Hello Robot-Mode.

5:30am – Alarm

I don’t even beg the morning for more sleep.

Swing my legs. Sit up. Walk to the stove top.

Heat water for tea.

Make lunches for school.

“Good morning.”

“Hello love.”

“How did you sleep?”

Hug the one that needs a lot of hugs.

“Eat breakfast.”

“Get ready for school.”

“Yes, you have sport today.”

“Formal uniform for you, yes.”

“Is this enough lunch for you today?”

“You can’t play until you have your shoes on.”

“Try and do it yourself first and then I’ll help you if you need it.”

“Get ready!”

“Who left the bowl on the table? It goes in the sink please.”

“Don’t forget to brush your teeth.”

“Just let me finish my tea and then I’ll help you with that.”

“What are we doing in your hair today?”

“Can you empty the dishwasher this morning please? Thank you for that.”

“Remember your homework book.”

“No, library is tomorrow. Check the calendar.”

“Your talk is not until next week so we still have time.”

“I still have one lunch box sitting here! Whose is it? Come and put it in your bag!”

“Does everyone have everything? Lunchbox? Hat? Bag? Everything?”

“Get in the car.”

“It’s time to go!”

“Love you. Love you. Love you. Love you.”

Kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss.

Hug for the one who always needs an extra hug.

“Have a great day.”

And…Take a breath.

In many ways, I’m doing well at home here.  I’m on my own with the kids 99% of the time during the school week. I’m quite organised this year and have a system that’s working relatively well.  Uniforms are ready and washed every day; socks sit neatly waiting in a box.  Nutritious lunches are provided 99% of the time; and that stat goes with dinners too: 99% are healthy homemade dinners.  The house is in good lived-in order. The kitchen is clean before I go to bed 99% of the time. I get the kids to school on time 99% of the time.  I’m juggling after school activities and getting the kids into bed at a good hour 99% of the time…all fed, watered and clean.  I’m managing my work deadlines okay. Personally, I’m eating well and sticking to my exercise plan 99% of the time.  

99%

99% Robot. That’s me right now.  

I mean, seriously, I read the paragraph above, and I’m totally smashing it. 99%! Dude! That’s awesome compared to your effort last year!

There’s a switch somewhere inside me, and it flicks sometimes. Hello Robot-Mode.  H–E–L–L–O ROBOT-MODE!  You know what? Part of me likes Robot-Mode because I become mechanical and go and go and go; and manage and manage and manage. Go me.

This time I’m whispering: “Go me.”

Robot-mode is easier. It means I can sustain 99%. I smash out each day and get it done. Meet that expectation.  Arise to that deadline.  Get there on time. Be strong. Be patient. Be kind. Be patient. Be patient. Be patient. Good you put that alert program in there Kelly. Healthy food. Must remember to buy fruit today. And carrots. What’s for dinner?  Anticipate. Anticipate. Be proactive. Think ahead. Wash. Wash. Wash. Work. Work. WorkAfternoon tea: sorted. Sign that note. It goes there.  This here. That up. Down. Side to side. Nod. 

Robot-mode is easier.

But is it better? Well, certainly looks that way on paper.

And yet, I have no idea what I’ve been doing for the last month.  It’s a blur of mechanics.  People ask me, “How was your week?” and I don’t know what to say. I pause and think for a moment. Truth to be told: I don’t know how my week was. But I got it done. Yes siree, I did. It’s like those times when you drive a familiar route, and arrive at the destination not remembering how you got there.

That.

Is that a good thing?

Here’s the quandary.

The only way I can smash it out, do well and sustain it all right now, IS to be in Robot-Mode.

Another factor: The kids respond very well to the routine I have going; they are pretty settled all things considered (as much as variable-ness of family life can be settled).    On surface appearances, it appears everyone does better when I’m in Robot-Mode. I’ll say that again: everyone seems to do better when I’m a robot.

Because I’m good robot.  I even programmed it to be nice and kind. You see?

Everyone does better when I’m a robot.

I let the thought weigh on me for a moment.  And I realised it hurt.

It surprised me to find tears well in my eyes. I didn’t know I felt sad inside because I was so busy “smashing it out”. I guess a bit of resentment crept in too.

But I don’t have time for tears!  No! They must go! Shut the iron door on them!

And onward!

Keep doing it. Left, right, left right. Morning. Night. Day after day.  

Kids are happy. Happier because the switch is on. Happier and more settled because Robot-Mum is here.

And so it makes me wonder if that is all I am: A robot keeping the boat a float.

I wonder if that is what I must be: A robot serving to keep the harmony of family life.

Because I am a mother.

I listen to the voices telling me:

“You just need some me-time.”

So often it’s one of those surface lines people say that hold no real value.

I can hear a voice saying to me:

“Well, you’re just doing too much Kelly.”

Yet I know that’s not it.

Others say:

“Don’t be so hard on yourself.”

And I know that’s not it either.

And more voices chime in:

“Stop whinging, and just be grateful.”

Fighting the conflict between the weight of sadness against the steel of resolve; I sort through the echo of voices in my head — and I realise something.

There’s change tied up with Robot-Mode.

A transition.

A life season change.

Yes.

THAT is what flicked the switch.

For me, Robot-Mode is activated during times of shift in family life. I remember it when I first became a mother, during the long days and sleepless nights. I remember it when adjusting after the Queensland foods in 2011.

All of a sudden, I stopped to realise the current big shift as my husband works further away and we all see him much, much less.  I recognise this new phase of life now with all my children at school, their growing independence and my desire to facilitate expereicnes. Then there’s the opportunity to for me to work more and the juggle that comes with that. The combination of change hit.

Robot-Mode is Captain-Mode.

It clicks in when the waves are challenging or the water is deep.

It’s for when there is change in the air and leaves fall; when the chill descends; the flowers bloom; or the heat comes.

But does Robot-Mode define me?  Does it overtake me?  Is it required of me?

No. Not forever. Yes. (I qualify: Yes for now).

The trick is knowing when to turn Robot-Mode off. Yes?  Because it must come off: despite the appearance of everything being better when the arrow is up, Robot-Mum is only necessary for a time.  Extended too long and cracks will form in relationships, in connections.  Left unharnessed and there will be long-term personal regret. Somehow, I know that.  And I don’t want to be a robot, managing life into a blur of doing, done.

No.

So I will do two things, no three:

1. I will leave the switch flicked for now. However, I will look at it slightly differently.  I will embrace my God-given capabilities and sail through these transition waters.  And I will stand with confidence and a happy heart knowing this level of servitude leadership is required for a time for the harmony of those most precious to me in the world. There’s beauty in that.  There’s privilege in that even.

2.  When the waters are less challenging — when the transition has passed into a steady hum — I will seek to be aware of when to turn off the switch. I will.

3. And I will find a way back into my body again.  It will come.

The grind will once again, become the journey. 

And that is better.

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Comments

  1. says

    Interesting post Kelly! I know Robot mode very well, but have never really thought about how I feel about it – hmmmmmm. Off to bed to mull it over a little bit more! Thanks for making me think!

    • says

      You know, I don’t really think I have thought about it before either…I guess that is part of why I like writing things out sometimes because it helps me see things under the surface and I’ve learned the value of, recognising, acknowledging and understanding them. I just know myself and this mode I get into — it’s good in some ways — however, it can be harmful long term for my relationship with my husband. It’s tricky actually,because he is gone so much, I sort of have to flick into I-do-absolutely-everything-myself mode and I don’t tend to leave room for variables and become quite militant. It’s a bit of a paradox but I know it’s there so I’ll find ways to come back a little…eventually. Thanks for listening. x

  2. says

    So good Kelly,

    I too have to take the rudder when my husband is away, and I get a bit worried about that robot mentality that kicks in.

    I’ve really been thinking a lot about seasons in life and how we transition them carefully and intentionally (rather than being swept along by circumstances).

    Thanks for giving me more food for thought

    Thanks for this post

    • says

      So appreciate this comment Jodie. I was saying to Jess in the comment above, I find when I’m like this, I know over time it can tend to drive a wedge with my relationship with my husband but it’s tricky because it’s how I cope on my own so well. He is so different from me, and is a more laid back type of person and that’s really good for me, because he tends to balance and regulate me (such a blessing to be in a relationship where two people are willing to work at it and support each other). However, it’s like this merry-go-round thing going on at the moment in this transition phase — I’m in the mind of being on my own, so I’m robot, and he’s not here to balance me out, so I go more robot…haha.

      I like how you say treat transitions in life carefully and intentionally and that is such a beautiful way to look at it.

      I guess, in a way, this is me anticipating how being like this is not helpful long-term and I need to find some more balance and turn down robot-mode but I find it tricky at the moment.

  3. Elisha says

    Thank you Kelly for verbalising exactly where I am right now – in robot mode getting used to a newborn with 2 small girls at home too. Trying to keep on top of the house, meals, investment in each of my children. I’m finding myself to be very militant because it’s the only way things get done, but it’s definitely not the best for the household relationships. Thank you for the reminder that robots don’t last forever, that I will be able to back off a bit when things settle down, and even more importantly, that the robot doesn’t have to be 100% even now, that it’s worth taking the time to enjoy the now. So I’m off to have a sleep rather than get more done whilst the kids are asleep, because we’ll all function better and enjoy life more if I’m a little less tired!

  4. Tierney says

    Perhaps it’s time for a role-reversal day? Get the kids to be “Mum” for a day over the weekend while you are the kid. It’s a fun way to have a real giggle at each other and to all appreciate things again. Plus you get to play and eat lollies while they do the cleaning up. :)

    I go into robot mode when my husband is working away or at nights. It’s really hard sometimes to let him back in, because I get scared that if I rely on someone else then I won’t cope when he’s not there again. But being married means choosing to need each other. That’s really hard sometimes – allowing yourself to need someone rather than being the one meeting all the needs. Letting go is seriously tough. You need to feel safe to be able to do it. How weird is that? When you really need someone is usually the time when you feel the least able to ask for or receive help because you just might collapse in a heap and never get up again.

    Other ideas to feel human for 30 minutes:
    - Buy a bunch of flowers and make a nice pot of tea. Spend half an hour smelling both.
    - Blow a whole lot of bubbles. It’s like doing “breathing exercises” but looks pretty and doesn’t feel stupid.
    - Sit in a coffee shop and read a book for a bit. Sometimes I need lots of noise and to be away from all the jobs that I have to do to feel relaxed.
    - Get take aways and watch a movie in front of the TV one night. Start it at 5:00 so that there is still time for baths etc. Maybe have popcorn or chocolate. Make it a stupid/funny movie with lots of silly jokes to make you laugh.
    - Instead of running one day have a swim instead. There’s something about the light on the water which I find helpful. Or go for a walk on the beach when it is REALLY windy. Seems to blow all the stress out of my head.

    • says

      Tierney, I’ve been mulling over your words for weeks. Especially this “Being married means choosing to need each other. That’s really hard sometimes – allowing yourself to need someone rather than being the one meeting all the needs.”. You hit the nail on the head when it comes to the anxiety of letting matt back in. It’s hard because I feel I need to keep my head in the game or I’ll drop all the balls. Love all your suggestions too. x

  5. Tierney says

    If you haven’t read it already, try “Getting things done”. You can download it on ibooks. Very helpful for getting things out of your head so that your downtime is actually down time. I haven’t managed to get all the way through it yet, but it has been really helpful so far. I’ve been able to “robot mode” a few simple things like cooking meals to the same schedule each week so that the rest of my brain isn’t so worried about the low-level stuff. Means I can breathe more. There’s also an app called “things” which is really helpful to go with it. I’m a really busy and productive person, with a streak towards work-a-holic/perfectionist. I tend to go full steam ahead until something breaks, then keep going until everything falls over, then pick it up and just plow on. It is insane, which I realise, but it’s hard to stop sometimes. What if I stop moving and just fall off the world? I need a way to down tools kind of temporarily and still be able to pick up and carry on. It helps to have a system to put things into (reading GTD + things), and a few ideas to feel like I’m in a different place/mode etc. Hope your next few months get significantly better. xx

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