I hate this idea of motherhood being all about self sacrifice. And could I SOUND any more self-centered??? Well, maybe I am. I sure as heck don't feel self centered most days when I'm playing chauffeur to my precious gals, forking out big bucks for violin lessons, or being so sleep deprived, but still managing to function well enough to make it to the fridge to get a little red-headed baby a drink when she's sick. Or change a diaper. Or guide a sleep walking child back to their bed. Again.
But that's what we DO, right? We are good mommas and we put our little ones' needs and wants ahead of our own. But at what price? Where is that proverbial line in the sand where the sacrificing mom of the year turns into our personal "own worst enemy?" Almost 11 years and counting, and I'm still having trouble figuring this one out.
As a new mother, my "mommy guilt" came on rather quickly. Sure, the newness of having such a sweet bundle of joy to feed in the middle of the night (every two hours, sigh) got me through for a while. And frankly, I got a kick out of being "the one she needed" by breastfeeding. But at 7 weeks old, I dropped that precious bundle off at day care without a tear and drove like a bat out of Hades back to my j-o-b. With mommy guilt. Not because I was leaving her, but because I was happy to do so and get back to something that was just for me. I blamed it on the fact that I had waited so long to have kids and tried to convince myself that in time, my feelings would change. But they never really did.
Chuck, I think, always wanted me to be a stay-at-home mom. We would talk about it right after Anna was born and plan that "when things got a little better financially," I would consider the idea. Emphasis on the word, consider. ;) Life had other plans, though. After only 13 months of motherhood, Anna began having seizures and multiple health problems that required me to quit my job and stay home. I did NOT handle it well.
Years later, another kid in tow, and after many shed tears, I became okay with my lot in life: SAHM, housewife, martyr. Yep. Martyr. "One who makes a great sacrifice for the sake of a principle." Notice how similar the word martyr is to mother. Don't ALL mothers make great sacrifices for the sake of their children? (Well, not all mothers. But that's a post for another day.) Seriously, we sacrifice and go to work so our kids can have a private school education or to afford the extracurriculars. We sacrifice and stay home to keep them from having to be the "latch-key" kids we were when we were growing up. We sacrifice our wardrobes so that they can have one. We sacrifice our gym membership for their intramural soccer season. We sacrifice "must see t.v." and watch recorded "Barney" episodes for the umpteenth time. We sacrifice pedicures for art lessons and date nights with our hubbies for slumber parties. And if you sit there and tell me that all of that is perfectly okay with you and you wouldn't have it any other way... well, I both applaud you and feel sympathy for you all at the same time.
Motherhood is but a season, dear sisters. By all means, cherish it. Embrace it. Give your children your best. Too quickly we will be reminiscing about our little ones in a far better light than things actually were. ;) Unless you are like me and are the mother of a handicapped child who will grow to be a handicapped adult and need your constant mothering at home until, I don't know, forever... your reign as mother hen will come to an end and another role and season of life will emerge. Who are we besides mothers and caregivers?
As I get closer to my 40th birthday, I barely recognize the reflection peering back at me in the looking glass. I understand that youth, like mothering small children, does not last forever. But what I see in the mirror is someone who has been neglected. And not just her physical appearance. Where is the light in the eyes? Where is the "get up and go?" I'm reminded of Rosie the Robot... you know, the maid from "The Jetsons?" (Totally dating myself, here.) A worker, for sure, but lifeless. Robotic. Monotone. Most days I'm simply running on autopilot, getting things done. Sacrificing for the good and welfare of the family. But again, at what cost?
Remember the last time you rode an airplane? What did the flight attendant say? "In the event that the oxygen masks drop, if you are traveling with small children, first place the mask on yourself and then assist your children." Cuz momma ain't gonna be any help to her offspring if she's passed out from lack of O2, mmmkay? And the population at large accepts this as good common sense. So why do we have problems relating this to life? What is the "oxygen" that you are depriving yourself of, all the while fumbling and gasping to get your children's masks on?
While talking to my good friend Jaimee the other day, she reminded me (as she always does) to take time for myself. "Promise me, Linds, that you'll do something just for you once a week, okay?" At first this idea seemed so foreign to me. Something just for me, huh? What? When? So then I decided to reward my 5 lb weight loss with a pedicure. Whilst the callouses were being sloughed off, that dang mommy guilt reared her ugly head. "Really, Lindsey? A pedicure in January? Nobody is gonna even see those toes. Shouldn't you be mopping the floors at home, anyway? And you could've put that $25 to something a little more useful, don'tcha think?!?" Mommy guilt is my nemesis. Hate her.
So then I began a little dialogue with myself as the massage chair worked it's magic on my rhomboids and I politely told mommy guilt to shut-the-heck-up. I'm worth a whole lot more than $25, and I would be seeing my toes, thankyouverymuch, and just so we were clear... that particular shade of turquoise would make me smile every time I looked down and caught a glimpse at how outrageous my little piggies looked. Bam! Take THAT. Putting mommy guilt in her place like a BOSS. LOL!
"Me time" doesn't have to include spending money, either. There have been days reeking of PMS, with all the rights and privileges therein, where I have declared a "do-nothing" day. After dropping the kids off at school, I have been known to pop an Advil or two and crawl back into my memory foam mattress and snooze until 2:oo p.m. Once again, I sacrificed the laundry pile and a spattered cook-top, but we were really no worse for the wear. And no one was killed in a PMS rage, so I consider that day a success. :)
I see more books downloaded to my iPad in my future. A little more window shopping at antique stores, and a little more yoga and fitness... because I did a lot more of those things before I was a wife and mother (except the books were actually paper back then, gasp!) and those things make me happy. And how does that old saying go? "If momma ain't happy, ain't NOBODY happy." No truer words, friends. Put on your oxygen mask first, and then attend to your children. And be sure to wait until the pilot turns the seat belt sign off before walking about the cabin. ;) Enjoy your flight!