Today I had one of those mornings when I find myself wanting to rent a luxury convertible and drive off into the sunset alone, with no plans other than to re-invent myself into anything but a mother. Yup, that’s the cold truth my friends. My Instagram profile might show otherwise, but the truth is such mornings, afternoons, and evenings occur frequently at my house and my mind is often master-planning my escape from it all. Today’s fantasy even went as far as burning all my husband’s work files, paperwork, etc., before packing my duffle bag (I travel light). The image of a 9 a.m. bonfire in my backyard was sweet. I could almost smell the satisfying fumes and ash as I type this, but I regress. The intention of this overdue post is to expose myself and crush the idea that I can do it all, when I truly can not.
The other day, a very kind friend commented on one of my dinner Instagram stories, “Omg what are you not good at”, and it really got me thinking. My peers think I’m good at stuff! It appears that I’m good at cooking, when in fact the quinoa-stuffed eggplant in that photo was too salty, and I’m still not sure if I boiled the corn too much or too little. But hey, no one knows that because the picture looked exciting. I recently also shared a cute video of me colouring with my bossy 3-year old. People loved that one. What no one knows is that her fussiness can rise into stubbornness and then eventually escalate into revolt in the blink of any eye. Then comes her loud ugly crying that prompts me to close all the windows and blinds because I’m about to lose my shi*, but you won’t find that story on Instagram. The best are the compliments on my appearance, my figure, and my ability to look like a 25-year old. I don’t take any of that for granted at all, but all of it is thanks to a combination of great genes and hard work. Hard work that I put in to my health and fitness every 3-4 months with prolonged breaks in between when I feel crappy about myself.
I’ve spent the summer in a position that’s troubled me almost every day. I have 2 months off from work, and so I made a thought-out decision to send both my kids to daycare regardless. This decision has not been easy and has pretty much affected my conscience on a weekly basis. Every time someone has asked me, “Why are you sending them to daycare if you’re home?”, it’s been a loaded question for me to answer. The surge of shame, guilt and confusion overcomes my ability to respond honestly and I always end up telling a half-truth about their need for routine and stimulation. Of course, I have to justify it by explaining what’s in it for them because I don’t want to be judged if I share what’s in it for me. I haven’t been able to articulate the other half of the truth until I realized there is a simple explanation for it, called self-care. While this construct sounds revolutionary, it comes with the crippling caveat of mom-guilt. For example, when my husband asks me, “What did you do all day?”, why is it that I feel like ringing his neck? I’ll tell you why. Society has made me into a paranoid basket case, impeding me to even exercise self-care with ease. Every question, every comment, every criticism, and every complement makes me second-guess how I’m doing as a mother. It’s like there’s no winning with myself, let alone anyone else. And as I write this post today, I realize maybe it’s because I choose to only share the good, the funny, and the attractive parts of my daily life. Sure, I want friends and family to be proud of me, and for other women to feel inspired by my accomplishments, but at what cost? My sanity? No thanks!
I think it’s time to expand the meaning of self-care to something more substantial than a spa day or retail therapy. Self-care needs to include honesty with yourself and with others. It must include acceptance for what you need and not submission to what others expect. Self-care should include humour and personal space. Effective self-care needs to be learned and it takes time. Everyone’s methods are unique. So, if I want to sit on the couch and fiddle with my phone, look out the window, or browse the Netflix menu for an hour, before I decide to take a shower and then scrub the toilet and clean the sink, working up an appetite to eat toast, a banana, chocolate and candies (in that order), followed by blow-drying my hair and moisturizing my legs, and then returning back to the couch to spend another 90 minutes watch tv, fiddling with my phone, looking out the window, before I mentally prepare myself for the deliberately slow drive to the daycare to pick up my kids, then THAT’s how I choose to exercise my self-care.