Announcing: “Moment for Mommy Mondays!“
Once upon a time, for a semester here and there over the past few years, I have had Mondays to myself. Occasionaly, it has been the one day that I took the kids to school and did NOT work. I would feel such relief after dropping the kids off that sometimes I would literally cry, sometimes skip, and almost always make myself a mental list too long to complete. I usually had good stuff on the list like, “Oh, I will finally floss my teeth! No excuses today.” Or “I will schedule myself a massage or go to the Arboretum and just read a book.” Sometimes I actually did these things, but even when I just took a walk and spent the rest of the day preparing dinner and cleaning the kitchen while listening to NPR, it did feel like a “Mommy Monday!” These days, I’m lucky to still have a couple of hours to myself each Monday, though, as you know, 2 hours fly by!
Last week, I led discussion for two “Mommy Check-Ins” with some moms from my Meetup group, and I did a “Who’s Mothering Mommy?” seminar for a wonderful group of moms at FUMC Richardson. I am inspired to begin a series in the coming weeks and beyond so that I can “check in” with your Mommy self, share some highlights, some reflections, and some inspiration just for YOU! Just for your busy Mommy day. For your overwhelmed Mommy-spirit. Look forward to giving yourself this gift each Monday as you focus on someone very important and crucial to your child’s well-being, YOU, for just a few moments…early in the morning with a cup of coffee before the kids and the sun get up, on your lunch break at work with your sandwich, on a park bench after school, or late at night after the kids are all tucked in…It will be there for you. Perhaps you will leave my blog feeling better, feeling lighter, feeling more connected, feeling refreshed. Perhaps you will leave inspired to make a few small changes in order to treat yourself better, like the amazing mother of your children that you are! Perhaps you will leave inspired to reach out to other mommy-friends who are on this journey with us. Join me each Monday, and invite your friends.
Today’s questions: Are you surviving? Are your children surviving?
If you’ve been to one of my seminars, you probably know that I think these are the 2 most important questions you can ask any mom in the trenches. You never know when someone might need to just break down! This happened to me once after teaching a family music class. A mom with a toddler and newborn, especially vulnerable because of lack of sleep, just needed someone to let her cry and understand how hard it was in reality, despite the smiling made-up face. I understood. I’d been there many times. Just last week I broke down on the way into school when my boss asked me how I was after a rushed, difficult morning just getting there, 1 minute down the road from my home. She didn’t know that it was coming, but because she is a kind and caring person, I felt permission to answer in truth, and took a couple of minutes to unload. She listened sincerely, and just letting it out (“My kids are so hard!”) made me feel better.
In my darkest hours on my darkest days (when Ellie was a little baby, MJ was a toddler, and I was working too much without a husband around much to help or support me), I realized that one of the reasons they felt so dark to me was that I often felt isolated in the struggle. No one was asking me these questions in an authentic way – you know, like touching my arm gently, and saying, “Really Lowry, how are you doing?” And I wasn’t reaching out to anyone to offer the truth. That’s hard to do when you are in a bad place – to admit that it’s hard, to ask someone to let you vent, to let you cry. It can feel emberassing, so I always encourage moms who are in a good place to be the ones that ask, to remove that first hurdle for another mom so that she might just open up if you catch her when she needs to talk. That’s how I start my seminars…”Are you surviving? “ If nothing else, it helps people to pause and think about it, take a deep breath as in, “Whew! I’m here! I’m making it one day at a time. Yes, I am surviving, gosh darn it!” I also sincerely want to let people know that they can talk to me if they need to, and to encourage them to talk to each other about how they are really doing -on the inside, not just on the outside, to encourage authentic connections.
“Are your children surviving?” The second question is important because as a parent (especially as a mommy), you can never be truly well unless all your children are well. I have some little notecards that I send to pregnant friends that say, “To have a child is to forever walk around with your heart outside of your body.” If your children are sick or sad, in trouble or struggling in some way, then you are not well. If they are gone, God forbid, you will forever be missing a piece of your heart and life, and never be fully whole or well again. So when someone asks you how you are, and you are a Mommy, it is a complicated question that involves at least as many nuanced answers as you have children…
The combination of questions is important because when you are not your best self – when you are experiencing loss, stress at work, stress in a relationship, financial stress, illness, lack of sleep – (that is, when you have children and/ or are married) – sometimes all you CAN do is survive and ensure your childrens’ survival, and this should be good enough for you and everyone else! So there. In fact, it feels like a miracle on those bad days, and you should be quite proud of yourself for doing that much. If it’s a good day, you can do more. But if it’s a bad day/ week/ year, you should feel good about the feeding and watering, and make sure you’re outsourcing the rest! (We all have bad days, but make sure you’re also having some good ones so you can do the extra stuff which is also important – the reading, singing, laughing, playing, hugging, life lesson-teaching, etc. If you’re not, it’s time to get help. Read “My Dragon” post to learn from my own journey with depression.)
Another thing that these 2 questions do for us is remind us to keep life in perspective. We all know some mom or parent who has not survived. We all know some mom or parent whose child has not survived. Most of us can say, we are surviving and our children are surviving, and we can and should give thanks. Maya Angelou talks about accepting and celebrating the gift of breath on your darkest days. If that’s all you have, you have something! Breathe in, breathe out, feel it in your body, listen to it, connect with it. Start there, and I bet you’ll find more to be thankful for….
If you were to ask me these survival questions today, my answer would be something like…
“Yes! I am honestly in a good place right now. (But I’m also enjoying some “mommy-time” in the comfy chair with coffee while the kids are at GareBear’s after school.) “I am getting along with my husband and children, and we shared some special and even enjoyable family time together this weekend. I am in some physical pain, but I am getting that taken care of on Wednesday, and I’m excited to be moving past it! Sometimes I worry abut my son who is just not quite as “normal” as other kids, like when I hear that he’s licked all the soccer balls in p.e. class, but he’s a good and loving kid, so I know he’ll be okay. There is nothing big stressing me out, so I feel like I must be forgetting something….but no, life is just good. I have enough emotional reserve to reach out to other people in love right now, even beyond my own family, and that is what makes me happiest.”
But, please know that at other times (and perhaps next week), my answer would have been one of the following:
- “I feel like I’m barely surviving. I feel like I can hardly function, much less be responsible for these little lives. I am too (fill in the blank: exhausted/ worried/ sad/ stressed) to be the mother that I want to be, or to even just keep from messing up.”
- “I am surviving, but I feel depleted. I am giving all my best energy to everyone else, and have nothing left for me. And there is no one taking care of me, giving back to me. Something has to give. I don’t know how much longer I can go on like this.”
- “I am surviving, but I am so frustrated! I give my best energy at work, and have none left for the people who mean the most to me, much less, for myself.”
- “Yes, we’re surviving. I know, I know, in the scheme of things, my life is good. I should be happy. I should not complain, BUT….”
- Or simply, “We are all surviving, but not because we are happy together! I thought parenting would be fun, but my kids suck!”
- Ask yourself these questions.
- Ask someone else these questions.
- Get someone to listen to your answer.
- If you want to, let ME know how you are doing. I’m happy to listen, no matter what your answer is…