So I went to the doctor today. I had to take two of the girls who have been feeling under the weather, and I decided to make an appointment for myself because I have been feeling like crap lately.
So there we were, all four of us crowded into the exam room with toys scattered all over the floor because it doesn’t take long for toys to be scattered by kids, even by sick kids. The kids were sitting on the table with the little people and cars, and I was laying back on a chair, absolutely unable to move.
It was a stark contrast. They were all dressed up in cute little outfits and school uniforms. Their hair was in pig tails. They were well rested and vibrant and bright eyed even through illness. And I never would have it any other way. They are my children, my responsibility, and they get the best of what I have to offer. I brought them into this world, and it’s my job to help them find their way in it.
But then if you look over at me, my hair is all disheveled. It has needed to be colored and cut for about two months now. In contrast to their cute little outfits, I’m in cut off sweat pants and a shirt that has sick toddler snot all over it. My skin is dry because of the medication I take to help me calm down and fall asleep at night. My nails haven’t been done in years. And my eyes aren’t shining. I can’t quite tell for sure because I didn’t have a mirror, but I believe they had to have been the eyes of a crazy woman. Shallow. Exhausted. A little manic. And probably a little bit lonely.
So anyway, we saw the doctor and she did some blood work. She is a very kind lady probably about my age. She came back in and looked into my eyes, and without an ounce of shame or condemnation, she asked me how I could possibly be functioning. She said I had to have been feeling horrible. She asked me how I have been doing it. And I told her that I don’t know, that I’m always exhausted and nauseous, so how I was I to know any different. And then of course, the tears started stinging my eyes, so I looked away, but not before she saw.
I got all the kids packed back into the car, and we headed out to finish our errands. But this time I felt a little different. I felt a mix between shame and pride.
I felt shame because I knew I wasn’t balancing things well. Actually, I knew I wasn’t balancing things at all. I had given up on balance. I aimed for it during the first years of motherhood, but eventually the kids pile on and the responsibilities pile on, and before you know it, the balance is so off that it has broken the scale. You look in the mirror, and you don’t recognize yourself because it has been so long since you have treated yourself like a human being that you have started to fade into the woodwork of the home. The robot that keeps it all running.
But then I also strangely enough felt pride. I guess I felt this because I bought into the stereotype of the all giving mother. The one who always puts her needs last and always puts her kids’ needs first. I never felt like I lived up to that stereotype, but now I was starting to see that I was, in fact, living it out. To the point of lunacy.
I’m not so sure I should have felt pride in that though. Sure I was selfless in giving to my kids, but in doing so, was I denying them the opportunity to see their mom as a woman, as a person? As their most prominent role model, wasn’t I failing to show them that balance is, indeed, necessary?
And so now tonight, as I sit here and as I ponder it all, I realize that a change does need to be made. I can’t always slide into the background. Maybe Mommy has a right to brush her hair too. Maybe Mommy has a right to do what she wants to do occasionally. And maybe Mommy needs to stop just being Mommy and start being Mandy again as well – you know, the woman who smiled a lot and who liked to give of her time helping people and who read books without pictures.
I don’t know how to do this. I do not have the foggiest notion of how to find the real person hidden deep within me. For years, the only place I have really allowed myself to exist and express myself is here on this blog.
But I can’t keep making excuses. I can’t keep putting it off until a better time. I need to find a way to exist as a person again. Because I never want to be so emotionally and physically and spiritually run down again that I can’t even tell when there is a problem.
So to all those mamas out there — go and find some time for yourself. Find some time when you aren’t working with your kids or playing with your kids or even thinking about or worrying about your kids. Find a few moments a day to just be you – the you who has a first name besides Mommy.
And please, if you find any ways to make this work, pass them along to me because just because I can recognize a problem doesn’t mean I have the slightest notion of how to fix it.