My sister's baby was 11 days old yesterday when she called to ask me the following question while taking care of her 19 mo.old toddler and the baby for the first time alone:
Her: So, why is that I feel like I'm barely keeping my head above water?
Me: Because you are barely keeping your head above water.
This was of course a light-hearted conversation attempting to alleviate the often overwhelming feelings of taking care of two small children, both under 2. My own girls are 20 months apart, and Katie has heard my sometimes daily diatribes about wanting to check myself into a hospital or even a prison, anywhere that my meals are made for me and my space stays as clean as I'd like it to for as long as I'd like it to.
The fact of the matter is, taking care of two young children is HARD work! I don't know a woman who would say differently. I don't want to downplay the challenges of taking care of children who have more of an age gap between them, because I'm sure they are many, but taking care of of a child who is 2 and a baby at the same time can at times feel like a pre-requisite to at least partial insanity.
But, that is not the point of this entry.
The point is to say that it is important, as moms, to figure out what makes you feel like you are coming up for air, at least for a couple of hours a week; this is KEY to our sanity. The truth is, on most days, I feel like I am barely treading water. That I am just making it. The house is never clean, just sometimes picked up, our belongings never feel organized, just sometimes easier to find than others, and our car is never void of crushed crackers, and spilled milk. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
All that said, I do the best I can to make it through most days, and if I lower my expectations about cleanliness and order enough, to actual enjoy many of them. But, I do need mommy time-- this is the time when I come up for air for more than just a few seconds, and actually feel like maybe, just maybe, I can keep swimming, and maybe just maybe I can do it gracefully for a short period of time.
While each woman is different (and man, for that matter- we need to help our husbands figure out how they can feel like they are able to breathe deeply as well!) coming up for air is a benefit of making time for yourself. Here are some ways I've done this:
- Right now I'm sitting a Panera, drinking coffee, watching the snow fall softly, listening to soft jazz and utilizing the free wi-fi to blog away, distraction free-- this is like HEAVEN to me! I pay a babysitter every Tuesday, from 2:30-5:30 to come watch the girls. I prefer to do some writing and/or reading, but often run errands as well. It hasn't always been this way. I've tried a lot of different things, occasional babysitters, mommy's helpers, etc. but this has been the best situation; a lovely 20 year old girl, that lives a couple miles from my house, is a local college student and has a pretty flexible schedule. For me I like being able to look forward to this period of time every week, rather than just doing it occasionally.
- There is a local pre-school that has a playschool program- it's drop-off babysitting at a trusted church for $5 an hour. I take Ava there pretty regularly for two hours. Ella sleeps and I clean the house!
- Sometimes, either after the girls go to bed, or just before I'll grab a book and head off to Starbucks. It helps to get out of the house, because I'm there all day. It is more refreshing than just sitting at home on the couch watching t.v..although that certainly holds merits on some days!
- Taking the kids to the gym with me. I don't do this often because it is a bit of a hassle, and last time I took them both I was 22 minutes into a 30 minute interval run on the treadmill when I was notified that Ava needed to pee and I needed to take her! But, occasionally, I do put them in the nursery at the gym and feel excited to have accomplished a workout early in the day.
While there are other ways to find mommy time outs, I'll leave you with these and hope it inspires other moms to find time to breathe, to come up for air-- you need it, deserve it and will be a better mom for it!