Last week was a test. Leah was cutting her canine teeth and just completely out of sorts. Mike was Trauma Chief, which had him working from 6am to 10pm almost every night. This left Leah and me, battling it out for 13+ hours a day. We’re talking early wake ups, short naps, very little eating and tantrums all day long. I don’t mean to complain, but it was the first time I’ve really ever contemplated going back to work. But I’m actually grateful for the long week, because in the end it reminded me to take care of someone who I’d kinda forgotten about: Me.
One of our battles last week was the TV. A few times a week I’ll use Daniel Tiger to keep Leah busy before Mike gets home while I cook dinner. It’s usually at the point when I can’t think of anything else to do with her, and frankly, I just need some space. Last week, however she wanted to watch “Da Tai” All. Day. Long. I started feeling really guilty that I’ve used TV as a babysitter (big no-no!) enough that she’s actually asking for it now. And then my guilt evolved into desperation and I gave in. I was so relieved that she was in the living room, and I was in the kitchen. I finally took a deep breath and some of my anxiety lifted. And when that episode finished, I put another one on. But then the guilt set back in a little bit.
I scrolled through Instagram, enjoying the peace to do so, and saw this saying: “You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.” Hm…there might be something to that. I switched apps on my phone and perused a mom’s message board. There was a mom in a similar situation, feeling extreme guilt for letting her kid watch TV because she just needed a break. I actually expected the other moms to swoop in with “No screens before age 2, your kid will get ADHD!!” and “You shouldn’t be using the TV as a babysitter! If you can’t handle them don’t have them!” But instead I saw women with kids of all ages reassuring this mom that it’s OK. And what hit home with me the most was when I read “What’s good for Mom is good for Baby. Sometimes we need a break, to be better for our kiddos.” Wow. Why did I feel like a better mom when I was scolding my daughter for trying to climb me while I made dinner, than when I let both of us chill a little bit with the TV on? I am a much kinder, more patient, and more loving person when I have a few minutes for myself here and there.
Thanks to these little lessons that found their way to me, I put my guilt about this one particular thing away. I feel like it’s a message that we, as women don’t hear enough. We need to take care of ourselves. How many times has my husband told me “I don’t care if dinner is made or if the house is clean, as long as I come home and you’re happy to see me and in a good mood.”? And how many times have I sacrificed my good mood to get those things done instead? Or made myself miserable because I put pressure on myself to do things that don’t really matter? Too many times.
My final reiteration of this lesson came yesterday after church. In the bulletin, there was this little parenting tip: “…love your neighbor as yourself. It’s a familiar verse; perhaps so familiar we take it for granted. How do I love myself? Do I take care of my health, my mind, my emotional needs?” So on point. I, for one, have never thought about the instruction to take care of yourself in that verse. So moms and non-moms, make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Even if it’s something tiny. We are much better moms, friends, wives, and people when we’re whole and happy.
And if you have any other tidbits like this, I’m sure we could all use them, so please share! I am going to make an effort to live this lesson every day, who’s with me?