I’ve come across so many great articles recently about how important it is to take “me” time as a mom. Can I be honest? I don’t know how people do this during this stage of parenting young kids! In my life, the chores just keep piling up and the kids’ needs are constant, and it’s all I can do to keep my head above water.
One thing that’s particularly hard, though, is that I find I’ve been shoved into the margins. Those itty bitty spaces on the page. All of my chores, all of my personal to-dos, all of my writing and hobbies and side jobs have to squeeze into the infrequent empty spaces throughout the day. And if the baby doesn’t sleep when the toddler does? Well, no time for mama to do any of those things.
I’m tired of being relegated to the margins. I’m frustrated that it’s only after I’ve met everyone else’s needs that I can begin to take care of my own. By that time, it’s usually an hour past my bedtime, so I opt to go to bed. Then – without fail – just as my head hits the pillow the baby wakes up to be fed.
I’m burned out.
One evening it really hit me. I came home from an outing after dark and had planned to do some writing as soon as I got settled at home. As my headlights turned onto our lawn, I saw the kids’ toys sprawled across the driveway and grass. I parked the car at the end of the driveway and picked up toys by the light of my car’s headlights. I put the toys back in the garage, parked the car, and walked inside. In the entryway, I was greeted by a pile of dirty shoes from our afternoon trip to the park. Nobody had gotten around to picking them up while I was away. I walked into our bedroom to find a weary husband and a screaming baby. I went to go use the bathroom, and as my tired body leaned against the sink while washing my hands, my shirt stuck to the bathroom vanity. I don’t know if it was toothpaste or maple syrup, but I definitely stuck to the vanity. So then I had to wipe down the vanity so it wouldn’t happen again. As I dried my hands on the bathroom towel, I glanced down at the rug to find wood chips from when my kids changed out of their park clothes and hopped into the bath. So. Many. Messes. So many to-do items added to the ever-growing, never-shrinking list.
Once again, I was assigned to the margins. As soon as I got those things cleaned up, then I could finally get some “me” time. Then I could finally do what I wanted to do.
I felt so frustrated that night by all of the things keeping me from doing what I really wanted to do. However, upon further examination I discovered that the only thing really keeping me from doing what I wanted to do was me. I was the one choosing to wipe down the vanity and pick up the toys on the lawn. I was the one with (excessively) high expectations of how clean our front entry should be. I was the one who was feeling obligated to take care of the baby to give my husband a break after a long evening – he never asked that of me when I came in.
This wasn’t the easiest realization to swallow. It was much easier to be mad at everyone else than it was to fess up that I have unrealistic expectations which often keep me from relaxing. If I wanted to, I could pause this merry-go-round at pretty much any point to take 15 minutes for myself.
I think I’ve struggled to make it work for me up until now because I’ve been trying to add me time in on top of everything else. There is no adding anything around here these days! I can only succeed at making me time if it’s taking me time instead. As often as I hope there will magically be more hours in a day, it’s not going to happen. Something has to be given up in order for me to have time for myself. Maybe it’s 15 minutes of cleaning up that doesn’t happen. Maybe it’s 15 minutes where the baby is sleeping and I put the big kids in front of the TV. Maybe it’s sitting outside by myself on the front porch for 15 minutes after my husband comes home from work. I don’t know what it looks like exactly yet, but I know that something needs to change. I also know that I’m the only one who can make that change. When I do, I will no longer be stuck in the margins.