate a lot.  Even my five year old tells me not to ‘crastinate!  Sometimes I’m so busy at home that I never stop and sit and play with the kids.  We definitely don’t spend enough time together as a couple.

Habits 4,5 and 6 take us from independence to interdependence.

4.  Think win – win deals with caring about the success of others as well as your own, cooperating with others and dealing with conflicts by finding solutions which benefit all.

5.  Seek first to understand, then to be understood deals with being sensitive to the needs of others, seeking to understand the viewpoint of others and when listening, seeing things from the other person’s point of view, not your own.

6.  Synergize deals with valuing and seeking out the insights of others, searching for new and better ideas and solutions and encouraging others to express their opinions.

Congratulations!  If you can do all that you are officially interdependent!

I do quite well at these in my work environment which is the area of my life that is most successful.  I work hard and I’m very well thought of by my manager and colleagues.  I generally train up the new staff who come in and as they get younger and younger and I get older I feel myself getting a slight twinge of jealousy when they start performing well.  I guess it is inevitable that someone may overtake my accomplishments one day.  They are so keen and motivated and I seem to have lost that as time has gone on.  At home I’m not so good at resolving conflicts so they benefit all.

Habit 5 is tricky.  I’m quite a quiet person so I’m a very good listener.  I can be very sensitive to other people’s needs e.g. the people with PMLD that I support at work but I am not always emphatic towards everyone.  I guess I see it that if you really are in need like the people I support then you are worthy of sensitivity but it is based on my judgement of your situation.  That sounds terrible now that I have written it down, must change that!  I guess it’s because I see the people I support surviving and thriving everyday when their needs are so high, that I think other people should be thankful that they are able-bodied, happy and healthy (in lots of cases).  People sometimes live in a bubble and sometimes don’t think about the hardships of others compared to their own.  But, I guess I’m forgetting we don’t always see the truth or real situation behind other people’s pain.

I am quite good at listening to other people’s opinions and coming up with ideas, but here again I need to improve on this at home.

Habit 7  is Sharpen the Saw and deals with renewal in the four areas of life, physical, social/emotional, mental and spiritual.  Doing this increases our capacity to live all of the other habits of effectiveness.

This is probably where I’m going wrong!  I do not really do any physical form of exercise, although my diet isn’t too bad.  Although I have a habit of skipping meals if my partner’s not about for dinner (quite a lot).

I don’t have many close friends and my work relationships are mostly professional.  I don’t really go out much as I don’t like to leave the kids in case my partner drinks. So socially I’m not doing so well

I am doing activities I enjoy now and I’m reading about spirituality but I guess I could always be doing more.

5 Principles…

th-7Stephen Covey writes a great deal about the principles on which the seven habits are based.  Here are the five principles which most effect my life daily.

The principle of service, of giving oneself to others, of helping to facilitate other people in their endeavours.

I seem to do this all day long, everyday!  I work in a residential home for adults with profound, multiple learning disabilities.  I provide full support with every aspect of their lives from personal care to helping them to live as independently as possible.  I have even helped some achieve their goals and their dreams.  Service is my job and one that I love.  I count myself very lucky.

In my personal life I take the majority of responsibility for the children.  Service is yet again the order of the day!  I don’t mind this anymore, it seems to have become easier as the children have got older and I have found ways of coping.  I love the time I spend with my children and I don’t feel the loss of identity that I once felt.  I’m beginning to get some of ‘me’ back.

I need to practise this principle more with my partner, I know deep down that he is a good person and I believe that this person will come back to me one day.  In the meantime I will do my up most to support him.

The Principle of staying positive and optimistic, radiating positive energy, and avoiding the four emotional cancers (criticizing, complaining, comparing and competing).

Well, staying positive and optimistic can be a battle when times are bad, but I try to remember that there is nothing I can do to change his drinking.  He needs to do this himself.  So, I just carry on with my life and try to help the kids understand.  (I would like to make it clear here that there have been very few incidences where he has been drinking around the kids.)  He now knows that when he is drinking, I will just stay out of the way.  I have managed to carve out a little life for myself, I started writing, learnt a new craft skill and started doing the things I loved as a child like drawing and singing.  This has helped so much and I am much happier for it.

During the day to day grind when I was unhappy and depressed I did a lot of the four emotional cancers.  I criticized the way he looked after our children, (sometimes rightly so, like when their outing with daddy was to the pub), but a lot of the time it was just nit picking because of my resentment towards him. This is probably partly responsible for why he helps so little now.  He felt like he could do no right.

I complained from the moment I got up in the morning till the moment I went to sleep.  I didn’t realise how negative I had become.  I compared our relationship to others, and wondered why we couldn’t be like a ‘normal’ couple.  I now know there is no such thing.  Everyone has their own problems.

I still have negative days, but I tend to just bite my tongue now.  Then I guess bottling up my feelings will do no good either.

The Principle of integrity – The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.

I try not to speak about others when they are not present, but I admit this is quite difficult as I work in a female dominated environment.  There is a lot of gossiping and bitching and it’s easy to get sucked in.  I try to avoid these conversations and walk away and get on with my work.  If I am part of the conversation, I try to make sure that I don’t say anything that I wouldn’t say to the person’s face.

In these types of situations I try to remember that we never know what other people are going through.  My colleagues really have very little clue of the extent of the problems in my family, I hide it well.  I’m actually one of the few staff who doesn’t take their issues into work, I would never want to – it’s the one place I can get away from it all.

The Principle of patience – The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.

I am very patient in my work life.  A lot of the adults I support have challenging behaviour and mental health issues.  I can be in some pretty dangerous situations, sometimes on a daily basis.  I cope with this well.  I am good at it.  So, why do I find it so hard to apply at home?

I am much better with the children now, when I was very stressed out I would lose patience quickly and feel like I couldn’t cope but I manage this well now.  I have had to set up my life so that I no longer depend on daddy, e.g. I have back-up childcare, informed my manager so he’s aware.  The minute I put these things into place my life became easier.  It is just sad that it has come to that.

With my partner things need to change.  Staying out of the way helps but it does not address the problem.

The Principle of balance – Identifying our roles and spending appropriate times in each one.

All good with work and children here but definitely need to spend more time on our relationship.  I also need to look at developing friendships as I am feeling isolated at times.

It’s just knowing where to start…