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.