I suspect three types of mothers might be reading this post. You either feel…
A. totally rational and sane. Probably also well rested, which may explain why I’m decidedly not in this category…
B. a little crazy, but usually holding it together, at least publicly. You have moments where your sanity disappears, but you can stem the tide of chaos enough to recover, if only just barely.
C. completely, totally crazy. You’ve lost your mind, a truth that may or may not be apparent to you. Waves of life come at you so quickly that you just hope you don’t stay underwater too long.
The last two years of my life have been Category C, completely and totally crazy. Baby #3 delivered me into exponential chaos, not at all what I’d expected. I think I could just as easily have fifty children as three. I’m surrounded by people and noise and dirty diapers and crying and crushed Cheerios everywhere. All the time. Way more than 3 people’s worth. Whew!
I didn’t realize I was crazy until Jude was 9 months or so, at which point my sole aim became survival. To do this, I dropped balls left and right (see exhibit: 31 Days of Getting Things Done project on my personal blog and try not to laugh). I hardly socialized. I showered infrequently and got out of PJs even less frequently. I gave up sleep, perhaps not my best move, but there didn’t seem to be any other way.
(Side note: this is also the point at which I took up drinking coffee. This was an excellent decision. How did I live for 37 years without it?)
Now that things have started to settle, I have momentary but increasing forays back to Category B where I only feel a little crazy. Hooray! But those moments of clarity also show me the parts of my life that suffered most. For me, that’s my ability to engage. I can’t connect with people–my husband, my friends, or my kids–when I’ve lost my mind. The more I’m in Category C, the more I hide. It’s like trying to fill a cup that’s been punched full of holes. Try as I might, all the potential for engagement drains away faster than I can replace it.
If I want to be an engaged mother, I have to plug the holes first.
How crazy does your life feel? Unless you have breathing room and a comfortable level of ease, there’s work to be done, holes to fill. But how?
I finally began this process when I asked my husband for one evening of alone time a week. He graciously gave me this gift, and even though I cried and felt guilty the first evening I went out alone to read and write, I came back and felt just a little bit better. Our schedule doesn’t allow this frequency, but even once a month is helpful.
This might not be it for you, but there’s an underlying principle. You have to take care of yourself.
This is your radical work. You have to do it. Have to. You have to fight–usually with yourself–for what you need to be a healthy, available mother, woman, human.
And let’s change the emphasis for a minute. You have to take care of yourself. No one can sleep for you or eat healthy foods for you. No one can quiet your mind or change the way you think. Loved ones around you can assist. But these helpers can only patch one another’s holes from the outside. You are the only one who can patch deep on the inside.
Think about what it will take to patch your holes. I’d love to hear about it in the comments! Do you need to read a good book? Have five minutes alone everyday in the bathroom? Go out with the girls? Have dates with your husband? Do you need to take a class, make some friends, take up a hobby?
Of course, these aren’t the only ways or the best ways. And perhaps the best ways aren’t available for you right now. Maybe you need a vacation but can’t afford ramen. The point isn’t indulgence or perfection. The point is to invest somehow. Your self appreciates effort even if it’s not completely on point.
No one else can give you back your mind, but you can find it again when you start plugging the holes. And the more you find it, the better positioned you are to engage fully in motherhood.