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For the Sake of My Sanity

I looked at the clock tonight, counting down the minutes until my husband got home from work. I took the kids upstairs so that I could change out of my spit-up stained clothing into my running gear. I quickly peered out my front window scanning the street for his car. Much to my surprise, I noticed my dog running around the front yard. Panic set in (for the 48th time today) and I ran downstairs to find that in the 14 seconds it took me to change my shirt and shorts, my two year old scooted down the stairs and let himself and the dog into the front yard. Again. I know, I know. Get babyproofing locks for the door handles. And I totally intend to do that, as soon as I find the free time I need to go out purchase them. Thankfully, my husband had pulled in and collected the toddler and the dog. As soon as he came in and changed out of his suit, I slipped out the front door for my run.  

My body hurt, it was hot out, my ankles ached – especially after hours and hours of chasing three children. But a three-mile run is the only thing that can sometimes save what little sanity I have left after such a long day. 

After my first child was born in 2012, I went through what many first mothers experience. Looking back, I’m certain I had postpartum depression and anxiety. I quit my job, I stayed home, I consumed myself with his caretaking. In a very cliché mom way, I lost myself. I forgot what I liked to do. I became miserable and resentful. I ended up in therapy, and slowly I found my way again.  

Having experienced that once, I have been bound and determined with my second and third pregnancies to continue to be “me.” I think it’s important to maintain a sense of self – and equally as important for my kids to know that I am much more than Mom. I’m a human, I have interests, I need five seconds alone to pee sometimes. I like to go to work. I like tattoos. I like to drink four (or more) cocktails on Friday nights. So far, I’ve stayed true to this. But although I’ve been able to continue to be ME and MOM, having a third child has brought on another challenge. It’s not “myself” that I’m at risk losing this time around – but more so my sanity.  

sanity

The first child is hard. You can’t do anything, because you haven’t yet adapted to the multitasking of motherhood. But slowly, you learn to get a few things done when the baby is asleep. When the second arrives, you’re a pro. You put the baby down for a nap, you put a show on for the toddler, and you get as much shit done before you hear Mickey announcing the arrival of the final mouseketool, hence signaling the end of both the show and your toddler’s attention span. Then the third child arrives, and if you manage to get even two out of three kids napping/relaxing at the same time, you sit. You just be. You breathe, you pee, you chug some coffee, and you stand at the front door and threaten to kill anyone who even THINKS about ringing your doorbell while your babies are sleeping.  

After Owen was born, I quickly realized my sanity was at stake.  I decided I needed to get out. I needed time away. I needed to be me. I signed up for weekly personal training sessions, which have been a life saver. Fitness is something that’s always been important to me – so working out has helped me work toward getting back to my pre-baby body AND my pre-baby mind.  

During my sessions, my trainer offers the typical trainer encouragement, saying things like, “Come on, Cait. You can do this. There is no such thing as fatigue.”  

One day, during the last five minutes of my kick ass session, he said, “Come on. Finish it. This is the hardest thing you are going to do today.” 

I laughed, because of course, he was right. Physically, it was the hardest thing I was going to do that day. But mentally, it was the easiest. The most enjoyable. The thought of going home and getting three kids fed, bathed, and in bed would most likely be the most challenging thing I did that day. Like a boss, I finished that workout. And then I went home and somehow survived bedtime routine without losing my shit on anyone. 

I guess my point is this: It’s important to maintain my sanity – for myself and ultimately for my kids. Despite the mom guilt I feel when I leave to go out by myself, I know that time away only makes me a better mom. And when things get really mentally tough, when I’m up for the fourth time at 4:00am feeding a teething and overtired baby, I’ll channel my trainer and chant to myself, “You got this, Cait. There’s no such thing as fatigue. This is the hardest thing you’ll do today.”