When the house is quiet these days, something is terribly, terribly wrong and will probably require stitches, bleach, and Magic Eraser.
I’m not a new mom anymore; my babies are now 6, 5, and 3 and I know many tricks, tips, and facts about motherhood and parenting. Crying baby? Give it here; I know the mommy bounce rhythm. It’s dinner time and there’s nothing to eat? I’m a kitchen MacGyver. School day morning and nothing is ready before we leave the house? I can get everyone up, dressed, fed, and backpacks and lunches ready in 30 minutes or less. Even more, my professional role is based on my knowledge of child development and mental health. I’m supposed to be an expert in this stuff! What I haven’t mastered, the trick I’m working on now, is how well I take care of myself.
Before giving birth to my oldest, I had the usual fears of being selfish, self-centered, and too lazy to be a good mother. Once he was born, however, I pumped for 15 minutes every three hours to make sure he had enough breast milk for the nurses to feed him as he spent his first ten days of life in the NICU. Once he came home I fed and changed him every two hours because he was a preemie and I was feeding on demand. My love and devotion to providing him everything he needed to grow healthy and happy slowly wore away the fears that I couldn’t be a good mother.
Then baby two came and she had colic; worries of selfishness returned as I battled maintaining my sanity with my belief in baby wearing and how to calm a crying baby. She and I made it through many 6-8 hour crying jags and not all of that crying was her. Eighteen months later baby three came. By then I was too busy racing after a three year old and a toddler to worry about myself. “Me time” was going to the grocery store, personal time was limited to taking a shower, dressing up meant my shirt only had one stain on it and I was wearing jeans instead of yoga pants and quiet time meant only one child was yelling.
Today I’m used to a noisy home; I’m comfortable with the morning rush out the door and evening battles over ice cream for dinner, brushing teeth, and how bright the nightlight should be. What I have lost touch with is what to do for me. I’m a clinical social worker, which means my career revolves around supporting others and my home spins around my nurture and care for my family.
It occurred to me that my babies are now children. They can now do most basic things for themselves and are able to help out with chores. I have time again and so today I’m going to read a book for fun, write what is meaningful to me, go for a run, paint my nails and sit there DOING NOTHING until they dry. Today, tomorrow, and the day after, I’m going to nurture myself and take care of myself as with the same love, patience and gentleness that I offer my children and clients.
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