In the early hours of a snow day, ordinary working people are contently snuggling deeper under the covers, prepared to enjoy a day of coziness and ease. However, when facing a day confined to the indoors, alone with a two-yearold, one thought comes to mind: “Damn it.”
This job has no snow days, no sick days, no I-justcan’t-anymore days. No lunch breaks, no sleep breaks, no pee breaks. Just the perpetual weight – and joy – of rearing a tiny human and helping them grow up smart, cool, and relatively untraumatized.
The pressure, both internal and external, is tremendous, and constant, and begins even before said tiny human arrives earthside. There is a radical shift in values, in lifestyle, in worldview that takes place when a child comes into one’s life. Things that were easy in pre-kid life become logistical nightmares. Social circles change. There is literally almost nothing that is the same.
Postpartum depression (which can, by the way, happen to both moms and dads, as well as adoptive parents), faced along with other postpartum mood disorders by 20% of new parents, is sometimes related to mourning the loss of the person you were before your entire character was subsumed by the mantle of “parent.”
We grieve in this transition as well as celebrate it. That grief needs space to be felt and validated in order for acceptance and growth to follow. Mom Guilt is so much a thing that we had to name it, and that guilt is pervasive. We’re told a lot of stories about having it all and doing it all and those stories are hurting us.
We’re overextending ourselves to the point that we aren’t able to give our families what they unfailingly demand of us, and then deeming that exhaustion a personal failure rather than a symptom of a lack of self-care.
I would never trade convenience or alone time in the loo for the tremendous, indescribable joy and depth of love that my kid brings me. But her mother isn’t the only person I am. Though she is the unquestionable first recipient of my attention and care, if I eschew everything that fills up my own stores of energy and love, I can’t be a good parent to her.
I’m not one for aphorisms, but that one about pouring from an empty cup? It’s on point. I’m a mother, and every day, every hour, I pour my heart and soul into that job. But I’m also a person. A person who needs to herself be fulfilled and happy in order to be able to do that. I’m here to tell you, if you’re a parent but also if you aren’t, that it’s ok to do things that just belong to you.
Even if you parent solo, there is someone in your life who wants to help you. Let them. Relieve yourself of the notion that you are unworthy of or should not need a life outside of your home, job, and family. And then spend some time doing things that nourish the non-parent parts of yourself. Fill your damn cup. And come back ready to pour freely from that cup into the hearts and minds of your dear little ones.