Monday, September 22, 2008

Stressed, stressed, stressed.

This weekend I realized that my stress levels were out of control. One reason has to do with family issues and the other with how we've structured our school schedule this year.

I think it is time to take both in hand before something explodes (that would be me LOL). Three items on our schedule are causing the most amount of stress for me. One of the reasons we homeschool is because we like flexibility. Three things we are doing have totally taken away our flexibility. Shira is belongs to a Nature Girls Club that meets on Sunday afternoons from 3-6 pm. It's a great club. She loves it, her fellow club members love her, the leader is a gifted teacher and truly inspires the children, BUT, if the girls miss three meetings they are tossed out of the club.

You have no idea how stressful it is to have this restriction placed on our weekends.

Shira is also a member of a children's chorus that meets every Tuesday from 4:30-5:30pm. The children's chorus has a policy that children who miss 3 lessons in a semester are either booted from the choir, or are not allowed to perform at their concerts.

This is slightly less stressful than the Nature Girls Club because the semester is only 3 months long. Nature Girls meets every week all year round. However, they hold concerts on weekends which makes life awkward when we want to travel.

The last schedule stressor is this phenomenal history program we're doing. We signed up for the live classes. These classes are held every Monday to Thursday from 1- 1:30pm. I have been very, very surprised at how stressful it has been to arrange our schedule around being at a telephone every day. So many of the extra curricula activities we want to do start at either 12 or 1 pm.

Today the children and I decided that we're going to change our history subscription to the recorded lectures. We'll still listen to his lectures daily, but won't be tied to a clock and phone.

This will do much to reduce our daily stress but we're just going to have to live with the other two. However, I suspect that she may get kicked out of Nature Girls as we, her parents, are not going to let Nature Girls stand in the way of family commitments and travel plans.

Of course, this is causing stress because the child loves this club. We don't have local family. To see family we have to travel. This club makes it difficult for us to get the kids to see their grandparents. This club issue is going to come to a head in the next few months as Shira is going to miss meetings in October because we're going on vacation, November for her great grandmother's 94th birthday party and then two weeks in January while we travel with my cousin.

Part of the family stress has been resolved and I am adamant that steps are going to be taken to reduce the remaining family induced stress.

My parents came to visit us earlier this month. Since they live half a world away, they have to live in our home when they visit. I do not enjoy house guests. I dislike how my routines are interrupted, I hate how I have to have a happy face on all the time. I am a loner, I don't like people in my space (husband and children are exceptions and even then I need time away from them once in a while). Even though my parents are very easy house guests, and we enjoy their visits, it is very stressful having them in our home.

To further increase the stress, while my folks were visiting, my stepdad starting losing his balance. By the time we cut their visit short and sent them back home to their doctors, he was almost unable to walk and was very confused. It turns out that he had a subdural hematoma from a fall 4-6 weeks prior to his visit. Thankfully the surgery to relieve the pressure was a success and he will be out of hospital tomorrow, but the fear was that he was not going to survive. Stress like this is not fun.

While. this was going on, another family member decided that this was the prefect time to start making demands of her own and despite very clear answers from both Marc and me, she decided, in her wisdom ignore our wishes and to continue with her demands.

She took an already stressful situation and made it exponentially worse.

I made a decision yesterday that she's done this to me for the last time. In future, if she questions Marc's or my answers to her demands I am just going refuse to take her phone calls or take the children to visit her. My days of indulging her and putting myself out for her are over. She decided that her wants were more important than my or my parents' needs while we were facing the very real possibility of my stepfather's death. This, to me, shows that she has no respect for me and as such deserves none from me.

How do you all deal with family members who act as if their wants are the only ones that matter and who make the lives of everyone around them miserable until they get their own way? The reality is that I cannot remove this person from our lives, so I'll have to settle for second best. All our interactions will now be on my terms, not hers. None of her wants will be met by me any longer unless she is completely respectful of me and mine.

I just hope that life is going to become less stressful. We're going to do the prerecorded history program, so the daily stress over being at a telephone has been taken out of our lives, I've started preparing Shira for the fact that she may end up being kicked out of Nature Girls and I am taking a stand with a certain family member. No more emotional blackmail. She may get her wants that require my input met, if it suits me.

The biggie is that my stepdad is well on the road to recovery.


Deb said...

Oh Shez, Shez, I'm so sorry to hear that you have these kinds of issues with relatives. This is the worst, believe me, I know from experience. I'm also sorry that your kids are old enough to know about it. We were fortunate enough to take care of these issues when my oldest was still a baby and didn't have to be affected by it.

My parents and sister are just not nice people; they are extremely narcissistic and don't understand that there are other people in the world. Their needs were the only important ones, and they felt that it was just fine to unleash any steam they liked in the direction of people who would take it.

I had a professor in college who told me that in order to have a really good life, it is necessary to have the attitude that one must not take shit from other people. Really? I thought to myself. I thought that good people were the ones who were capable enough to take the shit of others. And you don't have to take it even from your family? Apparently not.

Well, that totally changed my life. I was able to get an extra scholarship for my senior year of college, so I could tell my father, essentially, either you stop being a jerk or just stop having anything to do with me. He chose the latter.

Then, five years later, I was really tired of the way my very hostile sister had treated me (and others) for years, and told her either to be nice and rational when she disagreed rather than spewing nonsense in my direction, or just stop interacting with me. She chose the latter.

Then, five years after THAT, my mother did her last of many narcissistic acts that involved me (and, at that point, my newborn daughter), and I told her that she must either recognize that there were other people whose needs must be taken into account, and she must explain to me why she wasn't going to do that stuff anymore, or just not interact with me anymore. She chose the latter, too. (Staying consistent on that one took some doing, as it took a few years for her to realize I really meant it.)

I cannot tell you how much better it made my life, not having to interact with crappy people. Yes, it was very sad, having one's family decide that their own narcissism was more valuable to them than I was. But much, much better overall. What a weight was lifted from my shoulders!

My main point to you is that there must always be an "OR ELSE" and that you must make the other person choose it deliberately. It is THEIR choice, not yours. If they ignore that you have given them this choice and they still try to foist themselves into your life, you need to remind them that they have this choice. And keep reminding them until they either shape up or choose to ship out.

I know that this isn't simple or obvious or emotionally easy, but you can't be showing your kids that the way grownups behave is that they let others walk all over them just because they're relatives. THAT wouldn't be doing your kids any favor. Thinking of this vis-a-vis my kids was what finally gave me the strength to do this with my mother.

Danielle said...

Hi Shez,

Sorry you've had such a stressful time of things. I understand the stress of your step-dad and the medical condition he has thankfully pulled through. My father went through the same thing here. Though I didn't have the additional stress of having him half way around the world. Hugs to you there and I'm glad he's ok.

As for the self-absorbed family members...ummmm, I could write you a whole series of books on that subject!!! :) You really do have to make the relationship on your own terms. For me, that was really realizing and maintaining my boundaries with them. It takes effort some times, but on the whole, everyone is better off for it.

I'm glad we chose to do the American History for it's non-live flexibility. We've missed a great deal of it so far, but today, I copied all of the months program and put them on my MP3 player so that we can listen to it either at home (since it's also downloaded onto my computer) or in the van when we're out and about. I can't wait for him to get into the history of the places we've been to and the people we've learned about (ie, Williamsburg and Philadelphia).

I hope we'll get to see you all this week at Cub Scouts.