I am their mother—totally, wholly and entirely. It is my proudest role. But that is not all I am.
If you’re a sleep-deprived mama that stays up late for no reason, I get you.
No, really. I get you.
I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that at one point, someone has said to you: Okay, you’re sleep deprived—it’s essentially all you ever talk about, so why are you still up now that the kids are in bed?
My very logical, rational husband doesn’t understand why, despite the fact that I haven’t slept for longer than a two-hour stretch over the past couple of months, I still stay up well past the kids’ bedtime. ‘You say you want ‘me-time’—but isn’t sleep the ultimate ‘me-time’? ‘ He asked me once.
Before I had kids, the concept of ‘me-time’ was pretty stock standard.
I’d take the full hour lunch break at work and walk through the shops with no agenda whatsoever. On the weekend, I’d set off to the gym on my own for an hour and then stop by my favorite cafe and grab a cappuccino. Sometimes I’d get more than one bout of ‘me-time’ in one day. It was great.
Me and myself had the perfect amount of quality time together.
Now, as a stay-at-home-mother of two kids under 3, most mornings start with me being pulled from my bed either figuratively, by the sound of my 6-month-old wanting to nurse, or literally, by my 2.5-year-old yanking on one of my limbs asking for her daily smoothie and Paw Patrol. (Disclaimer: if I’m really lucky she wakes up at 5:30 a.m. and her father is the recipient of this wake-up call instead.) After getting out of bed, I begin the diaper-changing-breakfast-providing factory line as quickly as possible so that I can inject some caffeine into my bloodstream.
Enter one of the top-5 things I didn’t quite understand before I had kids...being a stay-at-home-mom means that almost everything I do in the course of a day, will be interrupted.
I’m going to be totally honest with you—recently I’ve felt myself becoming resentful towards the fact that I am always, always, being interrupted.
I never get a minute to myself.
I can’t finish a single task from start to finish. And on the rare occurrence that I do, it’s usually when they’re napping—and I can’t really bask in the success of that because the whole process was saturated with the anxiety and panic of wondering whether I just heard someone wake up.
Hungry? Don’t bother making that sandwich. That’s why the cliché of mothers eating their kids’ leftovers was born.
Need to pee? Sure. Go right ahead, knowing that you will be followed, so you will either have an audience or the phrase “are you finished?” chanted repeatedly through the door loudly.
Just had a moment of inspiration for something you want to do? A project you might want to start, perhaps? BAM. Stop. Interruption. I need a snack. I need crackers. I want to go to the playground. I’m sitting on my baby sister. I’m hungry again. Feed me. My gums hurt. Hold me. That sound scared me. Hold me. I just rolled over and now I’m stuck. Pick me up. Feed me. Hold me. Play with me. Sing to me. Dance with me. Just sit there and watch me. Deal with my diaper. Now deal with her diaper. Oops, my diaper again, please. Feed me. I need you. I’m tired. I need to sleep. I’m bored. Let’s play. Feed me. Hold me.
Wait, what was my thought again?
I’ve recently created a list on my smartphone titled “Things I Want To Do.”
Do not confuse this with a simple to-do list.
It’s not just things I need to do. It’s made up of the haphazard half-thoughts that run through my mind while I’m tending to the kids. The thoughts I don’t quite get to finish. The moments of inspiration to start something, do something, think about something. I’ve started noting them down. It’s made up of the little errands that crop up. Things I know I’ll probably forget. It’s made up of emails I need to send. Text messages I need to respond to. New recipes I want to try. Amazing world-altering ideas I have.
It’s sort of like a poor man’s Pinterest board, I suppose.
When I surveyed this list the other day, I thought to myself, ‘When will I ever get around to doing all, or any, of these things?’
Resentment. I felt that resentment again. And I didn’t like that feeling.
I did understand though—this is why I stay up late.
The few hours between the kids going to bed, and the first middle-of-the-night waking, are the only hours in a day where I might possibly not be interrupted. Even a need as basic as sleep is interrupted, from when my head hits the pillow until it’s time for the day to officially start.
So I sit there, splayed on the couch at 8 p.m., wanting to do everything—everything—on that list, but literally feeling like I can’t move my body and will it to do anything at all. I’m just. So. Tired.
So a couple of days ago, I told my husband I needed something.
I need a regular date—with myself.
While I’m home with our children, I need to be interrupted, but then be able to graciously accept that interruption and not feel like I have to cast away everything that I want to the side.
I need to think of something I want to do, just for myself, be interrupted, be okay with being interrupted because I know that I’ll have my time to get back to that thing, whatever it was.
So I asked for a weekly 3-hour me-time date. To do whatever I want, wherever I want, however I want.
Maybe I want three hours to bake in the kitchen while he takes the kids out somewhere. Maybe I’ll go out to a cafe on my own and write. Maybe I want to lock myself in the study with noise-cancelling headphones on and design something. Maybe I want to go for a run. Maybe I want to get my nails done. Maybe I just want to walk somewhere, anywhere, and stop and explore whenever I feel like it. Maybe I want to call my mom. Or finally sort out that really messy cupboard. Or sleep. Take a nap. Go for a swim. Whatever.
When I started feeling that resentment, I knew I had to change something.
This wasn’t my children’s fault. They’re not out to get me. This is my job. I’m supposed to be here, and really be here, for them. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to try and do things for myself as well while I’m with them, but I need to make peace with the fact that with kids this young, they will need me—often, and for almost everything. I will be interrupted. I most likely won’t finish most of the things that I start.
And that’s okay. That’s just how things flow with little kids around.
But I don’t want to lose myself. I don’t want to forget who I am.
I am their mother—totally, wholly and entirely. It is my proudest role and it fills me with so much joy and love I can barely take it. But that is not all I am. I was, and am, many things before I became their mother. I miss her, sometimes. She has a heart that fills with excitement at the prospect of a new project or goal. She is revitalized by the adrenaline flowing through her body after going for an intense run. She loves to sing—loud. She has ideas. She wants to do things. She loves her family, but she feels that part of herself becoming smaller and quieter.
She knows that motherhood is an indescribable, beautiful sacrifice of so much of yourself, but she also knows, that to be able to take care of the people she brought into the world, she needs to make sure she takes care of herself, too. She needs to take herself out on a date, to remember what she loves about herself and to remind herself of everything she has been through to arrive at this landing point in her life.
Does the mama in your life need a date with herself?
I’m willing to bet she probably does. Whether you are that mama, or you’re married to her, or you’re her best friend, her parent, her neighbor—tell that mama to take herself out on a date. She may resist it and start to tell you the five hundred reasons why it’s not feasible. Whether you’re talking to yourself, or to another person, tell her—this is important. You can make this work. You don’t even need to leave the house. And you’ll be happy you did it afterward.