Toes warm inside Husband’s boots. Giant sweater pulled close. Breathe oxygen deep. Crisp, cool, alive, it refreshes and restores. Eyes filled with majestic towering trees, the lake nearly frozen, snow silently landing, creation loudly singing His praise. Settle back against an ancient log, the smell of smoke from the fire brings a million memories to life. Tucking a blanket around my legs, then another, I open my bag. Touch a beloved novel, catch a glimpse of my worn journal, find headphones just begging me to listen, nearly dig to the bottom for my camera. Instead, I contemplate each, then set them all aside. Today I will just sit. Just be. Just rest. For as long as I want.
My eyes close, my heart at peace.
I awake to screaming. Blood curdling, terrifying, someone is in horrible danger, screams. My eyes fly open, maybe someone has fallen through the too thin ice…
I jump to my feet and as the brain fog clears, my vision steadies, the screaming continues, reality envelops.
I am in my bed.
It is five o’clock in the morning.
The screaming is coming through the static filled baby monitor on my bedside table.
Good morning to me.
After a half asleep argument with my husband about who got the baby yesterday, it is determined that today is my turn. I mentally give my husband props for the falling back asleep trick he just pulled and then wonder why men were given the ability to fall fast asleep while their child screams. Jealousy is my primary emotion as I drag myself out of bed.
It’s pep talk time.
“Alright, I’ve got this. I don’t need more than five hours of sleep. The baby waking up early only means extra cuddle time. The early bird gets the worm. I’ve been wanting to become a morning person. At least it’s not four o’clock in the morning. I asked for this. I miss my campfire in the peaceful forest. How dare he wake up two hours early.”
My internal monologue deteriorates rapidly as I approach my son’s door.
Enter mom mode. This is a mode no one, except for moms, can truly understand. It’s similar to the fight or flight response.
Be a mom. Curling up in a ball is not an option. Deal with it.
I open his door, I look at his ridiculously gorgeous face, and I call out GOOD MORNING! I’m convinced he can see straight through me. I hope he at least appreciates the effort. It is morning. But good is an overstatement and he knows it. He’s got that look in his eyes. The one that accuses, this is a sweat pants all day sort of day isn’t it?
We get up. We don’t get dressed. He does get a diaper change. We watch more Netflix than recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. He eats an entire carton of grapes, and a couple cookies. Breakfast of champions. Then we watch more Netflix. It is now eight o’clock in the morning.
We wake up Big Brother. This infuriates him. There is the flailing of limbs, some hair pulling. Finally he opens his eyes and asks for eggs. Eight thirty.
Our day continues on, much like the days before and the days to come. There is playing, there is schoolwork, there is perhaps a grocery store run. There is fighting, sometimes biting, there are tears and there are apologies. Often there is a meeting that I either drag my children to and attempt to pay attention while also keeping them occupied, or I Skype into the meeting and although it’s nice that no one can see the giant hole in my sweat pants, I sort of miss being in the same room as other adults.
When Husband comes home I glance at him and keep making dinner, usually asking him for help with something before asking about his day. Occasionally the picture I envisioned as a young, romantic, single person, sneaks into my mind, and guilt overtakes that I haven’t rushed to the door and thrown my arms around his neck declaring loudly how much I missed him all day.
I did miss him. Truth is, I miss myself too.
I finish dinner, and the boys wrestle with their daddy. The sound of his laughter and their hysterical screams and squeals, brings tears to my eyes. Not because it’s so beautiful how they love each other, even though that is true. The tears come because I have forgotten how to play. I am very good at making it through the day, going through the proper motions, and loving my family deeply. But fun, play, hysterical laughter, they seem to have been misplaced.
After scraping dinner dishes, and mopping up a floor soaked by a rowdy bath, bedtime is so close I can almost taste it. If both of my children are asleep by ten o’clock it is cause for celebration. If they are both asleep by nine o’clock, or earlier, then I assume that if I pulled the curtains back I would see pigs flying down the street. Whatever the time may be, once they are asleep, I typically fall into bed, with my dinner, which I prefer to eat late, and in peace. I immediately plug in my headphones and press play.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see him looking at me. You ladies know the look. The look you try to pretend you don’t notice because you’re just so weary and you need time to yourself. Finally, wishing I had perfected his fall asleep on command trick, I look over at my sweet husband. He smiles. I respond.
“Not tonight babe. I’m watching Star Trek.”
(Yes. Star Trek. Don’t judge.)
I look back at my screen but all I see is the hurt in his eyes.
While the crew of the Enterprise saves the universe once again, I mentally argue with myself. I explain over and over why I need this time, how important it is for me to unwind, how every second of every day someone needs something from me, how exhausting it is. And then I glance towards my husband, I see his back turned, his own headphones pouring out empty entertainment. And I know I’m being unfair. It’s not his fault his children are sucking the life out of me.
You guys, I adore being a mom. I love my children obsessively. But those two tiny people are so ridiculously needy. And in meeting their needs, most days, I’m ignoring mine. The hour, possibly two, that I get to myself each day, I spend watching Star Trek, or scrolling through social media feeds, instead of hanging out with my husband, and then we aren’t connecting and nobody wins. I wake wondering why I am constantly depleted. Wondering when I became such a crappy mom. And wife.
If I had my guess, I’d say it was around the time I let mom mode take over and forgot everything else.
I’m also pretty sure I’m not the only one stuck in mom mode.
For me to be the very best mom I can be, I have to make time for things that give me life.
I have to write.
I have to take photos.
I have to read.
I have to talk and laugh with my friends, without kids climbing on my back.
I have to go on dates with my husband.
And hold his hand.
I have to spend time reading my bible and praying.
These things are not optional. They are not add-ons to life, things I’ll do if time allows. Because let’s be honest.
Time never allows.
I have to find time.
Because I can only be the best mama version, the best wife version, of myself when I’m the best version of my whole entire self.
This is not a how to blog post with pretty bullet points explaining how to successfully balance your life and be the Pinterest perfect wife and mom. There is a place for those posts I’m sure, but this is not it.
This is a mama, still in the thick of it, figuring out how to be mom without losing herself in the process. This is brutal honesty, shared because I am convinced that I am not the only woman trying desperately to be all things to everyone she loves and falling flat on her face in the process. This is, I hope, the start of a much needed conversation and community centered around encouraging and inspiring others who struggle to balance life, while learning to laugh at ourselves in the process.
In a world filled with comparison, competition, and jealousy, it is no wonder so many incredible mamas think they are failing. It is no wonder so many single people think there is something wrong with them because no one has married them yet. It is no wonder that thirteen year old girls are throwing up their lunch after a photoshopped image showed them how they “should” look.
So here I am, in the thick of rediscovering myself, as me, as a wife and as a mama, sharing my story to perhaps encourage you that you are not alone. And to invite you to join me on this journey of prioritizing your life so you can fully live. And love.
I have started a brand new facebook page called, TO HOLD YOU DEAR. A BLOG. If you can relate to this post, head over, like the page and let’s all encourage each other along the journey.
Start with baby steps.
Today I’m not going to worry about my to do list. I’m just going to play. I’m also going to lock the door when I go to the bathroom so I can breathe. And I might even skip Star Trek for the night. Maybe. I said baby steps.
So much love, and grace to you.