Last week was a test. My daughter was cutting her canine teeth and just completely out of sorts. My husband, a surgery resident, was stuck working 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. almost every night. This left my daughter 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. After almost a year as a stay at home mom it was the first time I seriously contemplated going back to work.
One of our battles last week was the TV. Confession: a few times a week I’ll use Daniel Tiger to keep my daughter busy while I cook dinner. I’ll turn it on 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 guilty that I’ve “used TV as a babysitter” (big no-no!) enough that she’s actually asking for it now. That day it took about 10 minutes for my guilt to dissolve into desperation, and I gave in. With “Ugga Mugga!” echoing down the hall I finally took a deep breath, some of my anxiety lifted, and I was so relieved that she was in the living room, and I was in the kitchen - alone. And when that episode finished, I put another one on, the guilt creeping back up on me.
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 like a failure for letting her kid watch TV because she just needed a break. I expected the internet police 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 realized 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, so that we can take care of those we love. How many times has my husband told me “I don’t care if dinner is made or if the house is clean, as long you’re happy to see me and in a good mood when I get home.”? 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 whether you’re a mom, a dad, never dreamt of kids or your kids are grown: 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.
I think if we all made an effort to do this daily, the world would be a happier and healthier place.