Many years ago, when I was an angsty teen plodding my way through high school, I spent too much time making construction paper sunflowers to turn my bedroom walls into a garden of cheerfulness I didn't always feel. I was also heavily committed to keeping a journal of quotes I found inspiring or meaningful, those that seemed to perfectly encapsulate just how I felt. In retrospect, quite a few of those were so totally cheese-tastic that I can't bear to read them today. One, "Pain is the difference between what is and what you want it to be," falls completely into the read-and-groan camp, yet it does make a good point about the purgatory space that lies between two competing entities. I knew to be true, before I went to BlogHer and communed with 4,000 other women, many of whom were mothers-in-the-weeds like me, that what I most wanted deep down was a much better balance in my life between my children and all else. I am so grateful to be able to stay home with my boys, to be the primary person raising and loving them every day. But, and it's a big one, children are like mostly-cute parasites, and the dynamic between the boys and me, presently, is not one that is healthy; they too frequently remind me of leeches gone wild, long overstaying their medicinal welcome. J&O are sucking more than their fair share, and I am burned out in a deep way. The kind of burn that comes from years of giving, being, doing, loving at 100+ percent, as opposed to that you might feel after pulling an all-nighter or pining away on an all-encompassing project for a week or two.
Let me be clear that I am not complaining. Rather, I am attempting to restructure the way the three of us interact when we are a trio so that I don't have a mess of snakes writhing in my gut by 9am each morning (anxiety). I need to be able to take and count on real breathers while my children are here; they need to learn to respect my limits and to stop demanding so much so often.
I realized when I left last Thursday that I felt almost as ill from stress and mental fatigue as I did from the pneumonia; figurative sickness is as real and damaging as that which can be diagnosed in a petri dish, and the two in combination are negatively symbiotic. Three days with adults, learning and talking and networking and sharing, was an empowering reminder that we, each of us, are just as important and valuable, as are our children. We... I deserve just as much love and kindness as do Jack and Oliver. The happier I am, the better mother I can be, the better I can teach them that mothers aren't just moms but also women doing amazing things, in tiny and huge ways.
And so I came home with a promise to myself to stop, cease, put the brakes on the energy suckfest that often is a day with my boys. Just because they want to talk and be challenged and stimulated and amused every minute of every day does NOT mean that I need to or should be the one to provide that. And I shouldn't apologize for standing my ground for reasonable limits.
Elisa Camahort Page, a BlogHer co-founder, told us that a mother once told her that when her children complained about her working, she never apologized or demeaned her work to them. On the contrary, she said something to the effect of, "I can't do X with you right now because I get to do this exciting work, but I'll be really excited to do the next X with you later." I really liked this way of framing work: that if you have work you love, you're lucky to get to do it, and it's important/critical to take the time to do it well. Yes, my primary job is my children. That's what I chose and am enthusiastically committed to. But I am just not a 24-7 mom. I tried that, it didn't work and never will.
And as I've learned more about myself, the woman I am, what makes me happy, what makes me tick, I've been reminded that one of the best and hardest parts of life is that very dynamism. It is thrilling to, at this age, discover new passions, and it's challenging to restructure life in ways that make space for pursuing them. I believe that my boys will be better for the growth that will result from my doing that. I will too.