Before becoming a mom, I used to know how to relax.
I was good at it.
I could curl up with a book for hours on the weekends. I could go to Starbucks and lose myself in sugary caffeinated heaven. We took vacations and unplugged and were carefree. At work, when things got particularly stressful or when I was getting a headache, I would carve out 10 minutes, set the alarm on my phone, shut my office door, and I’d lay on my therapy couch (and even on the floor before I had a couch) and just focus on my breath. It did wonders for me, some days, or at the very least it allowed me to get through the day.
Even when I get a break, it doesn’t feel like a break. My kid takes one nap a day now, maaaaaybe two. Maybe. And I don’t know when the nap is coming. Today, it came early. Tomorrow will be different. I also never know how long it’s going to last. 19.5 minutes? 30 minutes? Once in a blue moon, it’s been 1.5 hours. And each time he goes down, I ask myself, How do I want to spend this time?
Sometimes I clean, do laundry, or otherwise get stuff done. Other times I try to relax – watch TV, drink iced coffee, read my book, write a blog post, garden, etc. Note the word try in that last sentence.
I’ve noticed that even when I try to relax, I just can’t. My posture is rigid, my breathing is shallow, my ears are perked. My son might wake up at any moment. Right now, my son is doubled over in the most uncomfortable yoga sleeping position not 10 feet away and I am trying to type as quietly and as quickly as I can and I am trying to pull words out of me even though I don’t feel totally motivated to write in this moment. But right now, this moment is all I have.
Let me be clear that, for me, this is not a guilt thing. I do not feel guilty for wanting to relax or for trying. And when I am successful at shutting the world out for a bit (including my son) I give myself a little pat on the back. Because everyone needs that, especially moms. And as an introvert mom, I need quiet shut-out time to recharge my batteries so I can be a better mom to my little snot machine when he wakes up, whenever he wakes up. At least I know guilt isn’t getting in my way.
It’s very tempting to use things to induce relaxation. I know it’s cool for moms to joke about wine and coffee, but I can totally see the dangerously slippery slope that is self-medicating when one is no longer in charge of one’s daily schedule. Ugh, I have to wake up now?! Better use some coffee. Poopsticks, today was tough and I only have two hours before I crash in bed, so if I want to relax RIGHT NOW, I’d better use some wine, because wine. Amirite?!
Sometimes I do this. Sometimes it’s TV or food. But I try not to. And I am also trying to feel okay knowing that I can’t just magically make myself feel relaxed when I want to feel that way, especially when someone else is calling the shots.
I want to remind myself that, sometimes, I end up feeling relaxed when I hadn’t planned on it, and wasn’t even trying. Which means…I don’t want to keep feeling like I am chasing relaxation, some feeling of peace that I may or may not get from a barista or a bottle of pinot. Chasing things always takes me out of the present, where I’m more likely able to create peace for myself. And that it’s okay when I can’t hurry up and settle down RIGHT NOW and for exactly 19.5 minutes.
With that said, he’s awake and screaming. This time I was given about 45 minutes.
I can relate to this soooo much!
It’s challenging, plain and simple. I do think that most of us are much more vigilant and careful with our first, making them lighter sleepers and kids who want us around more. By the time the next one comes, you’re tired. You hesitate when you hear the monitor, not jump. You vacuum when they’re napping, and they sleep thru’ anything. None of this to imply that it’s on you/us/parents… it’s just how it goes, as we all find our way. It gets easier; it gets harder, and we all just find our way. But, you are not alone… there are plenty of us who get exactly what you’ve said, so well.
I definitely see that logic and trend with parenting the first versus subsequent kids, but somehow I feel like I am already being pretty chill with this kid. I don’t jump when I hear the monitor, I let him scream when I know he’s safe, etc.
I wonder how I’ll feel about myself as a parent now compared to the parent I become when I have more than one…?
Hindsight is indeed 20/20, but then, as parents nothing is 20/20… we all do our best, and try to come through the challenging bits as best we can. You’re a good mommy, M, and like me, you have a “spirited” first. Mine just about drove me around the bend… I’ve said it a million times, it’s a miracle there was a 2nd, and 3rd! I was so flustered and tired… and like you, I had LOADS of experience, saw myself as pretty chill and grounded, and only saw things a bit differently… years, years! Down the line. Deep breaths, find moments truly just for you (leave the house, go somewhere to break the routine), and come visit me! ;-)
I love when your inner therapist comes out. It’s so great that you recognize how often people self medicate. Not that I’m in any way opposed to wine or coffee (I adore them) but it’s cool that you recognize the way you’re tempted to use them as potentially problematic. You’re always so delightfully self aware. Have you been yoga-ing? I know you used to and it’s darn near impossible NOT to relax during the sleepy time at the end of a class (which I do not recall the term for.)
Oh yes. The only time I haven’t yoga-ed in the past year was the first few weeks after D was born. I yoga every week. It’s called Final Relaxation or Shavasana (spelling).
Thanks. One of my pet peeves is that the caffeine in coffee is a drug, and people don’t seem to recognize that.
I wish I had good news for you, but I don’t. It is a hard time/stage. Being a light sleeper became my way of life, even into the teen years as the kids grew and went out at night
I do remember the feelings exactly as you describe. Luckily my oldest (now 25), who didn’t really sleep much until he was about 5, was able to amuse himself for short periods of time and that allowed me to ‘pretend’ to get things done when he was little.
You are on the right track about staying present. Wish I had been better at it when my kids were young. Oh well
I try. Some days are definitely better than others.
Small children can definitely tax our sense of peace and relaxation, no doubt. The only thing I can tell you is that it gets easier as they get older. But I’m sure you’ve heard that a lot, and it does little to help you in the meantime!
By the way, given the theme of your post, you probably won’t be surprised to learn my reader told me there were “666 MORE WORDS” to your post. Made me chuckle at the irony. At least your child isn’t named Damien. Well, not that I know of, anyway. :)
Wow. Lucifer is stalking my blog. Thanks for the warning – it gave me a very hearty laugh just now.
You said it all!
Oh, I wouldn’t say that. But thank you for the comment.