For many years I have been a devoted stay at home. This is not to say that I have enjoyed every single moment of motherhood or that I totally agree with the idea that constantly giving and doing for others is the greatest feeling on Earth. Secretly, I wished for the day that my kids would enter school and was sincerely happy when I realized I was close to that point in my life where I didn’t have to wipe any one else’s butt! Some nights, I go to bed completely exhausted so much so that I give little more than a kiss to the kids and ask that they come and tug me in rather than the other way around. During my stay at home mom years I have often felt very cynical towards those mothers who don’t seem to do their part. The ones who dump the kids off at Grandma’s and take week long getaways with their husband for the sole purpose of getting away from their kids. I have been equally frustrated at those working moms who send their kids to school sick because they can’t get off work and those that leave disciplining and child rearing up to day cares and other kid’s parents! Yet, as time has moved on – I realize that there is something to be said for detaching your self from your children.
I was an unlikely candidate to be a stay at home. In my twenties I was a partier and had more fun and friends than most! Life was good. Accidentally, my husband and I became parents and almost immediately I changed. My life took on a new meaning and purpose and even throughout pregnancy I began the entire denial of self that makes moms like me feel or think (at least temporarily) that they are doing the right thing. So 12 years in, I am exhausted and have realized that taking care of mom is important. But how? When? And how do you suddenly begin taking care of your self when you have been the do it all mom and wife for so long! If only I had paid attention watching some of my friends who had this way of easily becoming detached from their children. But instead I scorned them secretly and outwardly. Maybe I was jealous! Looking back I can notice that it has more to do with the fact that I had a lousy, inconsiderate mother growing up and I was terribly fearful of my kids feeling one day about me, like I do about her! So my fear turned me into super mom, super wife and the most selfless person on the face of the Earth. At least so I thought!
What happened to me, happens to most people in due time. You become resentful, sad, quiet and withdrawn. At some point you become ill or realize that you are picking up every infection that used to never faze you. On the inside you are pissed although you don’t really have the words to say it. But lets be honest, the inability to finish a sentence, use the bathroom, talk on the phone, go the store, write a letter, watch a TV program, cook a meal (this least goes on forever) without being interrupted gets irritating after a while. And as the kids get older and you imagine that they will leave you alone more or at least not be so needy; they really only need you more. Why is it they seem to think that no matter what I am doing or in the middle of; that it is not as important as what they want! I mean seriously, couldn’t they wait to tell me about Rachel from science class until I am done brushing my teeth! The reason that they don’t seem to think any of that is important or difficult to endure for more than one decade is because in my adamancy to do and be it all; I taught them that no one had to take care of mom…not even mom! So, like most things in life it is my fault! The trouble then turns to how to change it.
As a matter of survival, I had to change it. I realized I couldn’t coach softball with a two year old at my feet and that I couldn’t write with passion when someone was constantly trying to get me to match clothes or find underwear. So the kids and I had a talk. First, I explained that I was tired…so much so that I wasn’t enjoying life much anymore. Then I explained that there were certain things that they could handle on their own now! Even the two year old. I started putting myself in mommy time outs which meant that unless the house was on fire; no one could interrupt me. We decided that bowls of cereals and snacks after school did not have to be made with moms signature and could be very well be gotten by the capable. We went through the whole spiel together and I explained quite succinctly that mom needed some time to think, to have peace and quiet and that this was important to my health and my sanity.
Although I still don’t feel good about dumping the kids on others or handing over the things that I feel are my responsibility I have built up immunity to the guilty gestures and comments that my kids impose on me. When I tell them to go away and busy themselves for a minute, they huff and stomp and add their sarcastic “SOrreeeeeee, didn’t know I was bothering you” routine and for a minute I question myself. But once that minute is over, I finish what I am doing and rarely make an issue of it. What the children don’t realize and what I didn’t realize until recently, is that I was caught up in teaching my kids that mom was not important, and that taking care of mom all the way around was not a priority in our family. As my health; both emotional and physical began to suffer from this secret policy that I had initiated so many years ago I realized quickly and harshly that things had to change. And they have! Now I am in the healing process myself!
The ironic thing is that in this process I have actually become a better mom and earned a lot of respect from my children. I am calmer and less easily frustrated on those days when everything seems to go wrong. I have more patience and when I am with my children, I am really with them rather than imagining some hot beach with sand between my toes and a margarita in my hand. I notice them more and they in turn seem to notice me more. And this is a good thing. I am hoping that as they become mothers one day they will remember the changes in me that they have seen and remember to take care of themselves and to ensure that taking care of mom is always a priority in life.