Running On Empty

Running on emptyI grieved. I was afraid. But the most difficult part of all of this was that I was the one who created it.

I was not talking about some writing project. I was talking about a new baby.

My first child sobered me into any fantasies I had about having kids. I tasted pain, heartbreak and fatigue. I knew my dreams would take a backseat. I knew it would be a sacrifice. I didn’t know if I was worthy of doing it again. I didn’t know if I had the energy to be even “good enough.”

I’m often surprised by the amount of things you can get done when you’re running on a few hours asleep. Some days, I feel like someone is gnawing at my brain. All. I. Want. Is. Sleep.

On bad days, I feel resentment bubbling to the surface. In my computer, there are several files that haven’t been touched in weeks. I think about those moments of fear and regret I had when I was pregnant. I still have them.

But I feel something sprouting beneath the surface. I don’t feel like I’m teaching my children. I feel like they are molding me. They are cracking me open in every sigh, tantrum and wide-eyed begging to be seen.

I cannot eat, google or text my way out of the two-year old staring at me screaming to make me see that this is one single moment. Whether good or bad, this one will be gone. And so will the next one. And the next. Will I be able to remember them? Will I be able to savor those sweet chubby toes and those adorable sayings or will they shrink into one long day filled with shouting, ignoring and invalidating statements because I couldn’t let go of the me before them?

Sure, my dreams of publishing a children’s book one day is real. It’s important. But the lessons they have in store for me are paramount. Because if I don’t get it, if I don’t surrender into the love I’ve got now, I know I will regret it. I will spend a lifetime wishing I could redo a childhood that was gone in a blink of an eye. I have only two chances to live childhood. One’s dead and gone. The other is through the eyes of my children.

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Meaning-Making Mom

MotherhoodIt may seem obvious to you. My husband said aren’t purpose living and meaning making natural parts of being a mom?

It’s true that there’s nothing like seeing your child crawl for the first time, say your name or simply smile that makes life magical. But I think all moms reach for something deeper.

It haunts us when we’re in the shower. It calls us when we’re not being called by our whining kids. It’s a richer, shinier, denser part of our selves that we’re looking for whether or not we’re looking.

Yes, children make our lives stunningly more meaningful. But we also need a segment of it just for us.

If you’ve ever felt like you’re losing “you,” then you know what I mean.

After having two babies, I’ve finally settled into the fact that my life is no longer spontaneous nights out and weekly day trips. It means planning ahead, organization and lots and lots of cleaning of every. single. bodily excrement. possible. But that doesn’t mean I have to give up me. If you don’t want to give up you either, I hope you’ll follow me and try the following:

Read something just for you.

Yes I am one of those moms who has a nightstand of books on anything from No-Drama Discipline to potty training, but those are in the minority. Much of what’s taking space on my Kindle are books like Daring Greatly and Big Magic. In other words, I’m still reading things that are good for my soul and I think you should too.

Create just for you. 

Sometimes you can find an activity that turns on your creative juices with your child. For example, I found that by going to our local Art Explorium I can use my creativity to create something with my son. It becomes mutually beneficial. We bond over a shared activity. But if you can’t find something to do with your kids, you should still save some time to create something: a poem, a painting, coloring in those fancy new adult coloring books. It may seem pointless, but trust me. When you do something creative, you’re waking up a part of you that’s still alive and well and waiting for you to dance with it. Creativity allows us to throw beauty at our frustrations with our tantrum-y toddler. An added benefit is that by doing so we’re teaching our kids how to flex their own creative muscle and express themselves in a healthy way.

Get in the flow.

You can get in the flow by doing the above two or by exercising your mind through meditation or body through running/yoga/swimming. When you’re constantly caring for another human being, you don’t think about being in the moment. You’re probably trying to escape with wine or chocolates, but being mindful is the way to reach meaning. One night I caught myself playing a video game while watching TV while nursing my baby. I realized that I was trying to run away from the moment. But in doing so I was missing out. There’s nothing like zooming in on where I am in this moment that makes life feel so rich and vivid. It’s the difference between technicolor Wizard of Oz and the black and white version. If I keep busying myself, my life will feel like one fastforwarded life. When I take a minute to breathe, meditate, run for 10 minutes, or simply pay attention I experience every facet of my life as a mom of two young babies. There’s really nothing more live giving than that.

Take a class.

I know what you’re thinking. How do you have time to take a class when you’re constantly caring for someone else? Sign up for an online class so you can do it on your own time. While caring for my two young boys, I signed up for Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly course. Just because you’re busy teaching someone else valuable lessons, doesn’t mean you can’t learn something new yourself. Think of it this way. Everything you learn will foster growth in yourself and that in return is a gift you can give your children.

Journal. 

It’s great to talk to your friends or family members about your children. But it’s quite another thing to share what’s been going on with yourself. For the things that you deem too personal, too tender to share with others (your fantasy of being a child book author, your secret desire to have another kid, or your minute to minute mommy doubts), hash them out in a journal and let yourself go. Things have a way of seeping out if we don’t share it. It’ll grumble to you while you’re trying to sleep or when you’re trying to discipline your kids. Journaling is a safe, healthy and therapeutic way to get all your genuine emotions down.

Go on a date alone.

The sound of children is like a symphony for moms whose children have grown. But for moms with little kids it’s a deafening soundtrack that can get annoying fast. Whenever it’s quiet, my ears sigh. Silence is nourishing for the soul. Whenever you can get dad or a sitter to watch them, go out alone. Go to the coffee shop, a bookstore, a park. No matter how noisy it is where you are, the sound of other people’s noises will often be less triggering than the sound of your kids. You need to spend time with yourself to process your experiences, to flourish as a human being and to check in. Are you doing okay? What do you want for you? Unless you get away, you’ll start to lose yourself. And as Beyonce sings in Running, “If I lose myself, I lose it all.”

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