FAQ: Potential Wish List Problems #1 – It’s all me, me, me, me, me!

Me Me Me!

It’s no fun growing up with brothers and sisters. Life is a constant battle for supremacy. And whilst being the eldest, or the tallest, or the strongest, should give you the competitive edge amongst your siblings, there’s always a parent hovering in the background who’s just one squabble away from wading in and levelling the playing field with a clip round the ear and comments such as:

“Wait your turn,” or

“Be nice to your sister,” or

“How many times have I told you to share?!”

You can appeal, of course – I often did – but this was usually met with:

“Peter – not everything’s about you,” or

“If you can’t play nicely then I’ll take it away,” or

“I want, I want, I want – that’s all I ever hear!”

It seems that no sooner have we been encouraged to ‘think for ourselves’ and ‘decide what we want in life’ than someone, maybe the same someone, tells us that we’re being self centred or selfish. ‘Putting others first,’ so they say, is the true path to enlightenment.

Now I’m not going to tell you that our parents were wrong – not entirely – but a few of us (and I include myself in this) had this concept of putting others first beaten into us so effectively that we’ve all but lost the ability to consider our own needs, and to do so can often fill us with feelings of guilt. That’s not good.

What our parents should have told us was this:

 Taking into consideration our own wants,
to the exclusion of everyone else,
is wrong.

The middle line of that sentence is crucial! Without it, you’re effectively telling yourself that everyone else is more important than you – and whilst there will be those of you who actually believe that, it’s simply not true.

Here’s another thing your parents should have told you:

Taking into consideration everyone else,
to the exclusion of yourself,
is utterly, utterly wrong.

No good can come of thinking of others to the exclusion of yourself. You will end up searching the internet, reading blog posts on how to become happier.

However, these can be incredibly hard concepts to grasp. From the workshops I’ve found that Mum’s especially are often hard-wired to put their own needs or wants on the backburner, or to dismiss them completely. So even if you finally manage to get your logical brain to say, “Oh yes, I see now – I need to strike a balance” – your inner child will continue to follow the put-everyone-else-first rule in the hope that one day that it’ll magically start working for you.

It won’t.

And sadly, undoing this level of brainwashing takes more than a couple of pages on a blog like this.

All that said, there are a few things you could try:

Firstly, there’s therapy. And I’m not kidding. It really is the only way to free yourself from this noble, but none the less destructive, behaviour. A word of warning; therapy is like embarking on a long personal journey through your own psyche for which you really need a qualified and experienced guide. Finding a therapist that works for you can be a challenge. This isn’t a reason not to try therapy, just try, if you can, to see a therapist who someone you trust can recommend.

Secondly, you could leave yourself notes around your house or office to remind you of the two facts above. Will it work? Maybe. It’s a low tech solution that won’t remedy the underlying problem, but sometimes a sticking plaster is all that’s necessary to enable us to continue on in life.

Lastly, you could strike a compromise with yourself. Accept the fact that there are other people in your life and incorporate them into your Wish List. Grab a piece of paper and instead of starting your wishes with the words “I want”, try starting a few with “we want” and see where that gets you.

For instance:

“We want to travel the world.”

“My mother and I live in a wonderful house, near the sea.”

“I am learning to play the guitar, with the support of …”

Good luck.

FAQ: Potential Boxing Day Problem #3 – Boxing Days if you’re a parent

Reader Jane dropped me a line:

“I think I’ve figured out something that may help in terms of ‘how Mums can do a boxing day’. You may need to relax the ‘rules’. The thing is, there is always so much to do around the house and for the kids/husband/etc.

“If I had planned a bit more beforehand (e.g. booked a massage, picked a film to go and see, arranged a friend to meet for lunch, booked a table to eat alone, etc) then I might have had more of a successful BD. However, because (the rules state) you’re not ‘allowed’ to think about what you’re doing in advance, I ended up doing a whole load of chores and things that needed doing around the house. Which was fine, but not really the rest a 36 week pregnant woman with a one year old needed!

“I suggest that childcare is arranged, even if it’s just for half a day with Grandparents, and then you allow Mums to book one thing to do (or plan one thing to do) outside of the house. This would remove the temptation to go ahead and get on with chores, etc.

“A Mum’s (and I’m sure a Dad’s!) lot is a busy one and there is, like I say, always so much to do that it’s hard to put oneself first, especially if you have that rare commodity of free time. The first thing that comes to mind is something along the lines of ‘thank goodness! Now I can get that big pile of ironing done, weed the garden, cook for the freezer, etc.”

My gut reaction to Jane’s email was to point out that there’s a huge difference between pre-planning (what you’re going to do on Boxing Day) and preparing (doing whatever’s necessary so that a Boxing Day is possible). Pre-planning is bad. Preparing on the other hand, is very very good. Necessary even.

However, hot on the heels of Jane’s email, readers Kirsty and Alison contacted me with very similar thoughts! It seems it’s just too darn difficult to be spontaneous on a Boxing Day if you’re a Mum – other stuff always gets in the way. Clearly I’m out of my depth here.

So I called in the Big Guns and emailed Keris Stainton –  author, journalist, fan of this book and (most importantly) Busy Mum of two. I put the Busy Mum vs Boxing Day conundrum to her, reserved several pages in the book for her words of wisdom, and waited. If anyone would know the answer it would be Keris. Why, she’d probably end up writing a blog post or an article about it. Fabulous!

Three weeks later (I told you she was busy) I got her  response.

She was, to use her own words ‘flummoxed’ – unable to see how being a busy parent is so different from being a busy anything else. She went on to say:

If the FIRST thing you think of when you get up on Boxing Day is ‘thank goodness – Now I can get that big pile of ironing done, weed the garden, cook for the freezer, etc.’ then, well, you REALLY need a Boxing Day!

If any of this rings true for you then let me just say this; “go for it”. And if ‘going for it’ means you need to have one thing pre-arranged, or you have to have a rule that says Boxing Day takes place Off-site, or you limit Boxing Day to the hours between dropping the kids off and picking them back up again, or Boxing Day is something you do with another Busy Parent – if that ‘fixes’ Boxing Day and makes it work for you – then you have my blessing! I am not going to stand in your way. I’m just pleased that you’re finally taking time out for yourself.

If you’re a parent and have any thoughts on the challenges of Boxing Day, feel free to share them in the comments box below or on the facebook page.