- I’ve been doing yoga nearly every day since December 1st 2020. I used to do an annual December self-challenge to practice every day. It was a great way to end the year taking some time to stretch (literally and physically) and to recalibrate mentally and spiritually. I fell out of it for a few years and decided to reengage with my practice in December.
- The first few weeks were hard. I was forced to face just how limited my body was in terms of mobility and flexibility. It took nearly two weeks to really embrace the rhythm and ritual of practice.
- During week three I pulled a muscle in my neck. My body was telling me I was pushing too hard, too fast so I pulled back and worked on more gentle postures and not pushing my body past the brink.
- On New Years, I figured, I can continue this for another month. And in spite of a shitastic month, I did.
- Every night, I roll out a mat and stretch and bend. I pay attention to what is tight, what is limber. My practice is free flow. I haven’t been interested in too many standing postures at this point; maybe next month.
- Maybe next month…so here we are nearly at the end of January and I’m thinking hey, I think it can do it another month.
- It is a few minutes a day when I just breathe and let the thoughts just wash over me. I just let my body move.
- Yesterday I realized that I can now get really deep into some postures that were beyond me 2 months ago. I was shocked. I was like, “Is my whole torso really laying on my leg right now? Like without hurting?” In the midst of sooooo much personal chaos my body is still working and thriving. It was a revelation.
- I’ve also gotten back into taking luxurious baths. Hope bought me one of those bathtub caddy things with a place for your tablet, a glass, etc. I have made a point to take a long, hot, healing bath at least once a week. I got all out—bubble bath, booze, my kindle or my phone to stream something. I light candles. I stay in there until I’m prune-like and the water is cold. I often am not ready to get out, so I let some water out and run some more hot water. I have some CBD bath bombs and it really is just such a wonderful experience, especially after I have calmed myself with some yoga. (I’m about to run a bath as soon as I post this because…Wednesday.)
- While I definitely have been pushed to the brink, I am doing what I can to practice some self-care. I’m hydrating. I just bought an under-desk treadmill—it arrived today and it’s MAGICAL. I’m cooking the comfort foods that I like and eating in moderation. I’m doing the things I should be doing to take care of me. I still need to take some time, but I’m doing what I can under the circumstance.
Category Archives: Self Care
Everyday I set a couple of small goals for Hope: help me with making dinner, going for a walk, showering and getting dressed. It is not easy, but most days we achieve one or two goals on the path towards healing from the trauma of the summer and early fall. Naturally, some days are better than others, but there is an element of “pulling teeth” to everyday.
This week I acknowledged to myself that juggling work full-time and a heightened level of care-giving is hard. Actually hard is an understatement. My job takes its own emotional toll on me, and this year that toll has been extraordinarily high. Racialized social unrest in a pandemic during an election year is like the worst of the perfect storms for folks like me who do diversity work. I usually am able to compartmentalize some things, but this year–really where was I going to compartmentalize my own emotion? Under the kitchen sink? I upped my therapy to weekly, figured out my preferred strains of cannabis that would help me relax a bit and cope and increased my exercise. I knew that my rope was frayed, but I felt like I wrapped around a little duct tape and was able to keep going.
Then things hit the skids with Hope, and everything has felt like a house of cards built on a seesaw for a couple of months now. At first I could busy myself with the immediate task of pulling together the medical and mental health teams (part of which involved securing a new psychiatrist who does not take our insurance). I’m actually not bad in crisis–I can clearly identify what needs to be done, so I got to doing those things.
Work continued to be demanding, and I began making a cake nearly every 4 or so days because: EATING MY FEELINGS. I tried to pull back on a few projects, and set better boundaries. My evenings became devoted trying to cook better meals, spend quality time with Hope and Yappy and trying to create some sense of normalcy in the midst of what is becoming the worst time in my life.
My own light began to dim a couple of weeks before the election. The idea that that Orange Demon could possibly win began to set in, and I had a harder time managing my anxiety. I took up crocheting a few months ago and I just started trying to focus on that. The COVID cases began to rise and the hopes of visiting my family for Thanksgiving started to fall. I started baking, crushing chicken figures like I was a toddler and throwing myself into dealing with Hope’s challenges. I started feeling just too tired to get my 13.5K steps everyday. It became hard to answer any phone call that wasn’t work related. I tried to pull it together. I bought a new desk, since it’s clear I won’t be in the office anytime soon. I became consumed with rehabbing an office chair I bought second hand (I ended up just running out to buy a new chair this morning), Amazon started making more frequent deliveries as well.
I could and can feel my depression and anxiety is at an all time high; I also feel like there was and is pitifully little I can do about it.
Hope began to make baby steps forward on her journey, and that was the only bright light.
And then both of our bad days collided. On the weekends, I try to plan several activities to get us out and about (safely of course). Last week we went to a farm and did some shopping. We got some fresh fruit and veggies, fresh pressed apple cider, jam and honey sticks. Everything was delicious and it set us up for a few good eats during the week. Hope wanted to go back this weekend, but I found another farm for us to visit that had more things (fresh ice cream!) to enjoy. We’re supposed to visit today.
But yesterday, I struggled. I keep crying for no reason. I was fixated on the stupid office chair, and I was furiously crocheting Yappy a 2nd new sweater. I
was am emotionally exhausted, which makes me feel physically exhausted. Yesterday’s goal was to go on a short family walk. The walk happened and the walk was a disaster. By the time we returned from the house, I just felt like giving up on everything.
I didn’t cook.
I didn’t fold my laundry.
I binged watched Fargo.
People called, but I could barely talk.
I sporadically cried.
I tried to nap, but couldn’t.
I air fried half a bag of tater tots and ate the left over cake and a bunch of chocolate covered peanuts because yum.
I finished Yappy’s sweater (Bright side: he looks very handsome in it).
I sat and just looked into space.
Today, is not much better. I do not feel like dealing with anything or anyone, sadly not even Hope or Yappy. I am disgusted that there are no more chicken fingers in the house–yet I also know I’ll be disgusted if I ate more chicken fingers. There is not more cake which means I need to make some, which is energy I don’t have. I know I can make a mug cake but it’s not the same. It’s mid-month and I need to pay bills, which frankly enrages me for no apparent reason other than hating the exercise. I still don’t have the energy to talk to anyone, even when I know it will help. My gout has flared because I’m eating poorly, so I hurt and I have no one to blame by myself, and well the Holy Homeboy for allowing me to have gout.
Oh yeah, I’m in deep. I *know* I should get Hope up and I know I should try to achieve the small goals, but real talk: My tank is empty and even the fumes are gone. I got nothing, and that’s hella problematic because Hope really doesn’t do well when I lose my shit.
And my shit is definitely gone today.
So because I’m the super fragile one today and I’m also the one who has to keep this boat from capsizing, I’m taking the day to just wallow.
My coffee is currently in a wine tumbler. I’m about to eat some buttered bread for breakfast. I’m going to take a shower, put on some comfy fleece and crawl under my weighted blanket. I might go for a walk at some point, and I might even stock up on more chicken fingers. I’m putting some butter on the counter for later, so I can make a cake. And I will make the Tikka Masala I was supposed to make yesterday, if for no other reasons than 1) the chicken might spoil and 2) I bought fresh naan yesterday and I don’t need the guilt of eating it without the dish.
Yeah, we are both fragile over here.
So, Hope and I are back to our Pandemic Normal. I’m finally feeling fully recovered and Hope has finished her first year of college (amazeballs). Now we’re trying to chart out our summer.
Due to a variety of absurd reasons, Hope was unable to register for the first session of summer school (she’s nearly 19 but they still wanted a form from a legal guardian). So, we had to do a hard pivot—it is time for Hope to find a job. I told her that she needed to find creative ways of volunteering if she couldn’t find a paying job. I was ready for her to consider doing UberEats and/or do shopping for some of the older residents in our building. She spent yesterday morning hunting for and putting in applications at grocery stores and fast food places.
Honestly, given how trash the economy is, I didn’t think that she would really find a job. I realized on my morning walk this morning that the universe has other plans for Hope for the summer. In a single day she was able to set up a couple of interviews for this week, one of which has already sent her the onboarding information. Clearly, schoolwork isn’t what was supposed to happen this summer.
I’m excited for Hope and this new experience she’s going to have this summer.
Our relationship has changed so much these last two months, and honestly, the relationship we have now is kinda what I’ve been chasing all these years. We have our own inside jokes. We have deep philosophical conversations. With both of us at home, Hope is able to get a much better sense of how I hard I work, and I think she is much more understanding of why I get pissed when she’s particularly lazy or entitled. I get to see her habits and how she works; I can see better what coping mechanisms really work for her and what things she probably still needs to work on. I think we both have a lot more patience with one another; there’s just a lot more grace and a lot more understanding.
In many ways, I’m grateful for this time with her even if I did wish she would just spontaneously clean the kitchen without me asking her.
And me? Well, I’m learning to crochet. I’ve resumes my exercise efforts. I can’t handle a lot of intensity these days, so I make up for that with more workout time. I’m reminded that I have a gym membership for when the weather is bad, and cold isn’t bad weather. I still would rather bundle up and go walk a couple of miles. I bake bread a few days a week because it’s so yummy, and I enjoy cooking a real dinner for us a few days a week. (By the way since it’s become so hard to get bread flour at the store, I now get it from a local bakery and it’s AMAZING!) I have started a daily habit of trying to find beauty when I take my multiple walks throughout the day. I try to post the pictures on my private social media accounts.
I’ve zeroed in on my skin routine; during a recent video call with my sister, my brother in law even commented on my skin. I’m transition to more natural deodorants because this seems like as good a time as any to do that—when I’m around just 1 other person! LOL. I get enough sleep each night which has radically changed my outlook on a lot of things. It’s really amazing how tired we all are when the world is “open.” I’m increasingly convinced that we’re all just overstimulated. I luxuriate on the weekend because after I make the grocery run, I can chill. I bought a zero-gravity chair and Yappy and I hit the balcony when the weather is nice. It’s nice to be rested.
Yappy is also doing well. He gets way too many treats and is gaining weight. I worry about how anxious he will be when I finally return to the office, but for now, he seems incredibly content to have his pack all in one place. He seems to be at his happiest when we take a walk as a family in the evenings. It’s a delight to watch him, and it’s comforting to cuddle with him.
In all, Hope and I are doing better than ok these days. We are still wary of the world opening back up, fully aware of the dangers that await but also relishing in this special time together. I’m realizing that if Hope doesn’t boomerang home, this might actually be the last substantial period of time when we live together. I think of that often, and I let it guide my engagements with her. It’s not that I want her to boomerang home; I hope she is able to take flight. But if she does come back I want to be sure that we have a new baseline of what our life can be like with a mother and her adult daughter living together.
Of course, that’s in the middle of a pandemic, but I still hope it will create a reference point for whatever might be necessary in the future.
But for now, Hope and I are enjoying each other and getting a window into each other’s lives in ways we didn’t pre-pandemic.
I saw this meme on Instagram recently, and it stopped me in my tracks. It made me reflect on the first year Hope was with me.
We had a really difficult adjustment period. I was a bit of a nervous wreck for a while there. I was exhausted. I was always stressed and nervous. I had just finished my doctorate and jumped into parenting. Not only did I not take a break, but I was still writing my dissertation when Hope was placed with me. I was a whole entire mess.
Hope was easily triggered and was prone to moments of high drama.
Sometimes we were a living, breathing disaster.
About 8 months in, I hired a sitter to come hang out with Hope twice a week for 3 hours in the evening. I used this time to try to pull myself together and get a bit of me time. I would get takeout and go to the park. I would read a book sitting by the riverbank. I would sometimes go to happy hour with friends, who only wanted to ask about Hope—the last person I wanted to talk about.
But the thing I spent the most time doing?
Driving to the park, never leaving the car, making sure the doors were locked, reclining my seat, setting an alarm and sleeping in my car. I would be so tired. So very tired.
Eventually, I never even left my own parking lot. I legit grabbed my purse and all the trappings of going “out” for a few hours. I took the elevator to the lobby, walked to my car, got in, cried for 20 minutes, set my alarm and took a nap.
Hope and I finalized our adoption about 5 and half months after placement. It was definitely the right thing for us, but it also meant that things moved very fast. Our whole process moved so quickly that it was a whirlwind—we were matched, placed and finalized inside of 10 months. I don’t think I would change much about our journey, but I acknowledge that that first year was somewhat of a blur.
I look back fondly on those moment of sitting alone in my car now. In those moments I finally had some of the alone time I craved. I could breathe in my car. I could steel myself in my car. I could rest with no demands. I could reflect on my parenting with no immediate pressure. I could come up with plans for the next day of parenting Hope. I. Could. Just. Take. Time. I. Created. Space!
I am still so grateful for the sitters who got us through that time. I provided a frozen pizza for the night, and they took it from there. Hope adored Camille and Susanne, and they were worth every penny! (Pro tip: When interviewing sitters, look for those social work majors, those special ed majors, psych majors who actually want to be a mental health professional. Both of the sitters mentioned above had masters in special education and worked with kids with Autism, ADHD, ODD, etc. They were awesome at managing Hope, gaining her trust and encouraging her to enjoy the time they shared on Tuesdays and Thursdays. She still mentions them fondly from time to time.
So if you are new to this journey, make sure you have car time! You will not regret it. It is good for your sanity, and your sanity is good for you kid!
First things first: Hope is doing marvelously. She has friends; she is social. She is trying to stay on top of her schoolwork. She joined a club last week. She’s doing great. She’s also still open to questions for her column, so…Ask Hope by sending an email to email@example.com.
I’m not doing so hot.
It’s not an empty nest thing, though some of it is probably a change thing. No, it’s really about work and personal life. I hit an emotional wall a week ago that was just incredibly damaging, and while I grinned and bore it; I’m not ok. And this week I feel like it shows across every aspect of my life.
I recently celebrated 15 years in my job as a diversity and inclusion professional. I love my work; I know I’m making a difference. There is so much work to do, but I can look at several generations of students and see the impact that my work along with the work of so many others.
I’ve got research projects and consultations and student organizations. I give lectures, conduct workshops and create assessment tools. I’ve written policies, standards, papers and books.
I’m not bragging. I’ve just worked hard.
Along the way I went back to school, did a couple of degrees and half raised an amazing daughter.
I feel like if I totally checked out right this moment, I will have left a mark, and that’s immensely satisfying even when I see so much more that can and should be done.
But it has all has come at a cost.
I’ve been one of few people of color broadly and very few black people and even fewer black women, in countless spaces over the last 15 years. I’m used to it. I can hold my own in such spaces, but these spaces aren’t always inclusive or hospitable. I’ve been called names. I’ve heard racist jokes. I’ve been harassed. When I went natural and chopped my hair off the first time, a white male colleague said I looked exotic. I have given lectures that were rated poorly because I didn’t have any effs to give about white fragility.
I’ve coached, coddled, chastised and championed.
I love this work, but it is emotionally exhausting creating content to reach, teach, and move people in ways that keeps them engaged and not triggered by their own fragility. It comes at a high cost that I’m willing to pay if it means that I can make this profession better. My commitment to this work is also why I continue writing about my life and parenting experience in this space, why Mimi and I hosted Add Water and Stir and why I’m now trying to move into doing some consulting with adoption agencies interested in exploring these issues.
I recently participated in a work-related meeting that demonstrated clearly to me that there is still so much more work to be done. It was in a space that positioned me as an outsider, that felt very silencing and was wholly oblivious to how problematic it all felt for those of us who were outsiders—either by professional discipline or race.
No one was mean. No one said anything inappropriate. No one was overtly racist. But it was very superficial and wildly damaging to me emotionally.
It’s been a week, and I haven’t recovered. I’m still working, still producing, still rolling, but feeling like the walking wounded. That space wrung what little Black Girl Magic I had left. It’s gone. It’s like the experience just zapped it. I am broken.
Couple that with a continued barrage of trash on the dating scene and I’m on the ropes. I’m just done. Last week, I pulled my profile down and shuttered myself like I was preparing for a hurricane. It was like a one-two punch and the ref is just hovering over me counting….1. 2. 3. 4. 5…..
I can’t get up.
I’m emotionally empty.
People can see it. People can feel the icky energy rolling off of me. My therapist knew as soon as I walked into her office yesterday that I was not ok. She remarked that my energy was similar to when I started going to her shortly after Hope’s arrival when I was deep in the depths of post-adoption depression.
And she’s right. I sobbed in her office. I finally said how unseen I felt at the meeting; how so much of my work seems in vain, how the dating scene is trash, but I would love to have a life companion and that I’m hella glad Hope is away at school while I’m seriously falling apart.
My empty nest fall was *not* supposed to be like this. The work I love is not supposed to make me so miserable. Dating should not make me wonder if the next dude is going to be awful to me too.
I’m not going to stay in this dark place though. I’ve booked a 5 star get-a-way for two weeks from now on a whim. I thought as the bill was rising higher and higher as I as I was upgrading this and that, this is getting pricey. Then I asked what would I be like in two weeks if I don’t do this or something like it? What if I didn’t invest in myself? And what would Hope do/say/feel if she saw me like this? I might be ok, but the people around me will surely suffer—actually I will suffer most of all.
So, I booked exactly what I wanted and needed for 5 days away in a location that’s warm, sunny, beachy, with lots of rum, good food and lots of brown people—majority brown people. I need to be in a space where black and brown folks are the dominant culture for a few days. I need to feel emotionally safe; I need to not be directly under the searing gaze of white folks for a few days. #yeahIsaidit #lovebutyallareexhausting
And tomorrow, I’ll be calling up the doc and getting some new meds. A vacation time-out will help a lot, but I know it is not a panacea for what ails me. I know that it will not bring my magic back. Chemistry will help bring my magic back. So will eating right and continuing to make plans that focus on my restoration
Parents weekend is next week, so I will get to see my beautiful Hope then. I’m so excited about seeing her and getting a glimpse into the life she is creating for herself. I’m so proud of her. With my restoration plan coming into focus; I feel better about the ABM she will see next weekend. The vacation will jump start a new chapter for me; I’m committed to that.
I do not like the dark space. I do not like feeling like I’m wandering or wondering. I want to come back from this. I want to keep going; I want to be strong and magical. I also want to be better at preventing this kind of emotional spiral.
Practice makes perfect right?
I’ve already written about this being my year of transition with respect to my vision board, but I have tried to also be mindful about what kinds of things I want to pursue in my parenting. Here’s a quickie list of my goals when it comes to parenting.
I will prioritize my core needs.
I realize that when I feel my worst, when I’m parenting my worst, when our relationship is the most rocky, I have not made sure my core needs have been met. Many times over the last few years, I failed to put my oxygen mask on first. If I can’t breathe, WE can’t breathe. And it’s not just about self-care or being selfish. It’s really about making sure that I have space in my life for me. Hope can’t take up all the air either.
I also want to model for Hope that living her life authentically, I mean *really* living her life fully and authentically should be a personal pursuit. So yeah, I’m trying to make me a priority this year.
I will affirm my daughter.
A couple of years ago, I papered Hope’s bedroom door with affirmation memes. Every time she went in her room, I wanted her to see some positive messaging. It stayed up for more than a year. She groaned when I first started doing it, but it was kind of emotional when we took it down to repaint her door.
Now, with Hope away at school, I text her affirmations a few times a week. Much like the door, she doesn’t always acknowledge them or she sends me an eyeroll emoji. Sometimes I luck out and she sends me a quick “TY” or a smiley. Sounds hokey, but I know that sending her affirmations resonates. When she first moved in I did a note every single morning that highlighted my love for her, what day it was, a goal for the day and an affirmation. Five years later, she has every single one of those notes. She keeps them in special folder. I know my girl likes a good affirmation.
I will care less.
I will really, really, really, really, really try to care less. I struggle with this; I always have, probably always will. My worries about Hope’s academic ability and overall ability to launch is rooted in some tough stuff. I know that there are aspects that have me thinking about what my expectations would’ve been with a biological child—totally unfair to Hope—but real nonetheless. But as I’ve written before, more of my concerns are rooted in my fears around systemic racism and the inequities that go with it.
Education has been key to my own ability to navigate and be successful as both Black and female. Academic performance opened doors; it’s the pathway I know and believe in because it works for me. More than anything I want to give my daughter every opportunity to excel and to acquire certain kinds of social privilege that will protect her. The reality is that at this time, academics isn’t Hope’s thing, and that’s for lots of reasons, including ability, interest, maturity, competing priorities (emotional survival). This has been hard for me these last years. It never occurred to me that Hope would struggle academically, and that was just a freakish assumption I made.
I do know that in emphasizing it so much, yes, Hope got the message, but she also struggled and never measured up to the goal I set in isolation of her. I know how harmful this has been. I cared too much about some of the wrong things; I will still care, but I will care less so that I can show her my increased care for her to just do what she is capable of at any given point. I’ll try to meet her where she is and not where I think she should be.
I will still push.
Hope is immature and there are definitely times when it’s clear she just wants to be babied. I’m ok with some of that, but I do hope to strategically step back in some areas to encourage her to chart her own path. I want her to feel my support, but I want her to be more willing and comfortable to try her sea legs. I think this will help build her confidence. I think it will help build my confidence in her as well.
And that’s it. I think those are BHAGs—Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals—and will keep me busy this year. It’s enough. Hopefully I’ll continue to be enough for Hope too.
What are your parenting goals for 2019?
I remember watching Anita Hill testify about what Clarence Thomas did to her when I was a wee one in college years ago. It was painful watching a woman who looked like me being grilled in front of a nation. It was especially painful watching someone who looked like me talk about sexual harassment and not be believed or worse, be believed but dismissed because “boys will be boys.” At that point in my life, I’d already become accustomed to handsy, gropey fellows and street harassment. Just a few months after the Thomas debacle, I found myself as a young intern on Capitol Hill. The members were minding a few of their manners, but I still found myself the subject of lecherous looks and wildly inappropriate commentary—from actual Members of Congress who apparently thought that because they didn’t speak to me directly, they were probably in the clear. I was so young, and it was baffling. I thought then, as I do now, this is why we don’t tell people just how shitty some men can be when they think they are entitled to our time, attention and bodies just because we are present in “their” spaces.
I wanted to be an attorney before all that, but I skidded into a career in advocacy and eventually education, probably because my interests evolved, but also because I wanted to give voice and visibility to other brown and black girls who wanted to and could make a difference. Many years later, I have way more inappropriate experiences in my memory bank. Some of them way more intense and damaging than others. Some I shared with friends contemporaneously; others I never shared and probably still won’t. I don’t do this because I shy away from naming and shaming, but more because I have either had to reconcile and forgive so that I wasn’t consumed by things and or because I just don’t want to even go there. It’s just too much.
Now I’m a mom, and not just any mom, but mom to a kid who has seen and experienced worse than me in just about every aspect of life. I see how this has affected her. I see how she avoids anything that might be unsafe, anything that might make her physically vulnerable. I see her distrust. I see those moments when she lets the shields down, and I see the crumbling little girl who sobs because she was hurt, because no one protected her, because she feels that it’s all her fault. I feel overwhelming sadness, love for her and unmitigated rage. A few years ago when a case involving my daughter went to trial and sentencing I sent a 10 page victim statement and sobbed while I talked to the court representative ahead of sentencing. I know that I’m capable of murder; I learned that through that experience. I don’t say that lightly. I know I wouldn’t flinch to take that person’s life.
I think a lot about being triggered. I feel like the last few years has been a triggered life for me and Hope. Today, knowing that this hearing on Kavanaugh is about to take place, I am grateful to have back to back meetings all day. I am glad I can just avoid the shyt show. I’m glad Hope, who is increasingly interested in world affairs, is in a cloistered environment where she won’t be exposed to the news today unless she seeks it out. I’m glad about that.
So, what’s my point. It’s this: if you are having a hard time with all that’s going on right now, it’s ok to take a break and go binge watch something that makes you smile. It’s ok to go get a cupcake and sit on bench to eat it and watch folks on scooters roll by. It’s ok to watch animal videos on YouTube. It’s ok to check in with your therapist.
It’s ok to practice self-care. Don’t worry, the shyt show will be there tomorrow. Take care of yourself and take care of your kids. I know I will.
Women fill so many societal roles. I mean, you know, we are society’s backbone. We work, we bear children (at least some of us do), we raise children, we are partners, we are matriarchs, we are badasses.
We are multidimensional.
I’ve thought about this a lot since becoming Hope’s mother. I’ve been thoughtful and deliberate about role modeling womanhood for her, and especially mindful about modeling Black womanhood for her. I’ve also tried to be thoughtful about my “image” as a mother. While mothering Hope has been the center of my life the last four years, I’ve tried to hang on to other aspects of my identity. I’m still a hard worker. I’m still a professional. I’m still a friend (well less time to hang out, but still). I’m still a sister. For three years, I was a loving partner to E. I am more than a mom.
Of course, what this looks like on a daily basis is pretty fluid. Eight hours of work, 90+ minutes of commuting, getting a kid up and out to school and feeding and caring for said kid in the evenings sucks up an enormous amount of time. I haven’t been as available to friends the last few years and since splitting with E, dating was something that wasn’t even on the back burner—it didn’t make the stove, despite a few efforts.
So, when I started looking at summer programs for Hope this spring, I started wondering what I would do with a possible empty nest for a few weeks. I wondered whether my life would look like it did pre-Hope with regular happy hours and brunches, Friday nights with friends, and regular dating. I thought about what it might be like to rejuvenate other areas of my life.
It’s kind of hard to be honest. Life goes on you know? Everyone is evolving and four years…well, you can graduate high school in four years, college in four years, do a bit in the military in four years. A lot happens in four years. Time definitely doesn’t stand still for anyone.
With this summer program, I got about four weeks to figure out how to breathe some life in to…my life. Don’t get me wrong; the whole time I’ve been parenting I’ve been living. I’ve really started traveling again. I’ve made some new friends. I’ve made huge strides in my professional life. Still, with Hope away, there was some time and space created to focus on me. #selfcare
Of course, the first week after Hope enrolled, I could barely get off the couch I was so stinking exhausted! #parentingisexhausting Then I got a bit of my groove back.
A few days in to this break, I was chatting up a good neighbor and close friend about my plan for this #respitesummer; I was shocked when she kind of shut me down with a smile.
“But you’re a mom!!! You’re not supposed to be doing all this stuff.”
All this stuff would be…um, living. Dinners and drinks out, partaking in a little extra fun in Denver where certain things are legal, dating, which feels incredibly hard after a few years out of the game.
I love my friend, so you know, don’t bash her, but I was shocked that she saw me so differently than I see myself after four years of parenting. I went from full woman to mom with a limited world framework in her eyes. That hurt.
I pushed back on her comments; she admitted that maybe she was a little strong, but still insisted that she just saw me as a “mom” these days.
Girl…You mean to tell me that you only see this?
When I’m trying to get to some mom-inclusive version of this?
So, I’ve just lost all the other stuff that makes me…me? I mean, I know the mom identity is strong, but I thought I was kinda managing the other identities a little bit. At that moment, I felt like I apparently was really failing at this womanhood thing if I was “just” seen by my good friends as a “mom” now and not a well-rounded woman.
My edgy haircut with currently aquamarine-colored locks didn’t buy me any woman street cred? My efforts at the gym to make sure that my body makes me feel good and look nice in the clothes I want to wear was just eh? The work I do that brings me a lot of fulfillment is just something I do during the day while I’m really supposed to be focusing on Pinterest recipes to feed my kid?
I’ve been wrestling with the conversation ever since. I don’t think my friend meant to send me in a tailspin, but I do think that she probably spit some life truths about how women are seen in society (even how we see ourselves and prop up the patriarchy simultaneously…another day for that). Sometimes we don’t get to be more than a mom in other people’s eyes. We don’t get to be creative beyond potty training and teaching cursive. We don’t get to care about our relationships with other adults. We don’t get to romanticize our partnerships because they exist to propel a family and not for our own fulfillment. We don’t get to be sexual beings, because “Eww gross you’re a mom.” We don’t get to be bosses at work because the real work is in the home.
I’m suddenly acutely aware that despite all of the progress made around womanhood, feminism and womanism and all of the things I do besides mother Hope that some people see me as “just” a mom and heap on a lot of limitations as a result. This shouldn’t be shocking and in my line of work it is a “duh” moment, but this interaction with my friend just made is such a salient point for me that I’ve been ruminating on it ever since.
I’m not sure where the breakpoints are between ways I’ve may have pulled back and where I was pushed back in the last few years. The conversation has me reflecting a lot…
I tried to cram in a lot of experiences before Hope came home. In fact, I’m just going to totally spin into this curve; I’m really going to try to achieve more balance in my womanly life through the end of this year. I LOVE being Hope’s mom; I do. And it is incredibly important to me, one of my highest priorities for sure. But I’m more than Hope’s mom. I’m eager to resurrect a few more aspect of my identity as Hope begins to transition to adulthood. I’m committed to being well-rounded and to living life well.
I’m grateful for the conversation with my friend, even though it was kind of ishttay, but it was definitely the motivation I needed to buck up and live.
When I returned from taking Yappy for our early morning walk this morning, I seriously contemplated taking the day off. Then I remembered some things that I needed to do that seemed kind of important, and I set about to just continue on my morning routine.
I packed lunches, prepared breakfast, washed up the dishes, engaged in a bit of sniping with Hope about the continued state of disarray that is her room. I gave Yappy some benadryll in hopes that it would help his worsening separation anxiety. I showered, dressed and did hair and makeup.
I found myself well ahead of schedule and so I ran the vacuum in my bedroom and in the kitchen to clean up the crumbs that Yappy seemed disinterested in noshing.
I still just wanted to get back in bed and pull the covers over my head.
I’m just worn down and over it.
Yesterday I had to rush to Hope’s school because the nurse said she was so sick she was considering calling the paramedics. I get there to see all the signs of one of my daughter’s “spells” including the unrelated limp that accompanies her stomach ache. (#stomachboneconnectedtothelegbone) Over the years we’ve become frequent fliers at the local urgent care thanks to these spells. I don’t doubt that Hope actually feels pain and discomfort, and yes, I have to take every episode seriously. But I also know how this plays out 99.999% of the time. So I rush to the urgent care, where they quickly refer us to the local children’s ER (the usual nurse practitioner who sees us wasn’t there…#newbies). So, I rush her to the children’s ER about 30 minutes away and by the time she’s on the gurney, she’s made her usual miraculous recovery. I kid you not, Hope stammered and told the nurse that her pain level was a 1.
The nurse looked at me, and I tried to keep my irritation to myself and said, “I’m glad you are feeling better.”
And I was sincere since I genuinely believe my daughter feels the pain. I also kind of wanted to scream because I’m fully cognizant of what triggered all of this.
I wish I could say I was shocked. I’m not and I haven’t been the last 20 times this has happened.
Onset of earth shattering abdominal pain that surely must mean death is imminent. Mom comes running. Mom rushes her to the ER because this is serious and needs immediate medical attention. Mom is awash with worry and if she’s not, she performs worry adequately and on cue. A flurry of professionals scurry around to triage and get answers to the questions of life. Tests are run. CT scans and MRIs are scheduled. Hope is wheeled around on stretcher with head lolling back so that orderly double check to make sure she hasn’t lost consciousness. IVs are placed. As quickly as the episode began, it vanishes. The attention is lavished and soaked up like a sponge. All is right with the world with no findings in any of the tests. Hope declares that she has no idea why this keeps happening to her; it’s so weird. Like good cast members we all nod sympathetically in agreement. It is so weird. We are referred for follow up (including mental health referrals) , and we are sent on our merry way.
And so this morning I found myself going through a more reasonable routine, and even though I did it, I just was so over it. I rallied though and got in my car, turned on the Waze app and started to head into the office. 5 minutes in Waze announced that there was a new 23 minute backup, and it would take me more than an hour to get to work. I sat in it for 30 minutes as the traffic only worsened, and then I had the opportunity to finally turn around.
And I did.
Still I thought about just taking a different route to work. I balanced my work things to do with my own need to just have some time to get myself together.
I won; work lost.
I quickly dictated an email to the office that I was taking a personal day.
Today, I will sit in the quiet. I will not look at Hope’s room. I will walk Yappy. I will finish a trashy novel I’ve been reading. I might got get a pedicure and my brows waxed. I will drink a cup of matcha. I will let my brain rest since my TBI symptoms have been worsening and making me feel like ish lately. I will go to the parenting support group tonight.
I will just sit and rest because I really need to. Despite my robust travel schedule, I don’t do much respite. It feels weird to admit needing respite when I travel so much, but those trips are work and I’m usually pulling long hours. I might be away from home, but I’m not resting.
So today, I will rest and take care of me.
And I might do it tomorrow too because I need it.