Friday, December 11, 2009

Weary Women

I wrote this draft several weeks ago as my good friend and I were venting about the challenges of being moms to young children. It is the same story that women have talked about for years: there is nothing new about being overwhelmed. And being overwhelmed is not unique to parenting! But I think there is something different about our generation of mothers: unlike other generations, our generation has the option of working. And with that comes issues of 'choice' and child care (or not) and guilt. That factor combined with the fact that we parent in an age of anxiety where "good parents" hover makes for some challenging parental moments. And all the while, we hope to hold on and cherish the times with our young kids! And when we don't, we feel like we fail at that too. Cue the guilt.

These days, most of my close friends are moms. And most of us don't have time to talk. Or sleep very much. Or eat well. Or connect with anyone or anything. We just GO. We just keep moving. And we miss the lost days of reading. Or talking on the phone without children crying or needing us to play 'dollhouse'. We miss hugging our husbands. Meditating. Going out. Listening to music. We rationalize that they are young for a short time. That the kids will one day sleep through the night. That our jobs won't always be this demanding. So we just keep going. We just keep moving.

And then we get sick. Or we just crash. A deep, dark crash. And then what? You look around at the pieces of your life and wonder, "How the hell did I get here? What the hell am I doing wrong?" My friend and I think a lot about how we did things "right". We also got really lucky! We did well in school. We went to college. We went to graduate school. We got married. We got good degrees. We got jobs. And on the surface, things are looking well. But scratch just a little bit and a whole world of stress opens up. Insecurity about parenting. Bills that mount before our eyes. Marriages that need tending to. Jobs that aren't very fulfilling. What happened? When do we just STOP?

When do we just say, "Ya know what, I'm done. I need a break."

Giving ourselves the PERMISSION to take a break seems to be the hardest part. As if we need some guilt free 'get out jail' pass to just stop. To stop cleaning. To stop trying to be perfect. To stop running on the virtual and literal treadmill. To stop the "show" and admit to ourselves, I am not perfect. My children are not perfect. My house sure isn't perfect. And ya know what? I'm ok. I'm still here. And I love my family. That is all that matters. I love my dirty house, my puking cat, my imperfect husband, my saggy tush and my clingy kids.

I have these tantrums sometimes that start out innocent enough. Frustration about one little thing. But then, within a minute, I can be in a full blown tantrum that rivels my daughters'. On Monday, I found myself storming up the stairs and slamming the door behind me. Why? I have no idea. And it was ugly. It involved tears. And yelling. Which upset both kids. (Score one for the Mommy of the Year). And ya know what I needed? I needed a hug. I needed a nap. I needed a damn cookie. I needed time to not DO anything.

Why don't I give myself the permission to take these breaks? One 30 minute period once a week would do me wonders! (A break a day would be better but we will start small). I *KNOW* this about myself. I truly do. My spirit has always craved this alone time. I am a better wife, mother, sister and coworker when I carve out time to just BE. To just sit down and think. And write.

So if I know the problem and I know the solution, why is it so hard? And how can we change our expectations for ourselves? How do we dial back, breathe deeply, focus on the good and ignore the constant pressure to 'do', to 'perform', to 'consume' more?

My friends and I struggle with this all of the time. What about you?


LauraC said...

I have to say having melanoma earlier this year completely changed my life and my attitude. What if I hadn't called and this was the end of my life? Would I be happy with my decisions? And a lot of the answers were NO.

Yes my body is a little (okay a lot) squishier. Yes we say NO to so many more parties, events, things. But I have never felt more in balance when it came to my mothering life because I don't want to miss this ride with the kids.

I think having the weekly girls night makes such a difference too. I know one night every week I am not going to be mom or wife. I am going to do something for me, hang out with my girlfriends and do nothing. We just sit and eat and drink and enjoy time together.

I hate seeing how fast these last 3.5 years have gone. I don't want to miss the next 14.5.

Beth said...

What an awesome post, Megan! I read it on Friday and thought a lot about it over the weekend. And I don't know what the answer is. I laughed at your description of a tantrum that rivaled Seren's. That's me exactly! Parenting is a constant learning process. We learn, re-learn, and re-learn again.

Even when I do take so-called "me" time, I'm still always feeling the weight of time, pushing me to get home, to not take too long, to hurry up and get back to my responsibilities. I don't know how to change that. But I do know a few things.

I've gotten very good at being okay with "good enough" in my house. I clean in bits and pieces, and try to keep things neat and tidy as a whole (which is totally Ed's influence), and over time, that really has become okay.

And I've gotten better about not fretting quite so much about the things that I want to do but that don't get done. It's a slow process, this letting go, but after a while, there's no choice, really. I'm not Type A, I'm just not built that way. And it's fine.

Really, it ebbs and flows--this drive to do more, be more. Sometimes I feel it acutely and I get frustrated with myself. But then I think about all the things that I'm doing right in my life. And I go back to being okay.

Thanks for an awesome and thought-provoking post!