Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I need a break... or do I?

"You need a break," the message sounds from every direction, "you are working so hard, you deserve a break!" - well, I do deserve a break, right? I'm taking care of two little children under 3 full-time, right? I'm ready to sleep even as I'm tucking my children in, right?..

"I'd be happy if they only let me drink my morning cup of coffee in peace," I thought one day. Then, "I'd be happy if only they went down for a nice nap at midday and I could handle some of my things in peace and quiet"; and then, "I'd be happy if they went to bed early, no arguments, and both slept through the night so I could wake up nice and refreshed."

Then I became brutally honest with myself. How long a break do I actually need in order to feel completely rejuvenated and ready to jump back on the bandwagon?

Um... several months? No... it isn't really going to work, is it?

I need, can, and will take time to shower, get enough sleep, take care of my things, work on projects in little snippets here and there... but my family is my life now; I cannot take a break of any considerable length from living life. It is not a break I need, therefore, but a change of attitude.

"A child is not a job," writes Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, "he is a friend." As a mother I am always on duty, sure, but can I also be a good, fun friend to my noisy, lively little ones? Can I lose myself for a while in the world of play-dough, Lego, and watercolors? Can I be excited about a tent made of a couple of sheets? Can I throw away thoughts of efficiency, in favor of letting my children be involved in everything that is going on at home (barring anything dangerous, of course)?

I will always have to be there, as long as they need me. But I don't always have to wear the hat of the mature, responsible, hard-working adult. I can goof around. My children don't care about bread crumbs on the floor. It is my project to work at creating such a life for us all, that none of us will feel the constant need to take a lengthy break from it. 

...I will now round up this post, head into the kitchen, roll up my sleeves and start making latkes - a yummy Hanukkah treat. Happy Hanukkah!


Lady Anne said...

Oh! Tents made of sheets! We used to put a sheet over a card table (which my eldest insisted was a "cardboard table") and tuck one side into buffet drawer so we had a *two room* house. Wonder of wonders! Of course, all the fun was in dragging things in to make their little home, not in the actual playing, or heaven forbid, putting it away!

I used to give my girls the last scraps of cookie or pie dough to roll out (mash, usually), then fill with butter, raisins,honey, cinnamon, and roll up to make "doo-funnies", which were sliced into mini buns. When the d-f were cooked, I'd go outside and knock on the door and they would invite me in for cookies and tea. Becasue I was "company" I always got to pour the tea.

Have a Happy Hanukkah!

Rachel said...

I get regular breaks from my babies, sometimes for up to 4 days at a time, and breaks aren't always all they're cracked up to be either.
I've been sharing custody with my kids' father for the last year and a half, and while I have learned to be OK when they're with him, and use that time to work on projects or have date nights with my man, there's still a feeling of emptiness that persists as long as they're gone. I work from home, so I'm with them the whole time I have them, but I still miss out on almost a week out of every month for visitation. I don't regret getting divorced, but if I had the chance for my children to grow up in an intact home, without me getting breaks, I'd surely take it.

Stephanie said...

Happy Hanukkah, Anna!

Anonymous said...

Getting wiser by the moment!!! I realized finally that there were no breaks that were ever long enough, breaks just made me keep wanting more as they did not satisfy like I thought they would .I got a day a week usually to do all my appointments or shopping done. trading days with a neghbor. Or maybe it was really just work and no play...I regret as an older mom I lost all interest in any play with my children , never did it probably not even once...I am normally a serious person who likes to work so I did work with my children but I believe I would have been a more well rounded person if I had learned to play with them and enjoy it!Karen

Sharon said...

I'm in Rachel's shoes--I get breaks from my boys on a regular basis, when they go to visit their father. I would much rather give up the breaks and keep the children with me! --but I don't have a choice in the matter.

There are some times when I think a woman really does need a short break from at least some of her duties. One would be when she has just given birth, and the other would be when she comes down with a nasty illness of some sort. In those cases, I think the husband as the head of the home ought to step in and ensure that the mom gets extra rest, perhaps by helping out himself, or by recruiting a friend to come and help.

Of course, those of us without husbands have to struggle on through the worst of illnesses. :( But sometimes in doing so we find that we are stronger than we had realized!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for that post! As many already commented - it is good to know that I'm not the only one struggeling with two little ones at times...

I read your blog more or less frequently for a couple of years now, it is a very good read, and even though I'm sometimes not following for several weeks, at one point I always remember to "check in" again and read all the missed stories. Guess I'm an addict :-)

Your current posts are very often about what is going on in my life right now - it really is calming that even you struggle sometimes, and I really like how you always manage to be so positive and very encouraging!

Thank you for finding time to keep up the good work here!


The Original Wombman said...

To be the best mom I can be, I do need a break from time to time to do the things that I used to do before I had children such as meet friends to knit/crochet or browse the shelves at the library. Not long. Just something that I can look forward to so I can reset. Everyday I try to wake up early to get some quiet time and get my mind together. Yes, my family is a huge part of my life right now but I had a life before kids and I will still have a life after they are grown and leave my house. I have to continually cultivate and nourish who I am. To me, there's a major difference between being playful and engaged with my kids, i.e. taking off the "mature hat" and focusing on healing myself and growing mentally, spiritually and intellectually. One does need time apart from needy children (family in general) to give oneself what he/she needs so she can have stores and reserves from which to give. Without breaks I think burnout is likely. Especially in this day and age when most of us are parenting without the benefit of a strong social network and community. My kids are 6 and almost 4 and I am homeschooling. I am with them 95% of the time. I absolutely feel like I deserve to have 5% of time where the focus is *totally* on me.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anna, been there done that! I finally asked myself how long my break would need to be as well LOL.

I realized I am in charge of my days AND my daughters will struggle where I struggle. If I am suffering it is because of me.

I am either not making something a priority or am not handling something well.

For instance, I went through a time when all of my children woke up for some reason all night long. It was brutal. I literally was getting snatches of sleep at 15 minute increments. I was horrible all day long.

I realized that I needed to stop everything, that this needed to be a priority. I started holding the older ones to obedience where needed, listened to one who needed certain comforts to have a better night and with my youngest accepted that this was a phases (I believe it was a growth spurt or sickness that was fought off) and did something I call "cumulative sleep". Since this lasted for about a month and I was horrible by week two..I shut things down.

Dinner was done and we were in baths no later then 6 pm. Earlier if everyone ignored nap time. This allowed my day to end by 7 pm. I would not watch tv, I tried to go right to sleep. This way I had at least 12 hours before my official morning to get some kind of sleep.
It worked much better then me trying to get sleep starting at 12 midnight. It was a phase and we are past it. But it helped me figure out that Motherhood is not some routine, it is taking the cycles as they come. Doing what will give me the best outcome for my main priorities.

I also realized I desperately missed reading. My children were given an hour long "quiet time" once a day where they enjoy a toy or books by themselves (no fighting). That helped so much as I got to do something I had complained forever I didn't get to do.

I also realized that they are my best friends. I had a health scare and it was my little babies who put their hands on me and cried out to my Mighty Lord for me. They smiled at me and prayed for me when they were woken up twice in the middle of the night for me to go to the hospital. Never complained once. I cannot say that about me.

Last, I realized if I am not taking care of myself physically it is my fault. I have enough time to do priorities and not much else right now in this season. I decide what they are. The frustration is I want to do more. But they are not what is best, they are only what is good. I had to let go of what is good for best.

It is funny how it turns out that children teach us more then we teach them.

Many Blessings :)

Elana K said...

Wow, totally identify with this post and am inspired - I only have one baby and often feel I need a break - but I know what I really need is a change in attitude, because number 2 is on the way and things are only going to get more hectic. I feel like we live in a "magia li" society - i.e., we think we're entitled to everything, family, kids and breaks - but in reality, we need to make peace with the fact that kids pretty much take over your life, and that's okay. (Speaking to myeslf here.)