Meet Monica. Monica is a stay-at-home mother of two young children, stepmom to a 7th grader, and wife to a business owner who works long hours. Monica left her career at NBC to stay at home with her children, which she has found to be both challenging and rewarding. She writes at takingbackmonday.com from her own unique perspective on how parenting has shaped her in new ways, but how deep down, she is still the same person. Monica stresses to her readers the importance of self-care in order to preserve our own identities (and sanity) in this grueling and joyful journey we call parenthood.
By Monica Gomez
Sometimes I don’t know how us mothers do it…as I sat rocking my son from 1:30 to 2:30am early Monday morning, I didn’t know how I would keep pushing through. I kept thinking, how in the world will I make it through the day tomorrow? All I knew is in that moment, in that hour, he needed me. When he woke for the day at 5:20, I had the very same thoughts that I had three short hours earlier. Somehow, some way though, I did make it through the day. Just like always.
Even if it was one of those typical Mondays – smoke alarm going off from bacon I burned, a short car nap for my son (no transfer to crib) which meant he and I never got the rest we needed. That kind of a day. A friend was coming for dinner, so I had an extra time-consuming meal to make. Yet it all worked out somehow. Again, it always does. I felt overwhelmingly grateful when my head finally hit the pillow at 9pm.
As I sat and rocked him for that hour Sunday night, I couldn’t help but wonder what is in us as mothers that pushes us like nothing else? We think of giving up sometimes, but we don’t. We never do. When we don’t think we have the strength, we somehow find it. When we think all of our patience is gone, we manage to muster up some more when we need it. How us mothers do it, I’ll never know.
I feel like parenting is perhaps the biggest test I’ll face in life. I’m constantly worried I’m failing the test…and failing it miserably. When they don’t eat the way I want them to, I feel like I’m a failure as a parent. When we have a challenging night (or week) of sleep, I wonder what I’m doing wrong. Even when they’ve gotten ear infections, I’ve actually questioned if there was something I could have done to prevent them. It’s absurd. Where does this guilt come from? Many of us have this intense need to strive for perfection, but that will assuredly result in feeling like a failure too.
It’s easy to look at the next parent and think they have it all together or it doesn’t seem like they’re facing the same challenge I am at the moment. But why would they be?
At times we will undoubtedly switch places and we’ll be on a high when they’re on a low…it’s a constant ebb and flow. I sometimes picture parenting as all of us playing on a park playground. We’re all on different equipment, trying it out. While a friend and her child may be swinging happily together this week, my little one may be slipping off the monkey bars into my arms. No one’s ahead of anybody, but we are all on an equal playing field. What happens next is anyone’s guess.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from parenting, it’s that things are constantly changing. I’m not sure why anything surprises me anymore. What I feel matters most is how I handle whatever it is that’s changing at the moment. For me, it means pushing through until I know I can get a break. After a rough week I’ll always need a refresher to press the recharge button in order to take the reins again come Monday. I don’t let myself get to the point of burn-out because that’s just not good for anyone in the house.
And so, I plunge into yet another season of self-care. Recognizing what I need following a draining week can be the best way of taking care of myself. I may not get to refuel for a bit but eventually I know a small break is coming. A pedicure, a cup of tea with a friend, or a workout session alone will typically do the trick. It’s nice to block out the noise, tune into my thoughts, and just “be” for a few hours.
And I have to remind myself to take heart that next week will probably look brighter. These phases – they thankfully don’t last forever.
And hopefully, we’ll be the ones on the swings next week.