I was studying my face in the mirror a couple days ago, carefully inspecting the dark circles under my eyes. The excitement of the last couple weeks has started catching up with me. Two solid weeks of nursing a couple sick kids back to health (not at the same time, thank goodness) is starting to take its toll. I’m tired.
A couple nights ago I was about to go to sleep when my 3-year old started hacking and crying. We’re well into week two of sickness for him: first a cold, then the flu, now pneumonia. After I re-medicated him and calmed him down, I lay down on the floor of his room waiting for his fever and coughing to subside. Finally sleep came for both of us and three hours later, I made it back to my own bed. Almost immediately, he noticed I was gone and began crying again. A couple hours later his coughing and crying returned, quickly followed by two serious bathroom accidents in his bed – all before 6:30 am. By the time I got the kids cleaned up and ready for the day and got a hold of the laundry, I had 5 minutes remaining to organize myself before bringing my little family out the door. I confess that in my frazzled state, I took out some of my stress on Sophie as she was relaying an issue to me that she and Asher were having, giving me an opportunity for to model apology… Ahh… I’m tired.
Later on that day I spoke with a Mama with a five-month old baby boy. Two nights before her attempts at comforting her teething babe lasted an entire sleepless night. By the time her husband awoke to relieve her it wasn’t just the little boy crying. My tiredness has nothing on hers. Man oh man.
This whole ‘full-time-parenting’ thing is not for the faint-of-heart.
In reading through a recent on-line discussion about self-care for Mamas of little people, I realized that much of my attempts at self-care come in the form of chocolate eaten secretly behind the cupboard door. Not the greatest, I realize especially considering I’m lactose intolerant.... Oh Steph.
On a recent visit to my family doctor, she asked if there was anything else I would like to discuss. I had been hesitating to bring up my concern about a mild facial skin-condition for a while because it really didn’t seem like a big deal. But with the discussion of self-care fresh on my mind, I decided I deserved to have it fixed. I showed her some acne-like spots on my face that have been hanging around for the last couple years. After all, age 31 seems like a strange time of life to be experiencing your first bout of acne. I left the appointment with a plan to treat my skin and a slight feeling of triumph at the thought that I had done something to take care of me: a small step towards healthy self-care habits that don’t involve chocolate, but hey, it’s a start.
When most of your time is tied up in child-care and trying to stay on top of taking care of a household, stealing away to enjoy little luxuries like chocolate, or a foot-soak, (or medicated face cream, haha), or, joy of all joys! a mid-day nap, is so important. I need those things, because, let’s be serious, a lot of what I do during the day is not glamorous. This evening I had the choice of dishes, laundry or bathrooms as a post-child- bedtime activity. I opted to do a bit of all three and congratulated myself on throwing in the task of dealing with the kitchen garbage as a bonus. I was about to tackle more laundry when I heard a small voice calling me from upstairs. “Mum! I’m hungry! And thirsty!” ...Asher…
Asher has lost some weight in the last couple weeks as he has shown little interest in food for a few days. It was late and well past his bedtime, and I was feeling so done with parenting, but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to get some sustenance into my little guy. I carried the pajama clad boy with his stuffed cat tucked under his arm to the table where I put apple-sauce, crackers and apple-juice in front of him. (Not the usual night-time combination, but this kid’s tummy is not happy…). He sang himself a happy song as he drank some juice, ate some applesauce and made towers with his crackers. Eventually he announced he was done and obediently followed me to the bathroom to brush his teeth. As I was plunked the wee fellow on the toilet for his last-chance- pee, he looked at me, his eyes all red-rimmed and sleepy, “Mum, you’re trying to take care of me, right?” This is his way of telling me he needs some reassurance. “That’s right Asher…” I replied, and then, breaking from our usual script I added, “How do you think I’m doing?” And then came the six words I didn’t know I needed, “I fink you’re doing GWEAT fings.” Cue heart squish.
As I tucked my little man in for the 5th time, kissed him goodnight and returned to the kitchen I thought about all the bits and bobs that fill my day: hair brushing, nail clipping, sock-finding, snow-suit dressing, food organizing, argument mediating, story-telling, toy fixing, game-playing, tear-drying, behaviour correcting, adventure leading, late-night comforting etc… all wrapped up in the phrase, ‘stay-at- home-parent’. I thought about how looking at all these activities individually, it does not seem like I’m accomplishing much. A friend recently summed it up well as the parenting “hamster wheel”. But parents of little people, Asher’s words were for you too. We really are doing Great Things.
All of the time you put into caring for your home so you can care for your families, all of the late nights and wee hours of the morning you spend pacing the halls, holding and comforting little bodies, all of the emotional effort you exert solving squabbles, snuggling kids with hurt feelings, all the hours you spend on the floor with little plastic figurines and stories and board games and play-dough etc… performing all these repetitive and often mundane tasks is a beautiful process of a slow and steady outpouring out of love. By example, you are teaching your children what real love is. You are demonstrating selflessness. You are instilling in them the knowledge that they have great self-worth, that their feelings matter, that they are important. And by taking time for yourself, you are both giving yourself a chance to recharge and gently teaching your kids that they are not the centre of the universe. Those, my friends, are Great Things.
So for goodness sake, go soak your feet in the tub, seek out opportunities to squeeze in a nap, make time to work in those routine doctors appointments, and yes, even treat yourself to some secret chocolate in the cupboard because seriously, you truly are the doer of Great Things, and for goodness sake, you deserve it.