The Paradox of Self-efficacy And Family

Family, I’ve often pondered the complexity of them.

They can bind us in both good and bad ways, there is no end to the drama they can create and yet they form the very fabric of society and inevitably shape us as individuals.

While there’s no denying the ‘picture’ of family is evolving, some things stay the same.

I had yet another sobering conversation today with a friend, you know the kind where questions are posed about ‘how as adults, are we meant to live together….happily, with all the chaos that family-life brings: having kids, working to pay a mortgage, trying to find time as a couple?’

Add to that, the pressure to seem like a ‘got-it-together’ family unit and you’ve got a recipe for major unhappiness.

It’s an ongoing conversation that does the rounds with pretty much all my friends and I’m beginning to wonder if it qualifies as enough empirical research to write a PhD thesis.

But in all seriousness, I know we’ve all had these conversations with friends (well, at least women do) and it’s gotten to the point where I’m not just wondering HOW we can change it, this whirlwind that is family life, but WHAT are the factors that created it.

Prior to starting our own families, we were responsible only for ourselves. Free to ride the wave of opportunity, to try out a few things and along the way, develop a good grounding in who we thought we were and our capabilities.

As Psychologist Dr Bandura labels it, we had a relatively high level of self-efficacy, the belief in our capabilities to organise and execute the courses of action required to manage situations’.

In short, we rocked! Nothing was beyond our reach and we were confident enough to know what it was we had to do, to get it. Confidence ensured success and success ensured confidence.

It was this period in my life where the pull to live and work abroad outweighed any apprehensions I might have had earlier in my life and the desire to travel alone was thrilling. Forget that I’d never done it before, I was pretty sure I’d figure it out.

But enter steady relationship, kids and the pressures of work and fast-forward to the current age of emotional turmoil, sleep deprivation (no doubt the cause of the emotional turmoil) and constant guilt at stuffing up the juggling act that is working and being a parent and a spouse………and well ….. the scales on the old self-efficacy have turned, big time.

Seeing as success is the basis for building belief in one’s personal efficacy, our relatively new (and what feel like everyday) ‘failures’, naturally undermine it.

Succeeding at completing a tantrum free visit to the supermarket, seems about as likely as me becoming the next Prime Minister and achieving a quiet uninterrupted conversation with my partner… well better left as a distant memory. We’ve inevitably got lost along the way.

Our circumstance have changed and relatively quickly, our stress has multiplied in these different areas merging and we are still playing catch-up, that we haven’t had time to regroup and develop self-efficacy in this new ‘family’ terrain.

The screaming toddler at the supermarket, the work deadlines that yet again aren’t met, the partner who feels like a stranger, the waking baby every 2 hours, the house that looks like a tip…. better yet, all combined!

Just how do we navigate this and try to stay sane, let alone happy, as individuals AND as a family?

We’ve lost confidence in ourselves, because our sense of ‘self’ no long exists in the traditional sense. WE are a family, bound by blood (and sweat and tears seems highly appropriate to add here), but from exactly this, is where I reckon we should draw strength and in turn success.

Families by their nature are complex and so are we as individuals. We will never work it ALL out, but we can try to go easy on ourselves and accept that we are in a new (albeit freaky) phase of our life.

That nobody has really got it together, that you never really ‘arrive’ in life and that our successes may be measured in small increments.

Maybe instead of regaining self-efficacy, we’ll develop ‘us-efficacy’ a way of believing in OUR abilities as a team, a family, to manage situations.

Too airy-fairy for you, well maybe even for me, but we can live (and try), in hope….together.

 

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The Mobile Cafe

I love a coffee; the aroma, the taste, the buzz … but I used to love the coffee shop experience even more. It’s the soft comfy chairs, the funky tunes nestled in the background, the hum of conversation and the glass cabinets filled with wicked little treats. What can I say, I’m a sucker for sweets.

I used to hang out in this little French café in Holland Park while I was living in London and it not only sold amazing coffee and an array of fine French pastries, but it had this ambience that encouraged thought, great conversations and was a place I could indulge in reading and creative writing.

I remember feeling like Ernest Hemingway, watching the world go by as is sipped on my flat white (although I’m pretty sure he would have downed a short black along with a few cigarettes).

That was BC (Before Children). I’ve foolishly attempted to enter this arena since having my boys and each time I’ve shunted away from the coffee haven battle scared, head down, coffee undrunk and more than a little embarrassed.

Not because of my children, but more because I was stupid enough to think that I could indulge in a purely selfish treat WITH children who are flat out sitting still for one whole minute.

Look, I’ve seen it work for some parents but I’ve come to the realisation that never again will I be existing in that realm of cool, casual, coffee drinkers for at least the next 15 years.

Sobering stuff, enough to make me sit down with a cup of coffee while I write this from the confines of my bedroom (and yes the instant coffee just doesn’t cut it!).

What’s an Ernest Hemingway, sweet tooth, coffee lover to do? Well, it’s not glamorous and it’s by no means a solution, but I’ll call it a stop gap for now……..The Mobile Café and it exists out of my car. Yes people, it does involve a Drive-Thru process (usually of the ‘M’ variety) and it does include a lot of compromises, but bear with me.

For me at the moment, the car is neither a special place nor a quiet space, but it does offer a few benefits:

  1. is the fact that the kids are belted in (haha no cheeky escapes),
  2. it contains an outlet for music (due to settle any frayed nerves experienced while getting the kids into their seat belts) and
  3. I’ve discovered that the layout of a car’s interior really does cater for your coffee and treats to be secretly hidden away from greedy eyes in the back, and the seats are pretty comfy too.

So, I know it’s no coffee shop ‘experience’ and I’m certainly not engaging in any deep thought or creative writing processes here, but it’s a practical option and a winning retreat for me.

The fact that my 2 year old son now asks for ‘coffee’ is a little disconcerting and my husband is beginning Mobile Cafeto ask questions about our spiralling fuel bill, but I figure I’ll bring him round….. ‘Can I shout you a coffee, honey? Jump in’.

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A Natural High

There are times when I love silence, pure silence. It’s a rare commodity these days in our lives (we’ll mine sunrise womanat least) and so sometimes I seek it, indulge in it, and even revere it. But then there are those moments when I’m happiest, surrounded by music.

I love music. There is no better outlet for your creative, daring and wilful soul, than grooving around to a funky tune (especially a newly discovered one), at close to maximum volume.

You know that scene from ‘Jerry Maguire’ where Tom Cruises’ character is having a moment of release in the car, singing (rather badly) at the top of his voice to Tom Petty’s ‘Free Falling’. Yeah, we’ve all been there, and how good does it feel? My only gripe is that there’s never enough leg room in our car to bang that beat out hard enough and I’m just not so keen on whacking it out on the steering wheel. But damn it feels good to let yourself enjoy the music.

I’m pretty sure its primal, cause from my observations of others over the years, be it at a nightclub, a dance class or a concert, rhythm or musicality ain’t strictly necessary, certainly not to enjoy yourself.

Ok, sometimes alcohol may have been a party to ‘the party’, but smashing out a few bars of a song at the top of your voice or busting some snazzy moves on the floor amongst friends and even strangers, is surely the result of powerful forces at play. There is no shortage of studies which tell us the positive benefits of music for our brain and in turn, our mood. But we don’t need to read those studies to know that really.

At the moment, ‘The Wiggles’ get quite a bit of air time in our car and in the house and while there’s no denying it’s a little irritating at times, the boys love having a groove and if I’m honest, I’ve been known to ‘Do the Propeller’ with genuine enthusiasm too.

My eldest was in the car on the way to school the other day, when a latest pop song came on the radio and before I even had a chance to launch myself into the tune, he beat me to it, word for word, head bobbing, eyes closed and all!

I finally got myself along to an adult dance class this week (no, not that kind of dancing). First one for 15 years, so you can imagine the fallout. I used to take Jazz and Ballet classes as a youngster, for fun. The nightclub/ party scene in my 20’s was my outlet for dance, but now in my late 30’s, options and outlets to get my groove on, were thin on the ground.

Hence my need to join an adult Street Dance class. It was awesome! I am seriously unfit, a bit too jiggly in placed to pull some moves and not as fast as I used to be, but the music took me over and kept me in the moment. It was sheer joy and a welcome release to find my body moving in ways I knew it could and wanted, to the music. To hell with what I looked like!

But bloody hell am I paying for it now! It hurts to sit down on the toilet seat, it hurts to get up off the damn toilet seat. I could barely hang the washing out today. I’m embarrassed to admit that reaching for the line above me produced some audible ‘ahhs’ (I’m pretty sure I heard the neighbour close his adjacent window at this point), but small price to pay.music

It’s that point of wilful release, where we allow ourselves to let go to the music, that you can feel truly free and happy. For me there is no better natural high… that you can do on your own!

So go on, crank up your latest or greatest fav tune, whether it be on your phone, CD player, portable speaker, car radio, I-Pod (do people still own these….. no seriously?) and allow yourself a moment to just let it all go.

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