It’s Mental Health Awareness Month. Today, I am sharing something I haven’t said out loud in a very long time for fear of judgement.
I am a 3 hour mama.
Let me explain.
Shorty was almost a year old when I had my first revelation (and 900th wave of guilt about something related to motherhood) that perhaps I was not cut out for full time motherhood.
Shorty is the baby I always wanted, and I knew I desired to stay home to care for when she was born. I was super fortunate to stay home with her during the first year (shout out to a cool boss who let me work from home before it was a “thing” and an ex hubby who wanted me to have that time). But y’all — I was drowning in a sea of diapers, baby cooing, breastfeeding and endless doctors appointments. I knew this time in my life (and in hers) was fleeting and would pass in a flash; but, as the months moved on, I desperately needed out. And by out, I mean back to work. Yep, I felt guilty for wanting to go back to work.
The irony, right?
For as long as I could remember I wanted to be one of those stay-at-home moms. Damn the two degrees and a promising career. I wanted to raise kids, go to the park, and make cute lunches for us all. Super difficult and thankless job, but I was here for it. As you can imagine, I was even more surprised at myself when I didn’t love it.
So, I did the unthinkable, I put Shorty in daycare. It was hard.
She was an early walker and talker. I felt like I was missing out on so much with her being away at daycare, but at the same time, I relished the time at the office with grown ups talking about work, life, and honestly – no baby!
I did daycare pickup most days by 5:30. By the time I did dinner, bath, and reading time it was 8:30-9PM. It was just the right amount of time to cuddle, play, relax; then, put her to bed before I jumped back on the computer for more work. I felt more settled, more present as a parent, and more alive. Who knew that work was a part of the formula that fueled my energy?
As she got a little older, I’d take her to swimming and dance lessons in the small southern town we lived in. I’d listen to all the moms who stayed home talk about all the mommy and me activities they did throughout the day. And I wondered if I was missing out or if something was wrong with me because I didn’t care? I mean… I never missed a swim lesson (even though I don’t swim) or dance class or…anything really. And, I was happy with the amount of time I spent with my kiddo. I would slip off to get my nails done, go for a walk or do volunteer work and even though my heart tugged each time I left (she was in good hands with her dad, folks) I was always grateful for the opportunity to recharge. I even verified this with my ex-hubby and he co-signed this whole thing as 100% accurate.
SN: I have an ex-husband ( I didn’t say I was perfect y’all).
Those days are long gone now. I have been a solo mama for most of Shorty’s life, and we’ve moved all over the country for my work/career. The activities didn’t slow down; they picked up. Now it’s soccer, track, swimming, and pre-teen madness from the movies to the mall. As we chased each new adventure, Shorty and I spent loads more time together.
Now, that she is older, and we’ve experienced a few things together, I know what I did was right. What I did when I placed her in daycare when she was only 1 years old, was the right choice for me.
I helped her and she helped me.
She built resilience, and I built strength.
She learned to work well with others, and I learned to let work fuel me to take care of her.
She learned to love every moment with me, and I learned to cherish every chance I had to do special things with her.
She learned that a mom is more than a mom, and I learned that a mom is more than a mom.
A mom is a human.
A mom is a woman.
A mom is a professional.
A mom is a pillar of strength.
A mom is a brave soul.
A mom is a girl just like she was who simply wants to do what makes her happy.
And, for this, I am grateful that I listened to my heart and gave Shorty the best me I could give her.
If you’re a mom, a caregiver — feeling overstretched and guilty that you want to do something for you that doesn’t involve your kids or the humans you care for; know that it’s OK to do it!
Taking time away could be your lifeline. Your rope you cling to as you claw your way back to yourself. The boost you need to show up fully present at work. The jolt you need to shake you out of your routine and make you remember that you are in control of your life. It’s OK to say that you don’t need to be immersed in the care and feeding of your children (even if you set out to do just that).
Because in an emergency landing, you must put on your oxygen mask before you put one on others.