Gimme a Break: Thoughts on Motherhood

7 Jun

 

THOMPSON-40I just read about a German tradition wherein day care centers take their 3-year-old charges out to a farm for a multiday retreat, sans parents. The kids take the train into the country, each carrying a little knapsack containing their snacks, loveys, and letters from parents. The parents receive newsy text message updates each day, giving glowing reports about the preschoolers having fun and feeling happy, without even a hint of homesickness.

All I could think was, Can we have a program like this in the U.S., but for 5-month-old babies??

Zadie turned 5 months on Saturday, and I celebrated by being away from her for 5 hours—the longest we’ve ever been apart, since she took up residence in my womb over a year ago. It was glorious. But, it was not enough. I don’t want to sound like a complainer. But my need for a break is similar to my need for sleep in those early weeks when Zadie was a newborn and waking up multiple times a night. I longed for not just one good night’s sleep, but a week’s worth. I knew that such a sleep deficit could not be filled with one 8-hour stretch of shuteye. And now I’m in a place of really, really wanting a break from being a mother. It’s been so all-consuming—between breastfeeding exclusively and being a stay at home mother, there’s not a lot of breaks built into my life right now. I have to ask for them, and plan for them, and pump milk for them.

I’ve never run a marathon, but it feels like I’m on mile 12. I’ve already come so far, but my legs are aching and my heart is pounding and I’m just kind of over it, but I’m not even quite halfway yet! I need a second wind somehow. A true break (the kind I’m dreaming of, spending a couple days in Palm Springs sipping cucumber cocktails by the pool) is simply not feasible right now.

But really, this isn’t a marathon. A marathon means you keep running till you’re done. You don’t sit down in the shade and drink a lemonade for 10 minutes; that would throw things off too much. But since I had Zadie, I’ve subconsciously thought a few times that I need to just keep my head down and keep going for the next year, because any kind of break would just feel like a tease; nothing would be enough. But it’s not like on her first birthday, Zadie magically starts taking care of herself.

What I’m realizing is that motherhood isn’t a marathon; it’s a journey.

On long journeys, you do take breaks. You do take rests. You take care of your body and your mind so you can keep going. You meet friends along the way and help each other, share your resources, watch each other’s backs.

I guess that’s part of why I wanted to come home to California so badly. Sure, I was making friends in Denver, other moms who could help me through. But here I have so many more, and I have friends who knew me before I was a mother, before I was a wife, before I was an adult, even. They see me more, in my wholeness, and I think I really need that in this early part of the journey when it feels like being a mother is swallowing the rest of my identity.

I’d love to hear from you mothers. How do you take rests on the journey? How do you rest when there’s no break in sight? How are you supported by and how do you give support to the other women you know on this road?

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