There are a couple of less-than-helpful patterns I have identified in the past couple of weeks. These patterns are not only unproductive, they are also damaging.
One pattern takes place in my marriage. It looks something like this: My husband and I have some time away from our kids. We reconnect. Things are great for a week, maybe two. Then the mundane routines of life start to reassert themselves and we spend less time connecting and more time alone reading. I start to feel disappointed in our marriage, so I adjust my expectations and make even less effort to connect, so even more distance grows between us. My resentment grows until we have a big blow up. We eventually re-connect and things are better for a little while until the mundane routines reassert themselves. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Clearly what I need to do is keep making an effort to be close with my husband, or truly adjust my expectations to be genuinely okay with a lack of closeness. I’m going to ask that we schedule one evening during the work week and one on the weekend when we expect that we’ll spend an hour or so together after the kids go to bed. No devices/books/distractions. Maybe even no TV. If that isn’t enough, I guess we’ll try something else.
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The second pattern happens in my financial life. It goes something like this: I spend a lot for a month, then feel really guilty about it (on top of recognizing that buying all-the-things didn’t actually make me happy), then I am really good about not getting much for 4-6 weeks, after which time I fall back into a spending binge. Later. Rinse. Repeat.
I clearly need to institute a longer shopping ban, or even a spending freeze. I have started a shopping ban that I intend to stick with for at least three months, but hopefully will stay with until June (or maybe even the entirety of 2017?!). I obviously need to stop shopping for long enough that I’m not just delaying purchases for a little while. We’ll see how I do. But this is just for things I buy, not necessarily experiences that cost money (like seeing movies, eating out with a friend, etc). I am toying with the idea of entire month of a legitimate spending freeze, where I only spend money on the absolute essentials. That would happen in February if I commit to it.
I actually broached the subject (of committing to a spending freeze together) with my husband and he didn’t immediately shut it down. He countered with continuing to track our spending for a few months to see how much we normally spend and then attempting a spending freeze. He has been writing down his spending (he buys everything on his credit card and then uses his statement to track purchases later), and packing a lunch for work most days, so I feel like I should respect his wishes on this. And the reality is, I could still institute my own spending freeze, because a lot of my “experience spending” happens with friends and not with my husband (we only very rarely order in these days and haven’t had a night out in ages). So I still might do it in February, we’ll see.
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This final pattern is a relatively new one for me, so I’m glad I’m recognizing it now. It goes something like this. I have a lot of projects that I want to get done around the house and at work. I realize I have a few days off when the kids are in school so I put off all the projects expecting to get them done during those “kid free days” (which really end up being “kid free hours”). Then those days come and I don’t get nearly as much done as I’d hoped, I panic that nothing is ever going to get done. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
This is a relatively new pattern for me because it only started when my daughter started at a school with a different break calendar than my own. It’s taken me a good year and a half to recognize that I do this, and realize that I need to make time for longer-term projects during daily life. I told my husband that I’ll need at least two full weekend days at work a month from now on. I’ll try to take them on alternating weekends. And on the weekends I’m home, I’d like to get an hour or so of long-term project work done each weekend, like actually taking the clothes that I’ve collected in bags all over the house to Young Families Resource Center, or going through the toy boxes in the living room. I plan to put this stuff on the calendar, and I recognize it will probably requiring doing less of other things I value, but I hope the general piece of mind from feeling more on top of things will even out any sacrifices that have to be made.