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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.”

When Mommies Need “Me Time”

Back in January, I was the lucky recipient of the dreaded jury duty summons. Don’t get me wrong, I get it. It’s an American right and responsibility and so on. But to be honest, jury duty feels more like a major inconvenience than an important civic duty. From having to drive downtown at the crack of dawn, to having to pay for my own parking, and the sad $40 per day pay rate, it’s all pretty annoying. But honestly, when I received the summons, I looked at my number and I was pretty sure I had a good chance of not even being called in.

And I was wrong.

Sure enough, on the morning of my call to duty, I was told to report to the court house by 7:30am. I called in to work, got the baby off to daycare, and headed downtown. In true pregnant lady style, I showed up toting around a bag full of snacks and several bottles of water, knowing I had a long day of sitting around and doing nothing ahead of me. Since it’s not often that I have a full day of nothing to do, I also packed my iPad and a book I’d been attempting to read for the last year (or two).

After waiting in a very long security line and getting settled into a room full of 400 other people who were equally as thrilled to be there as I was, I decided to make the best of an annoying situation. I poured myself a decaf coffee and grabbed my book. To my surprise, I looked up at the clock some time later only to realize I had been busy reading for over an hour and a half. It occurred to me then that maybe jury duty wasn’t so bad after all. I mean, I couldn’t remember the last time I had an uninterrupted hour and a half to myself to just sit and read a book. And not only that, but I was actually getting paid $40 to sit there and enjoy some alone time (alone, besides the 400 other people in the room, of course).

By the fourth or fifth hour of the day, I had not only read half my book, but I had made some friends, enjoyed some adult time, and caught up on e-mails.

And around this time, I realized that I had been in desperate need of some time away from work and parenting. I mean – seriously – if you are enjoying yourself at jury duty, you probably need to get out more often. I couldn’t recall the last time I had taken some time to hang out with adults and do something that didn’t revolve around motherhood and career related responsibilities.

mom e card vacation

So last week, when a fellow pregnant friend invited me to join her at a prenatal yoga class, I jumped at the chance. Now let me preface this by saying, I am definitely not a yoga junkie by any means. I’ve taken a handful of classes in the past, but that’s about it. I’m not a granola eating, meditating, natural birthing kind of person. I’m typically the person who looks awkward in the back row attempting to bend myself into bizarre poses and trying not to laugh as the instructor tells me to take deep breaths and release my fears and worries through my fingertips (and other yoga nonsense that makes me giggle). They are constantly telling you to let your mind relax, not to think about anything except being in the moment, but c’mon. We’re moms, ladies. I’m making a mental grocery list and planning my son’s birthday party as I’m standing in warrior pose. But I digress.

So although I’m not yoga master, I really wanted to go. I mean, jury duty was thrilling and all, but I needed some legit “me time.” I trudged through the frozen tundra after work last Monday night and made it to class with a few minutes to spare. I was the first mom to arrive, and I have to admit, I was nervous. The studio was very small – there wasn’t going to be any hiding in the background. The class was going to be taught by a doula and I was slightly nervous she’d spend the entire time trying to convince me why I should attempt natural child birth and how to breathe through contractions sans epidural. And even more, there were a variety of props set up at each person’s spot – blankets, yoga blocks, a few fancy pillows. I had a feeling I was going to be in over my head with this class.

As the women arrived and we settled into the start of class, the doula welcomed everyone and spoke to each pregnant mom individually, asking us how we were feeling. I know what you are thinking – last week I was totally bitching about people asking the obligatory, “How are you feeling?” when they don’t really want or care to hear my answer. But this was different. She actually wanted to know how we were feeling. She asked what parts of our body were hurting, how we were sleeping. She offered some stretches and sleeping positions that might help our aching backs. It was amazing. It was so nice to spend 10-15 minutes talking about the physical challenges of pregnancy with other women and have them actually listen and understand. Maybe this wasn’t going to be as yoga-meditation-crazy as I had expected.

The rest of the class was just as amazing as the first few minutes. It was extremely relaxing, not at all strenuous, and really enjoyable. The instructor was helpful and showed us how to use all the props to modify poses without making me feel like I had no idea what the hell I was supposed to be doing. I still had trouble shutting off my mind and not making mental lists, but I have admit, there were a few minutes that I was able to actually “be in the moment.” LOL. That yoga-dialogue will always make me laugh.

During the last fifteen minutes of class, the instructor shut off the lights and played some quiet music. She gave each mom a short massage, complete with lavender oil and a killer neck rub. While I would normally feel SO awkward accepting a massage from a random doula I had just met an hour earlier, I didn’t hesitate at all. What pregnant mom is going to turn down massage?! Certainly not this tired Mama. And it was wonderful.

After all, I guess what I came to realize is this. Every parent – pregnant or not – needs some time away. I learned this fact back when my son was born, but between play dates and bedtimes, time can easily get away. Rule of thumb: If jury duty feels like a fucking vacation, then you need a vacation.

So if you find yourself relaxing during your latest dental cleaning, or you actually enjoyed waiting for two hours in your doctor’s office solely because you haven’t had two hours to put your feet up in months, then you are in desperate need of some “me time.” Schedule yourself a massage, go grocery shopping without your children, or plan a night out with hubby. You deserve it, ladies.