(This is going to be a pretty personal post, but I have the feeling many of you will identify, so it might be worth reading).
My day usually goes like this:
My husband’s alarm clock wakes me up at 7. What can you do? The poor guy has to go to work to keep us fed. No complaints. I manage to snooze a bit and just like a second alarm clock, the toddler goes off about 15 minutes later. She has pooped. She declares this in all seriousness and demands to be changed. So the first thing I do in the morning is change a poopy diaper before I even have a chance to put my contact lenses on (maybe that’s for the better).
We all go downstairs, N. brews coffee for us both and makes himself something to eat. Toddler declares she isn’t hungry yet, however proceeds to eat a few tablespoons of her father’s and half of my oatmeal (papa doesn’t share food. He made that clear from the start). We kiss papa goodbye and he disappears into the night (the sun rises properly around 9:00 at the moment).
Long story short, from 7:40 sharp till nap time (which I struggle to keep around 12:00 -12:30 without much success) I am with a tiny creature smart enough to demand but not rational or empathetic enough to understand concepts such as chronic sleep deprivation, exhaustion, need for personal space, immense boredom (if I am asked to draw one more cat, I will probably need hospitalization. In a psychiatric clinic). I play whatever game the boss asks for, making sure to keep her entertained, fed and dressed appropriately. In the meantime, she babbles, talks, sings happily and stalks me, no matter how boring the chores I try to accomplish. Recently she has learned words that fascinate her but she isn’t interested in the actual object that the word represents. For example, she will repeatedly ask for grilled cheese sandwiches, I will repeatedly ask her if she really wants one for sure, she will insist she does and never eat it (obviously, I stopped offering them. Obviously she is throwing tantrums about it).
Sooooo… by the time the blessed nap time arrives and after a 20 to 45-minute fight to actually convince her that she needs the nap so as for her brain to grow (and maybe her empathy?!), all I want is a moment of peace by myself. However, I never actually use this time to relax. I use it to work on my writing projects/commissions, answer e-mails from friends and work, to fold laundry, to do an e-course, to catch up with the news of my homeland, to worry about stuff, to make disaster scenarios in my head and by the time I am ready to do that 10-minute guided meditation, she is up! Up and re-charged and ready to go. I know many of you would suggest that I sleep with her, but first of all I am a terrible napper and wake up with a heavy head and cranky mood; and secondly that 1,5 hour is the only time in the day I have alone in the house without anyone else’s presence. (I am sure my husband won’t be offended to know I actually need alone me time, since he himself stays up late to enjoy the home on his own).
Therefore, I feel that I need to cramp all my adult life within that hour. This is disaster. I do somehow manage to keep it all together, but the exhaustion is starting to get to me. It’s not so much that I work super hard. It’s that my mind never turns off or, to put it more accurately, it never logs off. I am always checking mail and my phone (even though it’s far from smart), waiting for the next notification, to answer it as soon as possible, not let people think I can’t manage adult life “just” ’cause I have a kid. Which is an utterly stupid practice that I am sure will lead to a burn-out. And since Loulou (ze toddler) is not magically going to be 10 years old tomorrow (thank god!) I have to find coping mechanisms to keep myself alive but more importantly calm. And most importantly fun to be around.
Today, once Loulou fell asleep, I did this crazy experiment: I closed my laptop (like really, shut down, not sleep mode!) and switched off my phone and made myself a tea and read a book. A really really really good book called “Kafka on the shore” that my mom brought me (thanks mom!), cause she knows I love Murakami. Even though the book is awesome, I could still feel myself being tense from time to time, just like a meerkat, waiting for the next notification to pop up. That was really a wake-up call. Even though I am able to relax and sleep after a couple of pages of reading during the night, it has become SO hard for me to switch off during the day. Like anything new, this “unplugged” midday break will take practice, but I am planning to stick to it.
I tried to think about it to find the roots of the issue and I came to the conclusion that I just give in to people’s expectations (or what I THINK they expect of me) too easily, without considering my well-being. I let ignorant comments from people saying things like “it must be so relaxing to play all day” (WTH?!) get to me and feel the need to prove I am not playing and I am present and productive. You do find tons of articles floating around noting how demanding a mother’s work is. You even find a few mentioning how hard a work-from-home mother’s (or parent’s) work is. But I feel those articles are read just by people who identify with the writer, not by a broader audience. ‘Cause if they were, then I and many of my close friends, wouldn’t feel the need to deal with it all. To be a parent and a business woman and a social butterfly and an educator for our kids and a good home-keeper and a good partner and pleasant and available to all friends and family at all times. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that this is only a women’s issue. I feel that men are affected equally from the social and business pressure to be perfect at everything. Somewhere between capitalism and social media pressure, our right to do nothing and just be got smashed and crushed and burned.
I ask you now
to join me in my attempt
to just breathe, to just be
for a couple of hours per day.
It will do us all good,