Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Lessons from a Part-Time Job

I feel like I should back track a bit before I [attempt to] dive back into my regular posting routine. I submitted the final grades for my class last night, which means my spring semester is officially over. It's hard to believe it's already May. I still don’t know what I was thinking by taking on a job and a baby at the same time, especially without hiring part-time childcare. It’s been a long semester, and I’m thankful to be back to the jobs I do for free. 

Allie is 6 months old now, and she's so adorably smiley. She's lucky she’s so cute because she's a total bearcat. She gets up at 5am every day, takes short unpredictable naps, and has a total fit if I take more than two steps away from her. My mom calls her "Velcro Baby" because she clings to me like a spider monkey and still spends a lot of her day strapped to my chest. It's a wonderful feeling, especially since I didn't get much clingy baby behavior out of Reese, but Allie’s grabby hands and steadily climbing weight have made daily baby wearing somewhat of a challenge. 

Reese will be three on May 28th, which means I spend a lot of time generating answers to questions like, “Why is it 3-o’clock?” and explaining social rules – like why we can’t just choose a random car from the mall parking lot and drive it home. She’s learning about the world at an amazing rate, and her observations are both beautifully innocent and downright hilarious. She’s an awesome kid, but she’s still a typically defiant, antagonistic, and conveniently [for her] forgetful little stinker who gives me a run for my patience every single day. 

Between keeping up with these kids and making time for my job, it’s not a big surprise that I haven’t had time for much else. It wouldn’t have been so bad if I could plan on a daily afternoon nap, but Reese hardly naps at all anymore, and Allie is a stage five cat napper. I ended up doing most of my work after they went to bed, which meant that I was often staying up way too late. Until this semester, the coffee I so often reference in my blog posts has always been decaf. That is definitely no longer the case, and I now have the withdrawal headaches to prove it.

The sleep deprivation and caffeine addiction haven’t been the only consequences of this schedule. I have skipped more meals and showers over the past few months than I would ever care to admit. It is not at all uncommon for me to make lunch for my kids and then deprive myself of a healthy meal. I’ll eat when they nap, I tell myself as I reach for a string cheese, even though I know that if they do actually sleep, I’ll choose productivity over nourishment hands down.

And forget about relaxation. It just doesn’t happen. For starters, I’m not great about finding much down time to begin with. And even when I do try to make plans to do something for me, it’s always the first thing to go when something more pressing comes up.

I came out of this experience feeling really proud of myself for the work I put into my class – even when it got hard, I never cut corners. And yet, I find it interesting that I never allowed myself to slide on anything except when it came to my own well-being.

That’s how I operate. I imagine that’s how a lot of moms operate. Skipping meals and showers, getting behind on sleep, sacrificing much-needed down time, giving up on hobbies. It seems that when life gets stressful, the first thing we do is stop taking care of ourselves.

How counterintuitive is that?! It’s during stressful times that our commitment to self-care should be at its best. I don’t know about you, but for some reason I feel guilty and selfish when I put my own needs first (or second; or third). It’s easy for me to forget that part of being a good mom means being good to myself.

I admit sometimes it's necessary to put ourselves on hold, but consistent patterns of self-neglect have a definite negative affect on everything from our marriages to our parenting skills. Lately, I've started taking notice of the times when I put my needs aside - physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, or socially. I'm trying to recognize and break some of my bad self-care habits - like not sitting down to a real lunch or failing to take time to catch up with friends. And I'm learning to give myself a little less pressure and a little more grace.   

Each season of my life seems busier than the one before, and I'm only 30! I have a lot of running around ahead of me. Sometimes I trick myself into thinking the next phase of life won't be as crazy, but something always comes up. It's taken many years for me to understand (and admit) that real peace doesn't come from calm on the outside. It comes from calm on the inside - a calm that can only settle in when our needs are fully met. 

A wise person once gave me this analogy: If you're ever in an airplane and the oxygen masks drop, there's a reason you're supposed to put your mask on first. After all, if you can't breathe, it's kind of hard to help anyone around you breathe. 

If you're one of those moms who's always going 100 miles an hour and taking care of everyone but yourself, remember to take an occasional step back and look around. If you happen to see your oxygen mask dangling in front of you, grab it and put it on - and remember that you, too, deserve to be able to breathe.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting story and I really enjoy reading it.