“We don’t really learn anything properly until there’s a problem, until we are in pain, until something fails to go as we had hoped… We suffer, therefore we think.” Alain de Botton
Conflict makes me uncomfortable, but only with those closest to me. I can stand up on a crowded train and tell someone to watch their language, yet struggle to tell my husband why I am upset or hurting. I do know however, that through conflict comes change. Conflict helps us grow and shift. We can learn some big lessons during tough times, as conflict is always there to serve us. This is no easy task though. Learning lessons from life requires you to sit back and listen, to trust the little voice in your head, and to open yourself up to the possibilities lain out before you.
Change is hard, but change can be good.
The reason conflict and change weigh so heavily in my mind, is that both words describe my life over the past few months (accurately). There have been big conflicts that have led to some wild and wonderful changes, and I can certainly sit here now in gratitude. The main relationship in conflict was the one with my husband. The catalyst was our children.
As I have pointed out in previous posts, Mothers are constantly evolving. One day we are plodding along nicely with two babes in tow, happy as Larry. The next day we start our own business because we want to make a change in the world, create an income, meet new people, be independent and expand our minds. It often quite literally happens like that, overnight and without warning, with her family left in a temporary state of chaos. No one quite knowing what is going on as Mumma tries to find her balance and make time for the things she wants, and the things that need to happen.
Suddenly there is a shift, and this often causes conflict.
That is certainly what happened in all the DeFuze households, though fortunately it happened to us as separate times, and we were able to support each other through it. Kids and husbands. Pain and pleasure. The main source of conflict in my household was my (then) 2 year old. Her unwillingness to eat dinner unless it came in the form of toast and chocolate (but dear God not together!), and her inability to fall asleep unless I was sitting beside her and she was squeezing my boob. Maisey was a reluctant boob weaner, so consequently still gets her comfort fix from squeezing a boob, any boob by the way. But I digress…
So, Maisey’s night time habits were becoming a source of conflict in our lives. It didn’t help that I was suddenly talking business and blogs and expansion, leaving my husband no down time with his wife, and a night time routine that he disagreed with, so therefore took no part in. We drifted further and further into our own little evening rituals. Him clearing the kitchen in a huff that I had left it in such a state, while I bathed the kids and made lunches, cursing him for never asking if I need help. Later he would retreat to watch sport while I sat with Maisey watching something on the laptop or playing around on my phone. By 8.30pm I would emerge, somewhat recharged as I had used the time to give myself some much needed respite, him half asleep on the couch. We would half-heartedly watch a show together, usually fall asleep half way through, before retreating to bed to do it all over again tomorrow.
Even as I type it all out in words, I can feel the tension rising. This tension resulted in quite the blow up. I won’t go into detail, it was nasty and it was hurtful to both of us. I had the divorce papers printed and his bags at the door, (joking! Or am I Phillip?). Then slowly, through time in silence and refection, we both came to see the problem.
We had stopped working as a team.
We were two parents, parenting differently. Rather than discuss what we were feeling, we ignored it, until it could be ignored no longer. I am in line with aware parenting, Phill likes routine and structure, the idea of a loose routine verses a strict routine can often cause conflict. I had a routine, but it wasn’t timed or perfectly consistent. Phill wanted a firm routine, but since he didn’t participate in our current one, had no way of changing things. So he picked a fight.
Conflict can be huge. It can both put up and bring down the barriers with those closest to us. But if we can reflect and grow from them, perhaps we will remember not to hide from them in the future.
This week has been bliss in my household.
Not only have things been running smoothly, everyone is happy and has time for each other. We are a team again. We are making the calls together, and it is impacting everyone in our team.
Phill and I both have more time to be alone, and together. The bed time routine is more structured, but also filled with more love as each child gets time with a parent that they weren’t getting previously. No one is stressed and ready to just throw them into bed. Maisey is eating and sleeping better, I am getting more work done, Phill is spending more time with the kids, and Ollie… well Ollie is just cruisey cruise as normal.
As I type this now, at 6am in a quiet house with a cuppa beside me, I can ponder and reflect on the absolute blessings that came out of this conflict. It is also interesting to think that the outward conflict with Phill was also a reflection of the internal conflict I was having within myself. I knew things needed to change, but I didn’t know how to do it. I didn’t know how to admit that I was unhappy with how the household was performing, or that I felt I had to perform all these tasks alone and to perfection. If I had been able to express these emotions, Phill would undoubtedly have listened and comforted, but had we not gone through this conflict, I doubt either of us would have grasped the enormity of what the other was feeling and we would not have made the necessary changes with such openness and efficiency.
It frustrates and saddens me that we often miss the opportunities for ‘good’ conflict. We never take advantage of times where life is safe and calm, where our conflict can occur in quiet and help us to move forward. So often we wait until the conflict can be held back no longer, and it ends up loud, messy and hurtful.
Relationships aren’t easy, yet we are so often shown these blissful images of the ‘soulmate’, making it difficult to navigate yourself when things get tough. No one teaches us how to ‘fight right’.
Conflict is both necessary and inevitable, but with the right tools at hand, it can be a wonderful path of discovery for all parties involved. Learning how to listen, how to respond and how to use conflict to grow is no easy feat. This path of growth is only just opening up to me, and I am standing here with arms open wide, ready to embrace the conflict and learn from it.
So there it is, the conflict and the change. When we encounter conflict with those closest to us, it can cause the biggest heartache, but it can also gift us the biggest lessons. It is up to each of us to listen, to each other, to ourselves, and to the universe.
Because the lessons are there to guide us, if we let them.
This blog post was first published in May 2017, but still rings just as true today, as if written yesterday. Edits February 2018.
Michelle Bell is a mother of 2 who is spending 2018 working on her dream house with her husband. Michelle is a firm believer of supporting your village, and created Clean Bee Au to support mother's in her community in a way that would still allow her time with her family. She is 1/3 of the DeFuze Australia Team and enjoys sharing the love through Instagram and Blogs.