By default, we kind of expect moms to be totally selfless creatures, right?
Like we are somehow supposed to embrace getting no sleep and make cutesy jokes about #gimmeallthecoffee, or instead of complaining when our kids act like brats we post a picture of our messy bun and say #passthewine?
Motherhood = essentially squashing all our natural tendencies to put ourselves first, starting with the first little burrowing of that little bean inside our bodies to essentially siphon off our own blood supply and turn it into its own. (No, really. Not so beautiful when it's basic biology, huh?)
And for the most part, I accept and embrace it. But every mother has her limits. Your own oxygen mask and all that crap.
Which is exactly why I've spent my entire motherhood career building up a few non-negotiable items that I am 100 percent, completely and totally selfish about. No guilt allowed.
Nap time is two hours in my life that I don't have to worry about anyone else, and it's honestly the only way I keep going.
I'm almost embarrassed to tell you how much I love—nay, how much I neednap time in my life. Aside from the fact that I make money during that solid two-hour time of day every single day, nap time is the only way I survive.
Honestly, I sometimes count down the minutes until nap time and when I have safely closed the door to my bedroom, where my youngest sleeps because we have more children than beds available. And when it's here, I feel like a woman who has been reborn.
In my mind, little angels pop out of the sky and start singing, confetti that I don't have to clean up rains down around me, and I take the longest, deepest, most cleansing of breaths. Then I plop down on the couch with the latest episode of "The Mindy Project," a hot chocolate and my laptop. Nap time is two hours in my life that I don't have to worry about anyone else, and it's honestly the only way I keep going.
But the thing is, I use nap time as a source of rejuvenation for myself so much that it's non-negotiable. If you call or text me between the hours of 1 to 3 p.m., there is a 99.9 percent chance I will completely ignore you because nap time is precious to me.
Isolation can quickly turn me down the path of darkness. Exercise remedies that for me.
I'm not going to sit here and lie to you and tell you that exercise is always fun and my family loves doing a giant workout together because we're adorable like that.
H-e-double hockey sticks no. Exercise doesn't work that way for me. The thing about working out is that I enjoy doing it. Frankly, I need it because four pregnancies have not been kind to my body, but more than anything, exercising is like therapy for me. I have a tendency to get depressed and my introverted personality, plus staying home with very young kids, plus working from home, plus winter means all that isolation can quickly turn me down the path of darkness. Exercise remedies that for me.
But I have to fight for it. And there are nights when I decide to go to the gym, or even just head down to the basement for a quick YouTube workout, that I am tempted to feel guilty for leaving or abandoning my children, but you know what? I always squash that thought because it's just too important.
I need an actual, physical break from simply touching my children.
Do you ever reach that point in your day when you're completely touched out? When the baby has been nursing all day and you've had to physically wrestle your 3-year-old into his pants and his car seat and his shoes, and if one more person needs you to physically hold them you might scream?
Yeah. I reach that point a lot, and if my husband comes home and I feel like I need an actual, physical break from simply touching my children (which sounds horrible now that I'm writing it out, but still, it's the truth), I will take that break. It's selfish but necessary.
4. Not playing with my kids
I focus on letting my kids be kids and letting the adults be adults.
There are a lot of times when I plop down on the couch after a long day and feel like doing absolutely nothing but watch my kids play, or I'm stuck cleaning the kitchen while my kids are giggling in the living room, or I'm running through a long list of chores in my head and thinking, "I should really be playing with my kids instead ... "
But you know what? There is a time and a place for playing with my kids, and I think I can respect myself enough to know when I need to get shit done and when I need to play with my kids. If the dishes actually do need to be done and that lovely little saying of "Excuse the mess, we're making memories" is just not going to cut it, I refuse to let myself feel guilt about it. What's the point? Feeling guilty is not going to get my work done faster or help me play with my kids either.
Instead, I focus on letting my kids be kids and letting the adults be adults. Because there's nothing wrong with that.
5. Making my kids do chores around the house
I can't keep up my work as a mother, my paid work as an employee and all the housework on my own. More importantly, I shouldn't have to.
My husband and I initially came into parenting thinking that it would be fine to raise kids who didn't necessarily have prescribed chores. My husband and his siblings, for example, never really had to clean their own rooms or take care of their own laundry. The lovely theory behind that route of childrearing is that childhood should be childhood. All fun and no responsibility makes a carefree childhood.
But you know what? That little childhood theory may have also been built around a time and age when kids: 1) weren't inside making huge giant messes all the time, and 2) when mothers didn't work outside of the home in any capacity.
The truth is, I can't keep up my work as a mother, my paid work as an employee and all the housework on my own. More importantly, I shouldn't have to. I myself came from a family where my mother always worked full-time as a teacher and I did many a thorough deep-clean as a child, so I'm not sure where I fell into believing this script that I'm supposed to be a stay-at-home mom, a working mom, a housekeeper, and a wife, all at the same time and all 24/7. Eventually, something had to give, and if that means my kids learn how to put away their own clothes at the ages of 5 and 7, then I think that's great.
Independence is not a bad thing, and if that makes me a selfish mom, then so be it.
To go alongside numbers 4 and 5, and also because I happen to be a work-at-home mom, it's been a very long and painfully slow journey to try to raise independent children.
And by "independent" I mean, simply children who don't sit on their butts and expect me to run around like a chicken with its head cut off to fetch every last thing for them, especially because, let's face it—I'm way outnumbered by them. There is one of me and four of them, and although I'm still waiting for this lesson of mine to sink in fully, every time a kid sits in front of me and announces, "I'm thirsty!" I will happily and patiently reply, like the cliched mother I am:
"Nice to meet you, thirsty. There are cups in the bottom drawer."
Independence is not a bad thing, and if that makes me a selfish mom, then so be it. I will happily embrace being a selfish mom.