Imagine something with me: You have two children, babies really, who are two years and 5 months old. All last week they were sick, and therefore clingy, and whiny, and they didn’t go to school so you didn’t have a break. And they were waking up in the middle of the night, which means you weren’t feeling particularly rested. But today they’re not sick it’s just the usual yelling of “Mom!” approximately every two minutes, or irrational crying, all in between nursing, and preparing lunch, and cleaning messes. But really it’s the constant hum of the wining in the background that starts to undo you a little. And it’s been a few years that you find yourself getting burned out rather easily. Of course, it is such a sweet life and you love your little beans; you have so much to be grateful for. A thought slips in, wishing you could get out for just a second, or have a quiet moment to focus on something that ignites your souls, but since you can’t, you occasionally let yourself indulge in a little self-pity.
On Wednesday I was mentally and physically worn down and feeling a little burned out. I was standing over there in the living room where I can catch myself in the mirror and I was starting to get really irritated with my two year old. I was mad at her for whining, and keeping me in, and just being two. And that’s right where I heard “GO TO THE GYM”.
“I can’t go to the gym,” I told myself.
“Yes, you can.”
“But the kids don’t like it.”
“They will be okay for thirty minutes. They are safe, and the childcare is age appropriate and your discomfort with their initial discomfort is not a good enough excuse not to take care of yourself.”
“It’s so much work just to get them in the car.”
“GO TO THE GYM.”
The rationalizations for my helplessness were no longer valid. I was getting mad at the two year old for being two and making excuses for not taking care of myself. And it really wasn’t fair to her, or anyone else in my family, for me to not provide what only I can do for myself. I am the only one who can supply the self-care that I need, so I have to stop waiting around for someone else to take care of me.
So I went to the gym, and I took my time – giving myself a whole 45 minutes. The two year old actually had fun coloring and the baby slept. It finally made sense that whatever it is I’m waiting around for isn’t going to happen on its own. It’s not only important that I take care of myself, it’s actually unfair to my kids and husband to be in denial about the resentment I’m holding towards them for something that’s not even their responsibility. IT IS NOT FAIR TO THE PEOPLE I LOVE NOT TO TAKE CARE OF MYSELF. There is a cutural narrative that moms who stay home with their children often feel frazzled and don’t have any time for themselves, but are of course grateful for the opportunity to be at home. When did I start letting some thoughtless construct of motherhood become an excuse for not living with the joy intended for me?
So you know what I did on Thursday? I got a manicure and allowed myself some time to write. And I let myself off the hook on making a perfect dinner. Magically, the two year old seems happier. I think she senses that she’s no longer carrying the weight I was inadvertently putting on her. My happiness is no longer her burden nor my husbands or anyone else’s.