The day started off with a bang. Brett was out of town for the week and poor Claire (and let’s be honest, poor mommy..) had a terrible, sleepless night due to what I’m chalking up to be teething pains.
I let the dog out while Leah completed her morning job of scooping numerous small cups of dog food into Lucy’s bowl. As I readied the coffee maker, Lucy bounded in, tracking in a trail of either poop or mud paw prints. (My money was on poop). She made sure to dance around the kitchen for good measure before letting me corral her back into the mudroom for a good paw cleaning. “Stay out of the kitchen, please!!” I yelled over my shoulder to the girls. Of course, saying those magic words drew them both to the kitchen like a moth to a flame. As I attempted to scrub the prints with Clorox wipes, while keeping my patience with Leah, (“Why do you need to walk where I am cleaning right this very minute?!”) Claire chose that moment to dive face first off the bottom step, slamming her cheek into the floor. Which then left with me the momentary silent debate, “Pick her up and comfort her with my poop hands or let her lie there and scream??” Oh motherhood and the battles we face.
10 minutes later we had a clean kitchen floor and a calm(ish) one year old with an impressive bruise sprouting on her face. I glanced up at the oven clock from my spot on the kitchen floor and realized that, if we hustled, I could make my favorite gym class. I rushed to changed, yelled at Leah 5 times to “PLEASE go potty NOW!” and “Just choose ANY pair of shoes, please!” and we made it to the gym just in time. Leah loves the gym child care (with constant movies playing, slides, and a climbing structure, what’s not to love?!) but Claire is ambivalent at best. Usually I can drop her off with no tears, but when she does cry, it’s usually the half hearted whimper that I know won’t last more than 2 minutes once I walk out the door. This morning, however, she full on monkey clung to me and SCREAMED when I tried to deposit her into the weary arms of the gym employee. “She’ll be fine!” I said, mostly to convince myself more than anyone else, and, taking one last look back at my devastated and screaming toddler, hightailed it out of there.
Once in the gym class, I was overcome with a wave of guilt. Maybe this isn’t worth it. Poor Claire had such a rough morning…maybe she just needs me…this is so mean and selfish of me to do. After setting up my spot in class, I doubled back to the child care to peek into the window (a great feature my gym has!) so I could check on Claire without her seeing me. She looked miserable, but wasn’t crying, so I accepted that she wouldn’t suffer any long term emotional damage from being left, and went back to complete my class. Of course when I picked up the girls and hour later, poor Claire was just standing there at the gate waiting for me, which hurt my mommy heart, but the child care worker convinced me that she was fine the whole time.
Later that day, while texting my sister, I told her how guilty I felt and how I couldn’t help but feel like I was being selfish, putting my own desires and needs about my child’s. She said she totally understood the feeling, but that these moments were just as important for Claire as they are for me. Listen, we all hate when our kids cry and/or get upset when we leave them, but what’s the other option? Never leaving?
Becoming a full time stay-at-home mom this past year has quickly taught me the importance of balance. I love my kids and I became a stay-at-home mom so I could spend my days fully engaged with them. And for the most part, our days are filled with play dates, mommy and me classes, library story time and constant puzzle completing. But that doesn’t mean that I still don’t need to carve time during the day for just ME. Most days that just means sitting and reading in the afternoon while the girls nap, instead of hurrying around trying to complete as many chores around the house as possible during my 2 hour window. But sometimes it means dropping my screaming child off at the gym child care so I can get a workout it. Maybe not everyone finds their peace and center while squatting with a weighted barbell on their back, but for me, that’s MY time. My time to let go of being “mom” and instead focus on my body, my own breathing, my own needs.
Working out not only centers me, but it also makes me a calmer, stronger, more rational mom. After a stressful morning, that hour of weight lifting or cardio allows me to pick up the girls from child care and start fresh. It’s like the slate has been wiped clean and the stress of the morning has slipped away. And for me, that’s just as vital to being a good mom as the numerous activities we do for the girls each week. And, maybe this is just wishful thinking on my end, but I’m hoping that leaving Claire for small periods of time is good for her as well. With Leah I worked part time, so she was used to being dropped off at day care each day, but Claire is with me 24/7. Besides the gym and the church nursery, this girl basically never leaves my side. So it is my hope that this small bit of time away from mom will help her learn that it’s okay when mom leaves. The world is not coming to an end! And mom will always come back.
This act of balance is something I’m still working on. As a mom, it’s hard not to forgo your own needs for the sake of your children, because that is what being a mother is all about. However, I’m slowly learning to give myself grace, to allow myself to put my own needs first for the sake of my kids, every once and awhile. Because doing so is making me a better mother, and that is something I am always looking to improve.