When you are raised in the Northeast by a military father developing a type A personality is just pretty much a given. Growing up, if you weren't being productive, then you were just lazy- it was as simple as that. I strived to check of boxes from my to-do list, to get straight A's, to plan ahead for my future. College- check. Med school- check. Supportive partner- check. Move somewhere without snow- check. Children- check. Everything going according to plan...excellent.
Then there was the day where I realize that somewhere along the way being a strong and independent woman may have, in fact, backfired. I actually remember it quite clearly. I was trying to work while my 10 mo old daughter tried to get my attention to play with her. I kept attempting to do my tasks while half-heartedly dangling whatever she was interested in over her head. Yeah, because that always works well. She started throwing a fit. I started throwing a fit. We both were going for broke. Then I had one of those moments- I was actually angry at my baby because she wanted to spend time with her mommy. Oh, man. Stab me in the heart. Things had to change and it needed to happen immediately. I said "screw it" and closed my laptop. I got down on the floor with my child and read books for an hour. We colored, played with toys, and went for a walk. All in all, it was the first day my husband came home and I could honestly say we had had fun (as opposed to the normal "take the baby- I need a break!")
It was at that point that I realized that despite my best efforts and long history of being able to "do it all", I no longer could. I was tired. More importantly, I was resenting the child that I had longed to have because she was getting in the way of paperwork. That's kind of messed up. I remember a friend once saying that nobody ever says they wish they had spent more time at the office when their children were small. I think about that phrase at least once a week. As someone who previously would happily spend 60+ hours a week at the office I had to make a choice and I had to find a new balance. The reality of it was that I had to give up my super-mom cape. I couldn't work 40 hours a week, stay home with my child 4 days a week, arrange playdates, organize stimulating crafts, do every mommy-and-me class I could find, see my friends regularly, have holidays coordinated with beautiful decorations, and make sure my house was as clean as it once regularly was. I quit all the committees I was on, stopped the toddler classes, and made some sacrifices in my mind for what constitutes "good enough" in regards to organization and cleanliness. You know what? It felt AMAZING!
The fact is that I tried to make my children fit into my life but once I had a child I realized that they actually became my life, at least while they are small. Don't get me wrong- I'm all about being more than mommy, but when I'm home with my kids that is exactly who I am (at least until they fall asleep and then I get to be wife, house cleaner, and doctor). I'm their world and the feeling is mutual. It was, in the end, about realizing that they don't care if the house is decorated "right" or if their outfit is freshly pressed. They care about the belly giggles and whether the book will end the same the thirty-seventh time you read it. They don't care if the carpet is vacuumed daily or if the wrapping paper is symmetrical. It's all about me, their mommy. They just want me. How amazing is that?! As much as I wanted to work hard to make a better life for them in the future, I often sacrificed the chance at an amazing life with them now in the process. My husband always says I miss the present while planning for the future. Reality check- check.
I'm certainly not perfect and I never will be but there is one thing that I have been learning- my children must come first. Sometimes putting them first means actually putting myself first so that I can stay sane while around them. It doesn't mean I'm catering to them- the opposite, in fact. I'm busy teaching them to be people that I want to leave this world to. If people don't understand that, then they aren't worth my time. I work hard when I'm at work and often I will work after my kids go to bed, but when it's my time with them they are my priority. Some days my only job is to make chocolate pudding and a blanket fort and finish it off with a puppet show. I love my job but I love my children more and the fact that I no longer try focusing on both of them at the same time means that I do a much better job of focusing on the one that is my priority at that moment. With my youngest quickly approaching preschool I have the same realization that I think every parent does at some point- it all goes by way, way too fast. Last week our oldest decided that she was too big to have mommy and daddy walk her into the classroom. All I can think about is how it felt to hold her tiny body in my arms non-stop during that first week of life. Now she's already testing her wings.
I've spent a decent portion of my day at work today talking about self-care and how important it is. In part, I'm speaking to myself and granted, I'm often guilty of giving advice I don't 100% follow myself, but that's just the point, isn't it? It's about trying and failing and then trying again. I think this is especially true of young mothers in this age of social media, where it's too easy to waste a day pinning cute craft ideas when your child just wants to play or begging them to smile when they are hard at work on their art (guilty again!). We want to remember these moments and with a camera always around it's so easy. What we often don't realize is that we are putting an object between us and our child.
So, mamas (and papas)... today just say no to something and instead say yes to a snuggle. Take off your super-mom cape and hang it up for a bit. Maybe keep the shiny boots, though- because amazing.
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