"Moms put themselves last" is a phrase I hear probably at least 2-3 times a weeks--and it's a good one to hear. It's easy to allow myself to slip to the bottom of the pile, to be the last one who gets a shower or to eat. It's easy to think that, as a mom, I should come last. The tides are changing though and as much as some still cling to the notion that moms should, no matter what, be at the beck and call of their children 100% of the time, people are waking up the idea that, surprisingly, the minute you become a mother you don't lose your identity as a person.
Before Forrest was born, I remember being so sure that I would never lose myself to motherhood: I would never be one of those women who finds themselves unshowered, in PJs, feeling stressed and unloved. I would also never, I assumed, co-sleep or bottle feed or any other those other things, right? It's crazy how my thoughts and mantras and plans come back to bite me in the ass.
A few weeks ago, something clicked inside my brain: for probably 6 or 7 months, I didn't spend any time during the day not thinking about Forrest. Shout out to Forrest, he's great and interesting and very funny, but conversations are a little one-sided at this point. During my maternity leave, it was even worse; I had nothing to talk about with anyone. All I had to talk about was, in this order: Forrest, pumping, Forrest's poop, my diaper preferences, how many wipes, on average, I used during the day, grocery shopping and how stressful I found it, and random daytime TV. I didn't go anywhere, I didn't do anything. I stayed home with Forrest; I fed him, he napped, we played. That's it.
Last week, I decided to start doing a few things to help myself, I don't know, get away from being just a mom sometimes. It's true that I go to work and during my work hours, I'm in work mode--but that's still not being me. That's not taking care of me or participating in something that makes me feel revived.
For the sake of holding myself accountable, here are just a few of the things I've been doing:
- More writing about things other than being a mom. If you saw me in person as I typed that, you'd see my shifty eyes, as I'm still, technically, writing about being a mom. But I'll have you know I have written almost an entire short story in a week. If I even produce one piece of non-mom, non-work writing a month, that's a plus.
- Less photos of Forrest on Instagram. My Instagram went from a fun, 20-something feed full of pictures of coffee, notebooks, outfits, and food to a feed entirely dominated by pictures of a small baby person. It's probably not interesting to 65% of the people who follow me and it doesn't really serve to promote my blog either. So, sorry Forrest, less you, more me.
- Demand time to myself. Sometimes, this thing happens where I cook dinner, Danny gets home from work, we eat, and then... Danny says something like, "I want to go finish this article." Then he's reading for 20, 30, 40 minutes. After dinner, it's a countdown to Forrest's bedtime of 6-6:30pm, so if we finish eating at 5:00 or even 5:30, that means I only get 30 minutes to an hour to myself, since I rock Forrest to sleep and lie with him in bed once he's asleep. The past few days, I've been handing Danny the baby and saying, "I'm going to do this, this, and then this." Those things might be "wash bottles, pay bills, and wash my face" or they might be "take a bath, write, and fold laundry." I deserve those minutes and I will take them.
There it is. It's all out on the table now. As much as I love taking care of Forrest first, it's getting to be personally draining, that's for sure. I don't ever want to be annoyed at taking care of Forrest, so if that means sometimes he plays while I read or take a shower or eat lunch... then so be it.