One of the great gifts of motherhood, for me, has been an enhanced capacity for vulnerability. I’m not sure if it’s the sleep deprivation or the sense of common journey, but I have learned the subtle, graceful art of saying how I’m really doing when people ask.
Sometimes they don’t even have to ask! Last week, when I was struggling with why Arthur was acting out so much, I reached out to a school friend I haven’t spoken to in years, because I remembered her writing on Facebook about being exhausted at the end of a day of non-stop negotiations with a toddler. She had such wise and helpful advice for me, and ended her message by saying: “Be easy on yourself. You also need a break.”
Now it turns out I’m well aware that I need a break. I could write a doctorate on how much I need a break, and can frequently conjure exactly which flavour of break it would be (sometimes an island getaway in Zanzibar, sometimes a peaceful retreat at the Buddhist Retreat Centre, sometimes a full day to myself to sleep in a hotel. Anyone who wants to make any of these fantasies come true, please feel free!)
But it hadn’t really occurred to me to be easy on myself. And therein lies huge power, I think.
Because we aren’t easy on ourselves, are we? No matter how much we have going on (and we all have far too much going on, as far as I’m concerned) we hold ourselves to such high standards. We expect to be able to do it all and have it all and unpack the shopping as soon as we get home. So for the last few days I’ve been practising, testing out how it might feel to be easy on myself. So what if I haven’t stuck the photos in Ella’s baby book that I printed out six weeks ago – I printed them! Yes, it’s true, I’ve been trying to find out about a solar geyser for about two months, but life is ever so slightly busy, and the daily juggle is intense. Exercise looks more like weightlifting a baby and a toddler (sometimes both at the same time) than a yoga class or a daily walk, but we eat a delicious home-cooked meal together every evening, and that baby and toddler are happy and healthy and so very loved. Mark and I don’t have enough time together, and I certainly don’t have enough time alone, but we are doing our very best.
Be easy on yourself. This is a season in life, and seasons pass. That’s what I keep reminding myself… And when this one passes I won’t regret that I let the lounge be permanently messy so that I could lie down for half an hour and read my book, or that I left work unfinished every single day so that I could spend a precious half hour alone with my baby.
It’s an internal and external lesson, isn’t it? If I’m easy on myself it’s much simpler for me to be easy on the people in my life – and what a gift of love that is.