Monday, June 30, 2014

You know what it's like to be a mom...

You get busy. You have a to-do list that can't possibly be written down, much less managed. You have at least one child that needs/demands almost, if not, all of your attention. Haircuts, massages, toothbrushing, showers, girls' (guys') nights, reading whole paragraphs of books, and nutrition go by the wayside. Just part of the deal, right?


Really wrong.

I'm not saying you're wrong. Or your methods are wrong. (God forbid you think I know what's best for you). But a dear friend of mine basically said that her self-care (and we're talking health care, not pedicures) wasn't a priority in her day because she was a busy, working mom.

Hold the phone. I admit, I got a little unnerved that my friend thought that there wasn't enough time in the day for her to get to urgent care and look into her medical issue. Not at her, but at the culture around her (and us) that supports that belief. She wasn't told outright that she couldn't go get her issue checked out. No, that would've incited a mamaRiot. But it was the unspoken part, about how moms just get busy and "you know how it time to go to the doctor."

Here's what made me have some strong feelings...

1) That "having no time to go to the doctor" was sorta like "no time for a haircut."
2) That I didn't know my friend even needed any help in this area (could I have come over and watched her kids while she went to the doctor?).
3) That taking time out during the day at work wasn't really a cultural norm at her work and I'm assuming she believed that she was so indispensable that she couldn't take an hour to find out about her health, because it put her reputation (and possibly, eventually, her job) at risk.
4) And that I might be doing something similar, maybe not with physical health, but with mental health.

This is important. Really important. As parents, we are a part of the culture that supports these thoughts. That being too busy (raising a family and working) means we don't get our needs met.
This is, in my not very humble opinion, what leads to depression, increased medicating of parents, addiction, divorce, and a bunch of other woes. At least it's a contributing factor.

I work VERY hard on identifying my needs (surprise! They sort of changed when I had a baby and now I need to get to know them all over again!), talking with my husband about my needs (even if they can't be solved, addressed, or understood), and then diligently getting support for them.

I recognize that is privileged. My aforementioned friend may not have time to reflect on all of that. Her spouse may be just as busy and so not able to help her identify those needs, either.

But I also don't want to start agreeing that yes, motherhood trumps self-care. Don't hate me when I tell you, it doesn't. I love being a mom. I sometimes eat less because my kid ends up wanting most of my food and all of his too. I'm not immune to sacrifice. But I also don't want that to stay the norm. I want to point it out, even if it can't change, because it's not healthy for us as a culture. And it's not just for the wealthy. Working parents can't just say that because they work, their self-care goes away sometimes.

I am learning that when my husband works at night, which contributes to our family, I give up his time for the money he makes. Every week we discuss whether it will be better to have him home, or get the cash. That's a horrible choice to have to make daily, but we do it because some days, I need him with me, caring for our son. I need his support. I'll go without food (or less food) if it means that we have a night together as a family. That's how I care for myself. I have learned that there are hard choices I HAVE to make to get my needs met. Money vs. spousal support is not like giving up a new car for college tuition. I need both money AND spousal support, so I need to think about what I need more of sometimes.

My point is just that. Self-care isn't only bubble baths and dinner out with friends. I want to be a loud (and maybe a bit belligerent) voice that says that yes, we make choices, but also, yes we need to take care of ourselves. If a job won't value you for taking care of yourself, that tells me something. If a spouse won't let you take a night off (or two) a week, for your mental sanity, that speaks volumes. If we're all about the village raising our children, then we need to work on our village and be available to each other to get stuff done so neither we, nor our kids, suffer.

I'll end with the fact that I am grateful that my friends and family have been really helpful in this arena. Sometimes I am plagued by feeling like a social burden, with my active and sometimes destructive kid. But I keep asking to come over and crash dinner parties and potlucks because I do need adult friends and board games after K goes to sleep, and food that isn't bread or pasta and not made by me.

I want to be that support for others in my village too.

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