You don't have to be everything, all the time, for everyone.
My husband is active-duty military and we are currently stationed overseas—so for us, that means he's never really home. And all the housekeeping, car maintenance, dog-mom-duties, and toddler disaster prevention are on me most of the time.
And mostly, I'm okay with it. Heck, I actually love it. I get long, uninterrupted mornings with my daughter, picking dandelions and looking up at the clouds. We take leisurely walks with our rescue pup, chasing birds and looking at the differences between leaves. She naps (some days), and I spend time stitching or stringing words together into a story or just plain ol' laundry or dishes or mopping.
In the midst of all of this, the hardship of motherhood and the wonder in her little eyes, I've had to remind myself—constantly—to take a break. To give myself a break, and a little grace. To fuel myself first, even when it feels like the last thing on my mind.
For me, that looks like getting up before anyone else in the house, stretching or doing yoga or just sitting and drinking tea while catching up on a book. It looks like leaving my daughter with friends and painting my nails in the car while I drink a smoothie and think about absolutely nothing. It looks like finding a quiet corner in the public library to type on my laptop, finally writing the book I always said I'd write.
Best of all, when my husband is home, we have a deal: four hours to myself every Saturday. During those hours, I am officially off-the-clock, so to speak. Unless it's a bonafide, we're-going-to-the-hospital emergency, he's not allowed to call or text me. It's up to him to figure it out.
Sometimes I leave the house and get my hair done. Sometimes I re-organize the garage because it's been bugging me for weeks. Sometimes I sit and read and miss my daughter so desperately I want to cry—but I know she's in good hands. The hours are good for the two of them—quality time reading together and playing.
Afterward, I can come back and I can smile, and I can be all in. I can sit with her and not wonder about the last time I was in the bathroom by myself, or the last time I sat and read a book without a small person asking for Goldfish every five minutes, or a dog nosing my leg until we go for a walk.
When you take a break, you are communicating to yourself something profound and lovely: You are important too, mama. I know the work you're doing is demanding and has long hours. I know that on some days, the rewards can feel few. But you, you gorgeous, beautiful person with a heart full of love to give even when your energy level is critical—even when the coffee is running low and your patience even lower—you deserve to be treated gently. You deserve to have your needs met. You owe it to yourself to cultivate your relationship with yourself.
It's so easy to forget who we are in the midst of all the chaos. To try to think about who we were before mothers but can't, because our minds go blank. When I take time for myself, when I take a break, I get to remember who I am, just a little.
Oh, right! I love to run—the rhythm of my feet hitting the pavement is soothing when my mind is overwhelmed.
Oh, right! It feels so good to go to brunch with that friend I never see, to have someone lift me up, to hear them say, "You're doing a good job. I see you."
Oh, right! I love my husband. Even when he's driving me bananas, or eats all the bananas, or buys the wrong bananas. (I didn't know that was possible until I got married.)
And when all of that isn't enough to motivate me to take some time, just for me, I look into my daughter's eyes and remember that I am setting an example for her.
I am showing her that taking care of yourself is important, on a basic, fundamental level. I am setting an example of loving myself, hoping that my footsteps will guide the way, my words will light the path, and she will learn how to love herself too. That she will learn how to be her own best friend and how to say, "It's okay to take a break."
So, mama, if no one has told you today: it's okay. It doesn't make you a bad mom and can help make you a better one. It doesn't have to be expensive, or long, or complicated—five minutes of meditation in the morning, going for a walk with a girlfriend, learning a new hobby, just for you.
The world tells us that to love our kids and to be a good mom, that we have to love every minute of it. And we can love every minute of it, even as we step out for some much needed me-time.
You deserve it.