I’m pouring my heart out here and revealing my open wounds as a mother. So please tread carefully with your comments and try not to scratch the wounds. I’m a Mom who tries to give her all to her kids, but who is aching to have something left for herself.
This morning, after reading a fantastic article on how we as mothers mourn the “death” of our old selves when we have kids, I wanted to post it on Facebook. While posting, one child was climbing all over me, the other one banging me with a pole that he shouldn’t have had that I continued to confiscate (and he found more of the poles throughout the house–they were doorstoppers). It took me a half an hour to post one dang sentence on Facebook. Writing that one sentence consisted of interruptions for timeouts, kisses, cuddles, and silent curses (mine, of course).
Now I’m a firm believer in dropping the phone to parent. I have Hands Free Mama in my Facebook Newsfeed and regularly read her posts. When breastfeeding my children, I made it a strong point not to have it be a SmartPhone break for me (too often). Already today I built up a fun reading fort and we read a stack of books together–and those kinds of activities happen all day.
[Writing interruption--son climbed on me and wanted to talk about his doggie]
[Writing interruption--daughter wanted a story read]
[Writing interruption--kids wanted a cookie. Yes, I gave my kids cookies at 9:40am because I NEED to write right now. I am aching to get these thoughts out. So insert judgement here: Tara, you are a ______ parent for letting your kids eat cookies at 9:40am so you can selfishly write a blog post]
Where was I? Right. I am all about putting your phone down to parent. When I was in the library yesterday, my kids were enjoying playing with books and kids, and I couldn’t muster up the courage to look at my phone. I felt like I’d be the jerk Mom looking at her phone while her kids play, even IF I watch them while doing it (note: I don’t think those Moms are jerks…..sometimes I wish we were more aware of our kids in their surroundings while on our phones, but not jerks. I don’t judge Mamas, promise. But I worry how others judge me). I thumbed through a cookbook, but still felt like I was “bad”.
All day I ached for 8pm, when the kids would be settled down into bed and I could grade the stack of papers waiting for me. But husband worked a 13 hour day and wasn’t home until 8. My son needed some extra attention because he is still getting over an ear infection, so he got medicine, temp taken, and lots of snuggles.
8pm came, and went.
The house was a mess so I cleaned it up. I then drew a bath for myself, only to find we were out of hot water.
9pm came, and went.
Still no papers graded.
Finally I started grading, but my son started crying in the room. I went in and laid with him. Then my daughter wanted snuggles too. So I laid down with her.
10pm came, and went.
By then my brain was done. If I graded papers, I’d miss things or be a jerk to my students. So I called it quits. I resolved myself to 30 minutes of bliss watching New Girl on my Kindle while using Pinterest on my phone. My Kindle died because daughter used it during her nap. I tried Pinterest, but my husband wanted my attention at that time so I had to put it away.
11pm came, and went. Finally, I slept.
So yes, I am mourning the loss of “me.” I had good intentions. For crying out loud, I wanted to do my JOB and grade papers. But my most important job as mother took priority.
So what to do?
Honestly, I think society kind of sucks right now. And that’s the problem. Enough of these guilt-inducing (although well-meaning) posts, shackling us mothers with guilt because the only 5 minutes we can look at our phones and do something for us is the 5 minutes our kids are distracted by books at the library or cookies at 9am. We can’t handle any more speeches or judgmental glances to urge us to put down the phones (remember, I was one of those posters, so I am getting at me too here. And people are getting at a VERY important issue–but the issue isn’t with the Moms). Instead, we need to touch on a bigger issue: SOCIETY needs to help us Moms have time for “us” (and that is NOT 30 minutes of grocery shopping alone).
I love that we have come a long way as a society where we can vote, and work, and get an education. But right now, society is making us do it all. Last week I dragged my kids to class with me because that is the “feminist” breakthrough–daycare dilemma . No problem, our society has “advanced” because you can now bring kids with you to work/school. How the heck is that a problem solved? I spent four hours shushing two kids under the age of 4 who had to sit quiet for FOUR hours. I chased my son as he pulled the fire alarm, shushed my daughter as she pretend burped in a quiet class, grabbed my son as he crawled across the conference table, and looked with embarrassment as my daughter pulled my shirt down while I was talking with a male student and revealed my BEDAZZLED bra (why a bedazzled bra? Because I haven’t had time to do laundry).
[Interruption: Daughter wanted me to read her a book]
But the only alternative to not bringing kids to school is dropping out of the class, because I already missed another class when my son had to go in for an urgent doctor’s appointment. If I could have used Skype for class, rather than attended with kids, I would have gotten way more out of it and the kids wouldn’t have distracted the learning environment.
I spoke with my Department Chair and asked what teachers of classes do when their children
[Interruption--daughter needs help finding Waldo]
I asked the department chair what teachers do when their kids are sick. He laughed and said in his 30 years of teaching he had never had a teacher cancel their class because of a sick child. So what the heck do they do? Surely they must lie. Because I can’t get ANY daycare for my sick kids, and my husband is off working and his job won’t let him take time off. Friends don’t want to watch my sick kids because they don’t want their kids to get sick.
So here we are society. The working Mom is left to look crappy at her job, take her kids to her job and get nothing done (and distract others), or lie and miss going in altogether. THIS is feminism?
There are people out there who get it. One professor of mine says “Where the rubber meets the road in feminism is when a mother has small children.” And she is a true feminist who GETS it and understands that I may have to miss a class here and there because I have a sick kid. We need more like her. We need to support one another. When I had my awful ”bring your kids to work” day, one Mama sent me a gift card to Starbucks when she heard about her day. That was amazing and touched me.
We need more of that. Less of ”put your phone down and parent your child” glances, and more constructive ways of helping. More offers to babysit while the other person can go get some “me” time (REAL “me” time). And more ACCEPTANCE of offers so we can get me time (I don’t know about you, but I feel so guilty taking help). Instead of saying “do you need help?” we need to present it to each other to make the other feel less guilty. Like, “Hey, my little one is in need of some social time, do you mind dropping off your kid sometime and maybe you can go get some alone time yourself. I was thinking that is something that might help you and me at once.” Or “Hey I made some extra dinner and we won’t eat it, I am in your neck of the woods, do you mind taking some?” THAT is how you offer help, otherwise we won’t take it. We need more acceptance of Men taking time off to care for their kids. More acceptance of people having to miss things because of kids. We need better solutions, because right now, our current definition of “feminism” is not cutting it.
[Interruption, son was rolling a small desk through our door as a "stroller"]
I will use my phone to do something that gives my brain a break, even if my kids are falling all over me. Because that is my only choice right now. You might say I should better use my time, and of course, everyone should. But I so desperately need “me” time that I can’t think clearly–and so yes, my time management is a mess (like this 30 minutes spent blogging rather than snuggling the kids or changing out of pajamas).
Until society gives me a better solution, my “me” time consists of quick moments on the phone or computer while passing off cookies or Where’s Waldo to the kids. Otherwise 8pm, 9pm, 10pm, and 11pm will all come…and go….and so will my sense of self.