Waiting to Inhale

I’ve been trying to put on my own oxygen mask. You know how they say that in the safety announcements at the beginning of a flight; put your own mask on first before you try to help others. Even before you help your own child. Well, I’ve been taking a new approach to parenting and trying to do just that.

But self care is hard. Oh, I know, I know, first world problems. But you know, not really. As a parent to children who have a history of trauma, things can get pretty fucking hard up in here. Parenting anyone is hard. Parenting kids like ours is sometimes off the charts hard. Yes, it’s hard for the kids too. Before anyone else gets up on their high horse to tell me how hard it is for my poor kids and what a horrible parent I am for not thinking of that every single minute, let me be very clear–I do. I read and I research and I advocate and I counsel and I get counselled and I discuss until my voice is sore and I give 110% to my kids because I do know that. I know that better than anyone. Especially you. This isn’t about you. And it’s not even about my kids right now, it’s about me. Because I matter too.

Allowing my kids to witness and, hopefully, model me taking care of myself is important. But that’s not what this is about either. This is about taking care of myself because I need it. The last two years have been filled with so many amazing moments, achievements, fun times and love. But they have also been the hardest, most relentless, exhausting time of my life. Pretty much any moments of trying to do something for ME have only backfired, causing more stress in the end. You know, the stress I was trying to get rid of by taking care of myself? It’s not sustainable. I’m losing the plot here, having trouble thinking ahead to this afternoon, let alone tomorrow, forget about any kind of long-term goals I might have for myself because my entire brain is take up 24 hours a day trying to make a better day, school year, life, future for my kids. I feel like I’ve disappeared. My mum used to get mad when people didn’t know her name. She resented being known as “Morgan’s Mom”. And I get that. I’m sure all moms get that. But this is something more than that. This isn’t just not being recognized, it’s not being able to recognize myself.

I don’t kid myself that my life was filled with wild parties and grand achievements before we had kids. But at least I had the energy to try and do what I thought was important, to make my mark in the world, to do something that I thought mattered, to create things I was proud of, to enjoy myself.

So I have been trying to focus a little more on myself these past couple of weeks. It’s pretty slow going. I have been taking time to connect with friends and trying not to spend the entire time talking about my kids. I usually spend the entire time talking about my kids. But I’m sneaking in some other topics too. This is progress. I finally got around to setting up our basement and my sewing area and have been working on a few small projects. Then my sewing machine broke. Even trying to write this blog post has been interrupted numerous times by cats and kids and people needing me to do something. Forging out an hour for myself feels unsurmountable, even inside my own brain. We went to see a show last night that I’ve been dying to see, Hawksley Workman’s The God That Comes. It felt so exciting to be out, seeing such a captivating show, drinking a glass of wine. Then the woman beside me unpacked a fucking lunch and noisily unwrapped and ate things while humming along in parts, completely enraging me. And The Wife, who went into the evening determined not to enjoy the show, sat stone faced the entire time. I am not the kind of audience member who just experiences a performance on her own. I always feel like one cell of an organism, totally affected by those around me. So I soon found myself with my shoulders up around my ears and my chest tight in stress and resentment. I reminded myself of my goal and decided to put the oxygen mask on myself. I leaned forward so I couldn’t see The Wife out of the corner of my eye. Whether or not she enjoyed the show was none of my business. I put my finger in my left ear so I couldn’t hear the crackers in the crinkly package the woman beside me was eating. (Seriously, bitch? It’s a one-hour show! That sandwich you brought can wait!) I leaned into Workman’s voice and the red lights and I blocked everything else out and I got lost in the show for a few minutes. And I breathed.

If I can have more moments like this, small as they may be, I think I might be able to patchwork them together into something that feels like a life again. Not my old life. Not a life that doesn’t involve my kids. Just a life that belongs to me that I want to live. One that has some oxygen I can let into my lungs instead of feeling like I can’t catch my breath or that I’m drowning all the time.

I will continue to support my kids and to love them even when they refuse to let me. But I am also going to try my damndest to remember that I need some love too. That I’m a human being and humans can’t live without oxygen. And that I deserve to breathe.


12 comments on “Waiting to Inhale

  1. Oh Morgan, you are lovely. You definitely deserve and need love. You give out so much of it! And it’s brave of you to talk openly about your struggles, goddess knows we all have our fair share. I’m just working on taking care myself too. I applaude your bravery and tenacity. And let’s get our project under way! xoLL

  2. Yes. I especially appreciate that our kinds need to see us modelling self care. I think that generally, if and when we get around to it, self care is clandestine and hush hush, kept especially from our kids. I hope you talked a bit to your kids about what you did and why.

  3. oh morgan. that wee moment in the theatre. i hear you. thanks for being honest in public.

  4. Oh Morgan, I was getting exhausted just reading, it sounds to me like you need a night or two to yourself.

  5. Morgan, you can really write. I always deeply appreciate the skill with which you express yourself. This piece is yet another example of your talent, not to mention your insight, honesty, perseverance, and many other great qualities. I hope that writing this post proved to be an act of self-care in some measure; it certainly should help many other people. Thank you.

    • Thank you for your nice words, Dania. I recently joined an email list for parents and I can’t tell you how much just reading other parents’ stories has helped me. So if it can help anyone else feel less crazy, I’m thrilled.

  6. It’s like you’re in my head Morg. I’m so grateful reading these posts you write. I’m grateful because you’re able to articulate our parenting in a way I am not.
    Three weeks ago I started scheduling time off for me. Thursdays 9-1pm. I even blocked it out on my phone so j couldn’t add anything. It has been a fight, every week, to keep that time to myself. But, I press on & fight back. Ive learned to say “I’m booked” during that time instead if “that’s my day off” & it has helped greatly. I only do things I want to do during these hours & try to schedule a massage, pedicure, hair appointment, coffee with a friend, conversation on the phone with far away friends; something that is just for me. Hell sometimes I just sleep. But, It is getting easier. I’ve also become more involved with my volunteer job. I like the work & the people I work with, my skills are needed there and I feel like I make a difference to my community with my efforts. Becoming more involved, rather than less, has forced me to connect with community more & stress about kids less. Counterintuitive maybe but the end result is good. Mama is happier and balancing life better meaning everyone is better for it.
    Keep plugging along Sister……. You’re awesome.

  7. Thank you, Wendy! I know you know! I’m so glad you’ve found a way to take those hours for yourself and I will work up to blocking off time in my calendar too. That’s a great idea. And that’s great about your volunteering. Yeah, big picture thinking is so important, isn’t it? Working on it…working on it. Much love to you, awesome lady.

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