OH.MY.GOSH! How many times can you say my name?! NO, please don’t actually show me how many.
I bet this only happens in my house.
This past weekend I got a much needed break. From breastfeeding Smunchie to being on Facebook, everything was starting to get on my nerves. I startled Squiggle Bug by snapping at her when she asked me for an apple while I was going to the bathroom instead of simply asking her to wait until I was done. I picked fights with The Piano Man and overreacted to Lolie’s frustration about finding shoes, bickered with Earth Baby and screamed into a pillow in my room after a particularly maddening exchange with The Storyteller. I yelled at the computer. I sneered at a commercial. Everything I wrote was terrible, provided I could write anything at all and that just made me even more of a grouch. When I start getting twitchy, edgy, impatient and in general all-around grumpy it is a tell-tale sign that I need a break. But I hate to admit it. I hate it because it sounds like I don’t like my kids or my work.
Those things couldn’t be further from the truth, I love my kids, I love my work yet sometimes I can’t stand them any more and, if I’m honest, I want to get away from them. Mommy-guilt rears her ugly head then and whispers “what kind of mother wants to get away from her children?”
This kind, I guess.
It is true that upon entering into motherhood we know we will have to make sacrifices and for the most part they are ones we make gladly, our children clearly worth whatever we may have to give up. If need be we would lay down our very lives for our children. But there is really nothing else in life where we would expect anyone to work without breaks 24/7. We recognize the importance of down time, time to pursue creative outlets outside of the stress and demands of work, time away from the people we work with or for and time to rejuvenate ourselves for all recognized careers. We even acknowledge the need for couples to have time apart, space from each other and for siblings to pursue their own interests apart from their brothers and sisters. These needs don’t go away when we have children and become “mommy.”
Most mothers, those that work outside of the home or otherwise, would never neglect their children, not knowingly. They work hard to ensure their children are safe and well cared for, that they have opportunity and beauty in their lives, that they get the rest they need, the chance for creativity, and a wide variety of stimulation. These mothers work tirelessly to nourish the interests of their children, finding and creating healthy and tasty meals, safe and comfortable ways for their children to rest, and to nurture every aspect of the unique individuality of their offspring. With research and careful consideration they reach the conclusions as to what is best for their family and their children taking into account individual as well as community needs in the family. Often times everyone’s needs are weighed except one: mom. She ensures all this for her children but often neglects it for herself.
Whatever style of parenting one practices whether it be attachment parenting or more mainstream styles of parenting, everyone needs breaks. We’re wired that way, to need different stimulation for the health of our brain, to need different activities for our physical health, to need different interactions for our social health, to need rest for our all over health. Yet somehow a mother neglecting these things for herself is completely normal and accepted. Worse, often times it is expected. The truth is though that this isn’t healthy. Relationships, creativity, physical health and general happiness is greatly hampered if we don’t take care of ourselves.
I know some of you though, it’s not enough to hear that you need it, that you will be healthier if you do find time for yourself. You need a bigger motivation to even really consider the idea. So fine, let me explain it another way.
Our children need us to take care of ourselves. In different amounts and levels, our children notice what we do and they copy us. The Piano Man and I have discovered that to have polite children that say “please” and “thank you” without being prompted all we had to do was simply be polite with him. We’ve also discovered that asking them to clear their plate from the table isn’t nearly as effective as us clearing our own plate, inspiring them to do the same. Children copy their parents! One of the most important parenting tools we have is modeling behavior and activities we want our children to emulate and none of us want children that grow into adults that have difficulty respecting their own needs for rest and boundaries. None of us want our children to grow into adults that neglect themselves. None of us want children that grow up to be adults that they are too burned out from giving to others that they have forgotten who they are. For all the nurturing mothers expect of themselves to do for others, that others expect for mothers to freely bestow upon others, mothers tend to be terrible at nurturing themselves. Taking time daily, weekly and monthly to nourish your own needs is important not only for our health but for our children’s as well. When we take care of ourselves our children get to learn from our modeling and they get to have a mom that is refreshed and well cared for to care for them.
But there’s never time, right? Or you can’t leave them? Or they won’t let you leave? And what about those babies that only take mommy’s milk and only straight from the tap? I know, trust me, I’ve been there. While I would never, ever breastfeed my baby in a public bathroom because I was banished there by someone uncomfortable with me feeding my baby in public, there have been plenty of times where I have done the one handed thing to go to the bathroom in my own home with a baby on the boob just so I could finally pee! When I can’t even get to pee by myself how in the world am I going to find time to nurture myself? Some days my big goal is to just pee by myself and my impossible dream would be to get a shower without someone wailing just after my naked self slipped behind the shower curtain and got my hair wet. I really hate that “I-almost-showered-but-just-got-wet-so-now-I’m-even-more-itchy” feeling.
So I know it’s difficult, practically impossible sometimes. But there are ways, little and big that moms can find to nurture themselves. They need to too. Carving out time and letting someone else help can be a vital piece of your family’s over-all health both long and short term. You’d might be surprised how well your child does without you, something that may sting a little. You may also be surprised how just a little time can go a really, really long way. I’ll offer some ideas in another post soon but I’m sure you can take a step back and see where there already may be some room to build a little margin into your life and if there really isn’t then you may need to take a hard look at what needs to change and develop a strategy to do so.
This past weekend, over a span of 3 days, included time for me out of the house to write, The Piano Man staying home with the girls, a work/social gathering over wine and cheese with some friends, a quiet day at home working on a new project with The Piano Man (more on that soon!), 2 sitters for us to have a 5 hour date night out (see pic above, I snapped a shot in the ladies bathroom because I’m classy like that), sleeping in, dinner with some friends and I feel refreshed and energized. Usually it doesn’t even need to be this much, this extreme. I didn’t go out of town or anything like that but I did build some margin in my life and took care of me and my marriage. From there we’re in a better place to take care of our children and you know what? They can tell. I am more patient and creative in relating with my girls, my irritability has melted away and I’m able to write again. The Piano Man is looking mighty fine to me and I’ve lost the chip on my shoulder. Fighting and whining have decreased amongst the girls, creativity has bloomed, conversations have flowed, helpfulness has grown, singing and dancing has increased and independent and community play has taken center stage. Nurturing myself has done a lot for all of us.
It’s not easy and it is possible you may have to get very creative but speaking from someone that has been there, it is worth the effort to figure it out. Neglect yourself and you end up neglecting your family. I know for a fact that I am a better, more balanced and healthy person when I do. Which means, I’m a more balanced and healthy mother when I do. And that is definitely good for my kids.
How do you find time to nurture yourself? Whether it’s a 5 minute reprieve or a chunk of time away from the house, having time for ourself can make a huge difference. What are your tips and ideas? How do you enjoy those moments?
For more ideas on how you can find some ways to nurture yourself, see this post with 22 ideas to take care of you.