My church is having a service auction tonight that I wanted to go to. I’ve known about it for over a month and was excited to donate freshly baked loaves of my honey whole-wheat bread. But now that the evening is actually happening, I feel guilty pangs of remorse realizing that I haven’t done a darn thing!
Instances like this service auction remind me that sometimes I really want to do things that I can’t. It’s hard to feel like myself right now when I have a 3-month-old baby who is taking up every bit of energy I have. I am up several times a night feeding him and have just enough energy left over to also feed, entertain, and love-on my other two wonderful children. I’ve realized that I am more busy and overwhelmed than I thought I would be with three children.
I tried to feel more optimistic about participating in the auction, and reasoned that I could try really, really hard to squeeze in some time to bake bread, but then realized I was out of flour. And, well, I just didn’t feel like I could lug all three kids to the grocery store with the snow falling, the baby hungry, and the ongoing possibility of someone not being able to find at least one shoe before we could leave. It was too much for me to consider.
So instead, I took my kids swimming. We try to go almost every other day while the baby takes his big, morning nap in the stroller. I park him carefully by the pool-side lounge chairs while we play games and kick around in the shallow end.
I forgot how much I love swimming. I grew up in Hawaii where I could swim every single day if I wanted. Swimming became a way to relax and rejuvenate my soul. After a hard day at work or school, I could always count on jumping in the ocean, moving my limbs freely, and gliding blissfully through the water while removing any last lingering bits of stress from my mind.
But now that I live in the snowy mountains, raising a family with my mountain-man husband, I have to settle for wading in the shallow end of the pool while my five-year-old jumps onto my back yelling,”Ride em’ dolphin, ride! Go, mommy, go! Now go faster!”
Instead of going to the service auction tonight, I cooked a spaghetti dinner at home for my family. As I pictured all the delicious food, chattering friends, and fun services being auctioned off, I felt left out for not going– and even a little guilty for not trying harder to do something about it. I looked around at my husband and kids and saw a boring meal, a messy house, piles of dirty dishes, and a woman who needed some time for herself, but didn’t know how to get it.
At that moment, I remembered that we had left my son’s favorite toy at the pool. Since my husband was holding the baby and the kids were busily playing a game on the carpet, I slipped out by myself to go grab the toy.
I glanced up to see that the stars were out, and the apartments were all dark and quiet. It was a nice, peaceful, three-minute stroll to the pool– alone. When I got there, I looked for the toy, but it wasn’t there.
I was turning to leave when suddenly the shiny glimmer of the stars on the pool’s surface caught my eye. It looked so lovely and inviting. I thought how nice it would be to swim right now in that warm, heated pool, all by myself under the starlight.
But, I quickly pushed that thought away and decided that I needed to get back to my messy house, the piles of dishes, and to help put our children into bed. Everyone would need my help before too long.
As I headed home, feelings of negative resentment for my family crept into my heart. I started feeling like I never had time for myself and they couldn’t care less how exhausted I was. The reality of having three children to constantly care for was hitting me as fast as that warm, inviting pool started to disappear into the distance behind me.
I felt tears well up in my eyes, feeling pity and guilt. I couldn’t stop thinking about how I wished I could feel like myself somehow– and not some overworked, worn out mom, who had to miss out on fun service auctions.
Then suddenly, I just stopped thinking and started running back towards the pool.
I reached the edge within seconds, and with one, big, cannonball leap, I jumped into the pool with all my clothes on.
I swam around for several minutes, moving my limbs freely, and glided blissfully through the water while removing any last lingering bits of stress from my mind. I floated on the surface, looking up at those shiny glimmering stars.
It was so refreshing, so relaxing, so rejuvenating and so……me! All those feelings of resentment, guilt, and longing seemed to sink away to the bottom of the pool. I didn’t care anymore about my messy house, my dirty dishes, or my obvious inability to bake bread for some silly auction. I only felt happy to be alive, happy to be a mommy, and happy to get home to my amazing kids!
When I got home, I was still soaking wet. I quietly opened the front door and snuck back into the bedroom to change while my family was still happily engaged with their game in the living room. I heard my husband yell down the hall, “So, did you find the toy?”
“Nope. It was gone,” I replied, having completely forgotten why I went to the pool in the first place. However, I decided that my son would be okay without his toy, for more importantly, his mommy had found a little piece of herself tonight.
It was definitely something we all needed. In fact, I plan on making more trips to the pool, not as “mommy the ride-able dolphin,” but as me, the woman who loves to swim.
QUESTION: What are some of the activities that you love to do? How can you incorporate those activities into your life to prevent getting burned out on motherhood?
CHALLENGE: Take some time for you. Even if it’s just a leap into a swimming pool, take a few minutes each day for some “me” time.
Images provided by Sally Jackson.