Tense. Impatient. Seething with barely-concealed, simmering frustration. Permanently pyjama-clad.
That was me, last week. By Friday, I just didn’t feel like myself anymore. I had completely lost the joy of being a stay-at-home parent. Instead of feeling fortunate to be home with my boys all day, I felt angry and put-upon. I didn’t want to step on dropped Cheerios, fold laundry, do the endless cook-clean up-repeat, and entertain two little people who can’t keep up their end of a conversation.
I was losing patience, too – I had no tolerance for the boys’ antics, which are usually endearing, and I was feeling outright hostile when they did typical toddler things – pitching tantrums, resisting diaper changes, throwing their sippy cups on the floor. I was teetering on a precipice. I felt like I was losing all perspective and the ability to just be the grown-up in these situations.
And then I looked at the calendar. I realized I had been with the boys for every waking minute for 22 days straight, with the exception of a short doctor’s appointment one afternoon. And the vast majority of that time had been me, alone, as J has had a number of work commitments on evenings and weekends lately. That’s every meal, every diaper change, every bedtime. No wonder my world had started to feel very small.
Then, finally, last weekend: relief. I went to a 90 minute hot yoga class and ran some errands on Saturday morning. I was out of the house, alone, with only myself to worry about, for almost 4 hours. And for the first time since the boys were born, I didn’t feel guilty about it. I didn’t feel I had to rush to come home. “You’ve earned this,” I thought to myself. And I enjoyed every second of it.
And then on Sunday: family time. No housework. J and I took the boys for a walk in the park, and when they napped in the afternoon we sipped gin and tonics on the deck. Sometimes in the rush of daily life I forget how much I enjoy my husband’s company – and how great it is to co-parent, together. It’s nice when the responsibility for making sure the boys don’t eat rocks doesn’t fall solely on my shoulders.
By Sunday night, I felt like myself again. I was able to look at my family with fresh, appreciative eyes. And on Monday morning, when R and D threw their usual pre-breakfast tantrum, I was able to say to myself “this will pass,” and we got through it. Later, when they got into the diaper wipes and scattered them all over the floor, instead of inhaling sharply through gritted teeth and seething with impatience, I actually laughed. It was, after all, very small potatoes.
So, it’s true what they say, all those parenting magazines. You really do need to make time for yourself. I don’t know why I thought I was the exception; why I thought I was some different breed of “better,” stronger parent that could just be 100% mom, 100% of the time. I can’t. And admitting you have a problem is the first step to conquering it, right?
Taking time for myself makes me a better mom and wife. I’m putting it in writing so I don’t forget.