Today was hard. Like really hard. It was one of many days I’ve had since becoming a parent that I didn’t feel strong or capable. Some days, trying to juggle breastfeeding an infant and dealing with a hyperactive 3-year-old feels like it breaks me down. Like it just might break me. And dealing with them on little to no sleep makes things even harder to manage.
I love my children, and I do what I can to give them a great life. But putting them first all the time just might damn near do me in.
For instance, today, my son poured my brand-new bottle of prenatal vitamins into his bath water. This happened after we fought all day over potty training and he called my name a million times just for the hell of it.
My youngest is a newborn, so she spent most of her day sleeping. But whenever she was awake, she was screaming and I was left playing a game of “guess that stimuli” trying to calm her down.
I’m married, but my husband goes into work early and gets off work late. By the time he gets home, I’ve either spent the day neutralizing the situation or they’re suddenly better and calm when he walks through the door.
Some days, I just want a way out. During the few moments of silence I have during nap time, I envision a life where I had chosen differently. In my fantasy world, I’m unmarried, have gotten a second degree, and I might even be working on a third. In this world, instead of putting them first, I make time for me.
I wonder if our families know we mothers spend time imagining a life where they don’t exist?
I used to feel in tune with myself and spend much more time making sure my outside felt as good as my inside. But now that I put my kids first, I feel like that part of me has died.
I’d be lying if I said there weren’t a significant amount of days when I want it back.
Having a family is hard. Not only do you have to meet your children’s needs (and demands), but you also have to put in the effort to make sure they grow up to be decent people. If you’re partnered, they have expectations of you too. As great as it would be to spend money and time on the things you want out of life, it’s not typically feasible when you have a family. Putting them first means sacrifice.
When you’ve given all you have to everyone else, you’re burnt out. It’s even more frustrating considering the imbalance of emotional labor in most relationships and that motherhood is the world’s most thankless job.
I spend all day giving my attention to my son, my time and energy to feed and soothe my daughter, and dedication to my husband.
After I’ve given them everything, who’s left to refill my cup?
Since he’s at work all day, my husband doesn’t understand how hard it is to manage two children and work from home. I wish we could trade places for a week so he could see everything I deal with in a day. Most times, it feels like I’m running on fumes. And I don’t know how much more of this I can take.
It saddens me to know more women can probably identify with my pain than not. There are way too many mothers, myself included, who are living day-to-day and trying to pour from an empty cup.
Against our better judgment, we are trying to be everything for everyone while somehow being nothing for ourselves.
Thankfully, more of us are also learning to accept that we should not move through life on empty. More writers, mental health professionals, and even news programs are talking about the importance of mothers learning to prioritize their needs.
I’d like to issue a challenge to myself and every other mother who is struggling to balance their own needs with everyone else’s. How about we make small intentional steps towards remembering that our needs are equally important.
There aren’t any rules on what those steps have to be. For some, it’ll be an occasional manicure or pedicure. For others, it’ll be taking night classes so you’re that much closer to that degree you’ve always dreamed of. For others, it might be a nightly walk around the block, alone. But whatever it is, we’ve got to find ways to remind ourselves that we matter. Because if we spend our entire lives giving to everyone else and leaving nothing to cherish for ourselves, we’ll be miserable. By consequence, that would leave us emotionally unavailable to the families we love so much
In my case, those steps will involve speaking up more when I feel like my family is being inconsiderate. I have to learn to say “no” to my loved ones while also learning to say “yes” to more opportunities to be social outside of the home.
I don’t know how long it will take me to overcome mommy burnout. But I know I must try to get myself out of this emotional rut or both myself and my family will suffer.
There has to be a way to find balance between being there for my children and having something left for myself. And I’m not going to wait 18 more years to find it.