Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Finding time to clip my toenails...

One thing I've been thinking about over the last few months is this whole idea of trying to find time to care for myself.

It hit me really hard a couple months ago. It was probably 6 weeks after Jonathan was born and I was starting to feel kind of down. Not a post-partum hormonal depression... just a regular old sadness and behind the sadness I was kind of angry. Greg was trying to do all he could to help... "Do you want to go to the gym? You could go right now. Or do you need to go into Fayetteville (our closest city) by yourself this weekend?" Greg asked. The conversation went on like this, and finally I ended up frustrated and in tears blurting out, "I don't know what I want." We talked for awhile and then Greg said, "I think the fact that you don't know what you need shows how out of touch you are with yourself. You don't have time to even think about what you need to maintain a healthy life." And as I thought about it I realized that he was right.

I push myself to perform, and do everything, and have it all under control. And in the midst of all these To-Do's it's the things like showers, and exercise, and sleep, and time with friends that tend to get skipped. Until one day I look down at my feet and think, "I haven't even had time to clip my toenails." And inevitably this leads to anger. Usually I get angry at Greg (after all he's the closest target). The funny thing about it is that I'm the only one who expects me to do it all.
Right before Christmas break I had a lot going on. I worked an extra day at the library, I had a bunch of burp cloths to sew for the Baby Habit, I was trying to get everything ready for Elisa's birthday and Christmas, and also I had to pack and clean and do laundry etc. I had decided that for Elisa's birthday I wanted to make a cake from scratch with frosting from scratch. The cake I chose turned out to be a lot more work than I was expecting and as I was finishing it up at about 1am I thought to myself, "You know, Elisa probably would rather have a box cake and store-bought frosting with a well-rested mom; than this cake with a crabby, tired mom."

I go to a Bible Study called Mothering Matters (kind of like the local MOPS chapter). One of the women in my group was talking about just this thing the other day. She said that she carries a list with her. On one side of the paper is a list of things she does... on the other side of the paper is a list of the things she doesn't do. In order for her to be able to do the things that she does, she also has to not do the other things. In other words, she only has so much time... and so she has chosen to invest it on the "things I do" side. And if she wants to add something new to that side, then she probably has to move something off of it to the "things I don't do" side. Then whenever she sees someone else who, for example, bakes her own bread, and she thinks to herself, "Wow, I wish I baked my own bread... I don't measure up." She can remind herself, "No, look at all the things that I have chosen to do... I could do that too, if I was willing to give up something else."

Part of the problem is that I think that other moms do it all. When in reality, everyone has to make choices. Sure, some people can fit more on their plates than others (I'm one of those with a dinner-roll size plate), but none of us can really do everything. I had a reminder of this over Christmas. I was talking with a mom of four girls ages 3-11. She was saying that her oldest daughter had a school assignment where she had to bring in a recipe for one of her favorite meals. The class was making a cookbook. The meal she chose was beef stew... which was great, except as the mom explained to me, "I don't think they were looking for, 'Go to the freezer section of your local grocery store and find the Stouffer's beef stew in a bag. Cut the bag open and place contents in crock pot...'" I don't know why, but somehow it was kind of freeing to hear that this other mom doesn't make beef stew from scratch. We tend to notice all of the things that other moms do, and think "why can't I do that too?" But what about the things they don't do?

So, I just want to tell you all some of the things that I don't do in the hopes that it will, in some strange way, encourage you:
I don't cook most Tuesday or Thursday nights.
We eat burritos probably at least twice a week (canned beans, cheese, and salsa in a tortilla - if it has meat it's considered a fancy meal).
I never make lunch for Greg.
I'm rarely out of my pajamas before 9:30 or 10:00 unless I have somewhere to be.
Jonathan regularly stays in his pajamas all day and night.
Our Christmas tree sat in our house for over a week before we put any ornaments on it (and by the way, our tree is still up).
I consider wiping the bathroom down with a clorox wipe a pretty good cleaning job and do this every other week at most.
Our house gets vacuumed probably once every three weeks, and half the time Greg does it.

I could go on and on. But I think you get the point. There are a lot of things that I don't do.

Anyway, back to my original thought... I have to let go of some of the unrealistic expectations I have of myself. In the midst of taking care of my family and my home, I need to make sure that I'm taking care of myself. I have a great husband who's willing to help out... if I'll let him... if I'll ask him for what I need. Sometimes I feel guilty if he gets up in the morning with Elisa. Or if he stays home with the kids while I go out for a fun evening.

In reality it's pride. I don't want to admit that I can't do it all... or that I need help. But I'm getting better. I'm learning that I need to be okay with a messy house. I need to let Greg wake up early with the kids while I sleep in. In other words I need to be okay with the fact that I too have needs and give up on the dream of being super-mom.


Nancy said...

A super-mom is not one who "does it all" but one whose kids thinks she's super. You ARE a super mom.
Love, Mom

steph said...

Thanks Carolyn. This was a good reminder for me. I struggle with this a ton and am constantly battling myself over it. It is refreshing to hear that I am not the only one and to be reminded that No ONE does IT ALL.

Jeana said...

Thanks, Carolyn! This is such a good reminder. And I think I need to make a "Things I Don't Do" list, too.

Greg said...

First off, I love burritos and please don't ever conisder downsizing that indespensable portion of our diet.

I love our little family and it brings me much joy to watch you love our kids. It's a pleasure to share life with you.

Caleb and Anna Fields said...

FYI: I don't make dinner...almost ever! And clorox wipes are all my bathroom knows. I so appreciate your thoughts! I also think your mom is awesome and am going to tell myself all the time how super Josiah thinks I am even though I am not the most gifted domestic engineer! I love you very much. Greg, yay, you are such a good guy! I love you and miss you both very much!

Micah and Christa Forsythe said...

I cried as I read your post! I so hear you and it was so amazing to hear that I am not the "only one"... how often I feel like I don't measure up as a mom! Thanks so much for sharing your heart!

ps... we REGULARLY (all 3 of us) have PJ days all day.

Mary Jane said...

First of all, it is a huge joke among our friends as to how late they can catch me in my bathrobe--2, 3 p.m.--and I don't even have small children.

Next, when the girls were babies, I took them next door to visit my mother-in-law. As I started to put them down, she said "Wait, I haven't cleaned the floors since this morning." I said, "No problem, I haven't cleaned my floors in 3 weeks!" See--It's cross generational. You just can't do it all.

Third, you are an amazing friend to share this so publicly so everyone can be a part of your community and feel like you are all in this together!

Denee Longan said...

It's so strange that most moms feel this way, but we all keep doing it! And we think that we're the only ones who don't "measure up," when we're the ones setting the unattainable standards for ourselves anyway! I struggle w/ comparing myself to my mom, who always made homemade everything for dinner and kept a very clean house. I'm just not her, but it's so hard to get past it!

The Ashmens said...

Thanks for your transparency Carolyn! I've only had Eleri for two months now and I can already see myself struggling to live up to some crazy expectations I have in my head. You are right, our kids (and hubby!) would probably prefer a happy mom over home baked goods and the unattainable super mom who is too busy to care for herself. I am afraid that I will be struggling with this for a while... but we do have a God who is able to meet our needs...again and again. If only I could remember that too! Ahhh... isn't life wonderful?!

Lorna L said...

Being a Mom & now a Grandma, if I could change one thing in my childrearing days, it would be to chill out, don't worry about being a super mom. Our children don't want us that way or ask us to be that way. Let the dust bunnies, cob webs and dirty floors for another day. Your precious children will be away from home sooner than you want. Greg & Carolyn you are precious Your friend in Oregon Lorna P