Ahhh, naptime… When I have gotten all the darlings to bed or outside and the living room is quiet–nevermind the dirty lunch dishes. It is rough getting through the day with these particular people, so I have to enjoy the little things…a quiet room, a recliner, a cup of coffee, a book, and a piece of chocolate.
Today, while I was waiting on my combined-instant-and-regular-brewed-leftover-coffee to boil, I was enjoying a chocolate with a couple of almonds inside. It occurred to me that I wouldn’t enjoy it nearly as much if it didn’t have the nuts to crunch at the end. I have had regular chocolate candy without nuts inside, and while it is good, it isn’t as satisfying as finishing with a final crunch and swallow. At the end of the candy with nuts, you feel like you have finished something–clear beginning, clear end. With the non-nut kind, sure it is good with the warm melted chocolate slipping down your throat, but you are never quite prepared for the ending.
I am a goal-oriented kind of person. I like to have beginnings and endings. I like to see the fruits of my labor. When I was in college and working at Borders Books, I had to work 5 days a week, with no 2 consecutive days off–I think it was maybe Saturday and Tuesday that I was off. It was nice having one weekend day and one weekday off, but I never really felt like one week ended and another started. I needed that 2 day break to feel like one ended and the next one was starting. It just felt like it went on and on. This was one nice thing about teaching school–there is a clear beginning and ending. One group finishes in the summer, then you can rethink, plan, prepare, and try again in the fall with a new group.
Not so with motherhood. Motherhood can feel like a job where you never get lunch breaks, weekends, or vacation time. It can leave you feeling unfulfilled, cranky, tired, and depressed if you don’t find some way to feed your need to use your gifts and talents to produce something in the world that is not child-related. Motherhood is like chocolate with no nut inside, but just a slow melt… A diaper, a meal, a load of laundry, a cleaned mess, a naptime, a trip to library storytime, a bath, another week, month, year–drip, drip, drip down the throat, and then off to college? I suppose that is the nut at the end–but that is one massive chocolate piece. I need smaller pieces with more frequent nuts to chomp. I need a more frequent feeling of accomplishment and happy endings.
One way I have found to help myself feel more fulfilled and productive is to start this blog. (No one in the world knows it exists yet, but I will not let that stop me!) With this blog, I have something I can do in the little windows of free time I get. I can start and finish a post (a nut to chew and swallow). I have something in the world to show for my time and effort. I have something to work at and learn about in order to improve. I have some way to impact the world with my particular interests and talents. It has been very helpful to me and I feel so much better. If I have had a rough day and feel like a total failure as a mother/housewife (as I do at least 50% of the time), getting alone for a couple of hours to think/read/pray/write and maybe create a blog post if something comes to me makes me feel much better, like I have some area I can contribute to the world even if I am struggling to be an adequate mother and wife. Feeling competent and productive in one area helps me to feel better in general, which helps me to find more energy to put into raising and caring for the endless needs of my family. Yes, it takes time and effort to work on the blog, but I find that the time and effort it takes actually gives me energy rather than taking it away.
Perhaps there are other stay-at-home moms or dads out there who, of course, are grateful to be able to care for their kids at home, but need something else to keep them feeling energized and happy. Maybe all you need is a hobby, job, business, or art to work at in your spare time. Ideally, it would be something that you enjoy and are excited about, that uses your talents and challenges you to grow and learn and contribute to the outside world in some way. This could be some kind of small business, part-time job, volunteer opportunity, creating some kind of art/craft to give or sell, or like me, learn how to keep a blog.
It is not selfish to tend to your needs if tending to them means you are better able to care for those who count on you. It is also good for your children to see you happy, creating goals, taking risks, and achieving things you set out to accomplish. This will help them see how they can do the same things in their lives.
What have you found that helps you be a happy caretaker of small children?