I finally took a breath, and it was good, so good. The air filled my lungs and I could breathe again. I didn’t know it, but I had been holding my breath for more than twenty years. Twenty Years. From the moment our first child was born, maybe even conceived, when he surfaced from the tub of water and took his first raggedy breaths… I have been holding my breath. Sometimes holding it real tight and other times just slightly… When your child cries, “What is it?” When they wake in the night, “What is it?” When they come home from a play date devastated, “What is it?” When they think the whole world hates them, “What is it?” When your teen phones you and says, “You know your car?” “What is it?” Motherhood is a journey that requires lot of holding your breath.
You spend most of your mothering time creating the best for your kids with whatever you have available, their favourite meals, favourite clothes ready to wear, gathering stories they will enjoy, and doing activities you know they will love… No it isn’t all ice-cream and screen time… even though that is what they would love and would be the easy way out. It is more about giving them the stuff that would be best for them, even if they don’t think it is best for them.
You send them to bed timeously, but they do not sleep. You make a healthy dinner and almost all of them love it… but there is always that one. And to be sure the one that doesn’t love it (and no it isn’t always the same one), makes quite sure why you have let them and the world around them down. To be sure, next time you put a meal on the table you will hold your breath a little tighter waiting for “The Next One.” Night after night, meal after meal… you will find yourself somewhat out of breath. And that is just the food situation. There is a whole lot more to your family’s life than meals. There will be days when you are getting everyone to all their best activities, literally leaves you totally breathless and one person will always say… “Can we just stop by… wherever on the way past.” And you (really) want to ROAR “NO” because you can’t even breathe, well you just take a gasp and try to fit that in as well. Because Moms really are doing their best for their kids, and breathing for themselves it turns out, isn’t such a big priority.
We live in a crazy world where expectations are high and comparisons shattering and while I know I beat my drum to a slightly different beat, and I know I don’t conform to expectations well… I still hold my breath. I want my kids to do their best, I want the to have fabulous friends, I want them to dream big and then go for it… and I want them to appreciate all their opportunities. The thing is somewhere in wanting all this for my kids I think I may have stopped breathing all together. It is crazy I know, because I didn’t realise it.
When I planned a year of Getting Things Done… my intention was really to clean out closets, toss out all the clutter, and clear all the surfaces. Get all those little tasks done that were stopping me from doing what I really want to be doing. Only when you are holding your breath, it is hard to know what it is you are wanting to do… really you kind of stop wanting to do anything. After a year of perpetually picking at projects, fifteen minutes here, and fifteen minutes there, of tossing stuff like never before, of getting so much school done, of sorting actual closets… I realise that I may never be done with that… there will always be clutter, there will always be very important reasons why I should be making the next meal instead of sorting the craft drawers, and there will always be my desk to clear before I can do any work… because that is the family dump zone.
Turns out I needed to get myself sorted long before I could get the house sorted. (I have so much to learn!!!) I have always loved clearing clutter and keeping our house sorted, it gives me the calm in the storm of living with ten people and all the associated friends and acquaintances that stop by. But I still wasn’t breathing. Turns out, only when I started sleeping like a real person should… not collapsed on the couch while reading to the kids, not slumped over my laptop hoping a blog post would write itself. Real sleep in a real bed through the night… that I started to actually breathe again.
So many people have said, isn’t it lovely you go to gym and have some “me time”… no it isn’t about “me time”… I literally wasn’t breathing and didn’t know it. Getting to gym for me, is all about catching my breath. Moms if you are holding your breath and think you can leave it till later, till your kids are grown, before you start breathing again… trust me… you can’t leave it. You have to start now. Don’t shove yourself at the bottom of the heap, so that your kids can have a better birthday party, don’t lose sleep over getting another contract so that your kids can do another extra-mural… you need to breath to parent. You need to stop for a moment and figure out what it is you need in order to breathe. If it is a nap on weekends, or your coffee brought to you in the morning… if it is ten minutes in the evening watching the sun set. Your family would most likely gladly give it to you… GLADLY, if they knew that is what you need.
So I am storming through to the end of the year… if you walked into our home, it is most likely messier than it was a year ago, the garden is a tragedy… and I can partly blame that on the drought. In my year of Getting Things Done… I have taking a turn through the kitchen closets, I have dealt with our wardrobes, I have tossed and tossed and tossed… but I am nowhere nearly near done with the project I thought I was doing. I might not have gotten everything I intended done this year… but I did learn how to sleep again. And because of that I have learnt to breath again. This week I went exploring underwater for my first time ever, I was a little nervous about using a snorkel, so I left that on the side. I had to take deep breathes and dive down… and I loved it… a magical world, a whole new adventure. I am breathing again and it is wonderful.
My kids are happier for a mother that is alert when they talk to her, they are thrilled when I head to bed at the same time as they do, and most surprising of all, when I say no, because I have to sleep… they get it. They are excited to have me along on their outings, and not as thrilled that I am keeping up!!! The point is, I didn’t realise that I wasn’t breathing, until I stopped to gather myself. It is the time of year when we fill up our days with activities and stuff, and making memories. Don’t forget yourself, gift yourself with a quiet moment, get some air and breathe deep… you will find you are a much better for it, and so everyone around you will be better for it too.
Remember that my first born is twenty, and my youngest is eight… so if you are reading this and your oldest is eight… and you have several little tots to care for, then trust me you are still holding your breathe really tight and you have a ways to go on the motherhood journey. Don’t compare yourself to where I am, just take a peak at where you will be.