Taking Myself Seriously

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A serious writer.

I find and place three pairs of socks. Brush three sets of teeth. Pack snacks in two different bags. (Also, spend an inordinate amount of time finding containers with lids for said snacks. Finally give up and just pack an entire sleeve of crackers.) I physically dress or coach the dressing of the kids.

Together, my husband and I buckle them into three car seats. I drop the husband at the hotel. Drop the oldest at kindergarten. Try to keep him focused on undressing and writing his name on the sign in sheet. Kiss goodbye. I take the other two to a friend with whom I’ve worked out a childcare exchange. Undress kids, chat for a moment, say goodbye, and run.

I am here, in my cold little office. The electric kettle is boiling and I’ll make a cup of tea. I light a stick of incense because I like doing something to mark the shift from my mundane to my sacred time. My writing time.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

It’s not enough.

I’ve come to realize that in the past week or so. There are two projects jumping for attention in my brain. Two projects that are languishing right now because all I can afford is an hour here, two hours there, of sporadic time. It’s hard to take myself seriously as a writer when time for research and writing comes second. Comes third.

I’ve decided that it can’t be something I fit into the spaces that may or may not open up in my day. I’ve decided that writing has to come first. That I have to look at this as a business that I am starting myself. As it stands, writing feels like a hobby. I want it to be my vocation.

I am the one who keeps myself from this. I am the one who is afraid to take the risk of finding more permanent, regular childcare and sitting down and researching and writing and maybe publishing my words. I tell myself that because I didn’t have “a Career” before having kids, that I have to be a stay at home mom. Talking to my husband about this, he answers: “Why? Says who?”

I feel like some kind of monster for not wanting to spend all of my time (literally, all of it) with my kids. But then, upon further reflection, I realize that many women don’t want to do this. They had jobs that they loved, or that they needed, before having kids. After having kids, they go back to them. I certainly don’t think they’re monsters. So why am I one?

The answer lies in the risk I’m taking. In diving into my writing like it’s a real, live thing that I want to spend a big chunk of my time doing, I’m taking a huge risk. It is essentially a business endeavor that may very well fail. I might never get published. Or I might choose to become my own publisher, and then suck at marketing myself.

Or, I might become my own publisher, market the shit out of my books, and become a successful author-entrepreneur.

But I won’t ever know if I don’t try. And I want to try NOW. I don’t want to wait three more years until the last baby finally goes off to kindergarten. Those three years will be miserable. I want to get started. I want to take the risk.

I am worthy of my dreams.

I am worthy of the risk.

And I am worthy of some form of childcare!

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Self-Care and Mom Guilt

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Yesterday afternoon, I was texting with a mom friend who was feeling lonely and overwhelmed at home with her two little ones. I asked her if she could get a break today. She replied that it didn’t look possible; that she’d been to the gym a few days earlier so she shouldn’t be complaining, anyway.

Shortly after that, I saw an opportunity to go out for a run and I took it. And the day before, I’d been to a yoga class. And the day before that, I’d been for a run, too. I didn’t tell my mom friend that I was going for a run the day after I’d been to a yoga class, though. Instead, I texted a vague “gotta go, love you!”, threw on my sneakers and dashed out the door. As I ran, I thought about self-care and the seemingly endless guilt we mothers feel about it.

I know exactly how my friend was feeling: like we only deserve so much. Like asking for more, even a significant break on a daily basis, is selfish, is asking too much. So many times in my journey to better self-care, I’ve told myself I’ve already had enough for that day or that week. That asking for this one more thing is just too much. I wonder, do fathers struggle with this? When they decide to go to the gym or a drive or have a night out with friends, do they carefully weigh how many hours they’ve already had to themselves this week? Why do we, as mothers and, let’s face it, primary caregivers, feel like there is a limit to how much time we can give ourselves in a day or a week?

Guilt waits at every turn for me. I feel like we’re nearing a decision on whether or not to send Aedan to kindergarten. It’s something I began to write about here a few months ago, in a post about homeschooling as a writer. I am leaning heavily towards sending him to kindergarten, and his brother and sister after him, but oh my, is it wracked with extreme feelings of guilt and failure. This morning, I reached out to the doula I had when Aedan was born: I recalled her talking about homeschooling, five years ago, and I also remembered that recently she’d announced on Facebook that she was getting ready to self-publish a book. I wondered if she’d homeschooled and found a way to balance that with her writing. She wrote back that in the end, she sent them to school. She reminded me that in tribal cultures, there are 4 adults to each 1 child. She told me that school is a part of her tribe that helps her to raise her kids. I had never thought of school in those terms before, but those words felt so right, so affirming to me. They felt like permission to drop my guilt.

We are not meant to parent alone, but we do, so much of the time. It’s so lovely to think of our “tribe” as being made up of aunts and uncles, grandparents, older siblings and cousins, friends and elders who can all play a part in raising our kids, in caring for each other, in household work. But it’s just not our reality. Our tribe can also be made up of teachers, daycare workers, free childcare at the gym, or the teen down the street who hangs out with your kids for an hour on the weekend so you can go out alone. There should be no shame in pulling together the resources we have available so that we can fill ourselves to overflowing and be more present for ourselves and our families.

I’m going to try and stop keeping track of how much time I’ve spent on self-care. I’m going to try and stop thinking of it as too much, and instead think of it as always just enough of what I need to function. In these intensive years of parenting little ones, we do need breaks every day. And I realize it’s not possible a lot of the time. But we shouldn’t feel guilty for the wanting. We shouldn’t feel like we’re complaining or like we’re not enough because we’re struggling to do something we were never meant to do alone in the first place.