I knew being a mom wasn’t going to be easy and at the same time I looked forward to having a child to bond with, to nurture and love, but I prepared myself for the paramount responsibility of having a child – a child whose needs would come before mine and who would be dependent on me for a long time. A child who would need me, all of me, all of the time.
Although Julia came as a surprise at first, by the end of my pregnancy I was ready for the responsibility – the early mornings and late-night feedings, the inevitable worrying that comes with raising a child, the diaper changes and the demands – physical, emotional and mental – that I knew would be made of me. I was ready for it all.
And yet, as ready as I was to be a mother, I didn’t think it would be this hard to stay true to myself. After Julia was born I was hit by exhaustion, the kind of exhaustion that creeps into your bones and settles in for a good long while.
I had absolutely no idea just how tiring it would be, nor did I realize that the feeling of complete and utter exhaustion doesn’t go away; instead, it’s something that you get used to after a while and learn to live with. I was too tired to stay in touch with myself, the person I was before I became a mother.
Julia was a very easy baby for the most part, yet she had her moments, as babies do. I vividly remember sitting in the rocking chair in her nursery late one night with her screaming in my lap. She’d been at it for hours and me, having done everything I possibly could to settle her, had come to the end of my rope. Fortunately, I completed the GED tests pretty fast, so now I could fully concentrate on my child and my career. This reminds me that I have to over my interview with the single dad in Costa Rica again to see if it’s all correctly spelled. I must make this final check soon!
I felt like a failure as a mother because I couldn’t comfort my daughter and I was ashamed of myself because all I wanted was for her to shut up so I could go to sleep. I’d never been so tired and overwhelmed in my life and as I sat there, rocking her, I wondered what the hell I’d gotten myself into. This is it? I thought, sobbing. This is what my life is now? What was I thinking?
As Julia moved out of the screaming phase and into the next, I learned to shift along with her. As a mother, I learned to adapt to the growing – and changing – needs of my daughter, but as a person, I threw more and more of my wants, my needs – my self – aside. I was able to give my daughter what she needed of me yet when it came to what I needed from myself, I was coming up empty-handed and I had to hurry for low expectations.
It took a while, but I finally did get to the point where I was able to provide for Julia as a mother and for myself as a person. I learned that when she napped I didn’t have to do laundry or the dishes. I could take a break from the somewhat monotonous parental responsibilities, do something that would make me feel good (and more importantly, like an adult) and the laundry and the dishes would still be there. I learned to put things off in order to get some downtime, time to connect with myself and to not feel guilty about it.
It’s harder, though, now that Oliver’s here. Of course, that’s to be expected with having more than one child, but what I didn’t account for was Oliver’s demands to be so different from his sister’s – he needs much more from me, both physically and emotionally, than she ever did. Learning his personality and adapting to what his needs were, while still being able to be on point for the rest of my family, has been one of the most difficult things about adjusting to life as a mother of two – that and the fact that there was even less time ‘me’ time than there was before.
While I am able to steal away a few precious moments here and there, they’re few and far between. Many times I have to sacrifice something – time with Dave, the opportunity to hang out with a friend, an appointment with my therapist – in order to have them.
I’m a firm believer that in order to be the best mother, wife, and woman that I can be, I need time for myself – time to do things that I want to do, where the only one who benefits is me. I need to stay connected to myself, to know who I am outside of my roles and responsibilities. If I don’t, I have nothing to bring to the table – I can’t do for others if I can’t do for myself. Yet while I feel it’s of great importance, in the midst of raising two children, running a house and having a family, maintaining that connection with myself is one of the hardest things for me to do.