Have you ever experienced one of the dark days of motherhood? I have. In fact, I had one of those days just yesterday.
Outside it was absolutely gorgeous – not a cloud in the sky and unseasonably warm, temperatures more reminiscent of early July than mid-September. But within me, there was a heaviness that I just couldn’t lift. I tried my usual go to’s –music, getting outside, playing games with the kids, even a quick cat nap while they watched a twenty minute show on Netflix – but I continued to struggle with the way I was feeling.
I felt as though I was breaking under the pressures of motherhood - the expectations, the responsibilities, the routine of it all. It’s not that motherhood isn’t wonderful. It’s more than wonderful. It’s what I’m most grateful for in this world. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t days that feel thankless and unbearably heavy.
Yesterday was one of those days. And although I was alone, I suspect I wasn’t alone in feeling that way. These are the dark days of motherhood that are quietly suffered behind closed doors. Although I definitely have days where I struggle, they don’t define me and they don’t define my experience of motherhood. Rather they serve as a reminder to me of the importance of regular self-care.
Often we are so busy taking care of every one else that we neglect to take care of ourselves. We have this flawed perception that self-care is somehow ‘selfish’. I still struggle with this; I find it hard to justify taking time away from my family for myself. But I know that when I take that time, I’m a better parent, a better partner, a better version of myself. Making time for self-care isn’t about putting my needs first; it’s about looking after my needs as well.
Right now, I could sit here and continue to write, I could make the bed, fold the pile of laundry (or the load sitting in the dryer from yesterday). I could work on an application due this week, complete my course, or prepare dinner so that we aren’t so rushed to get to ballet tonight. Or I could choose to go to the gym. If I do the latter, all of the rest will be waiting for me when I get home, and some likely won’t get finished today. If I’m honest, some won’t get finished whether I go or not. So today, I’m choosing the gym. I know the answer to “How do you do it all?” is simply “We don’t”. I’m learning to be okay with that - making certain that self-care isn’t what gets cut from my daily to-do list.
Mamas are strong and yet, we still break sometimes. I know that by taking care of me regularly, the dark days become a little less dark…and the sunny ones shine that much brighter.