So you know that dream where you are screaming and screaming but no noise is coming out? The one where you wake up scared and racy and quickly scour your mind to find out if it was real or not?
Yeah, that’s been happening to me lately, except the thing is that I’m not asleep.
It’s nothing new, the guts of my screaming, and the silence that prevails. It’s the same conversation mothers everywhere have. Like my friend Bec said the other day, motherhood is one massive double-edged sword. The pay-off comes in those frequent, intense, heart-exploding moments when you just want to eat your little one up with love. But the background to those moments is a constant feeling of “when is it my turn?”.
Here’s the thing. I want to raise my babies but I don’t want to be reduced by them. I want to have my turn, but I want to absorb these baby raising years with all of my might because I know with a sobering reality that they will be over in a flash.
Some days, the Chasin’ Dreams Me and the Raisin’ Babies Me is so balanced I don’t even think about it. Other days, between hanging out the fourth load of washing, dealing with the sixth tantrum and cleaning up the third spat-out meal, it takes everything I have not to throw the food against the wall and sit there watching the plate smash into a million tiny pieces. Resentment builds in all sorts of places like a fire, where the slightest puff of wind can send it blazing, spreading like it’s got a life of its own.
I have an appetite which dwells within me that nobody can feed but me. We all do. If I don’t feed it regularly, even if only by a few scattered crumbs I find lying on the floor, I am no use to anyone. Not one person. The notion of a mother as self-sacrificing martyr is an outdated one at that, and I have come to refuse to be defined by any one thing – including my children. If the level at which we sacrifice is the level in which we assess how well we are going as mothers, we need to seriously rethink a thing or two.
Unfortunately, feeding ourselves and feeding our families comes at a price. And that price is usually burn-out. It’s the kind of burn-out where we yell at our husbands and resent their freedom. It’s the kind where we decide that our children are actually out to get us and that they spend the first ten minutes of their day scheming up ways to deliberately upset us. It’s the kind where the only thing we can do is pick up the phone, ring the Chasin’ Dreams Me and demand an escape route.
So last night, I left. I dressed myself up and got in the car and met my oldest girlfriends for dinner. We drank wine and we laughed so hard we cried, and although I sat there exhausted, I also felt free. I realized that I can nurture the family I so cherish but also escape often, and that doing so makes me no less of a mother. I sat there happy, not only glad that I had hunted out some crumbs to eat, just for today, but that tomorrow there would be some more for me, somewhere, somehow, just waiting for me to find.
Enjoy your weekend, Red Tenters. Happy crumb-eating to you, too.