Mommy First

By: Liesl Jurock tea pot and mug

Took the morning off work for me. Shock! Dropped my toddler son at daycare and came home to write. Horrors! Happily danced around the house with music blaring like a teenager. Guilt! Guilt! Guilt!

Since becoming a mother, I often hear phrases like: “You must put yourself first, or you’ll have nothing to give,” or “take care of yourself so you can take care of others” and “take time every day for you.” These phrases make me laugh – particularly when coupled with today’s expectations of motherhood. With babyhood comes attachment parenting, breast is best, and baby wearing, leaving little room for Mom. With toddlerhood comes the choice – back to work or stay at home – either way leaving us lying awake at night exhausted and questioning whether we should have chosen the other. With childhood often comes number two or three in tow, and the juggling act becomes a survival act, and “time for Mom” is not even one of the balls in the air.

Are you filling your kids up with homemade, organic, whole grain goodness? And keeping up with the latest recalls on kids toys? And making sure you know all their friends? And reading to your child at least fifteen minutes a day? And you’re putting money into their RESP, right? And what about your partner in all this (if they are in the picture)? Do you still have anything to talk about? Or do you spend your limited time negotiating the childcare and housework arrangements for the week? Do you remember who they are? Do you remember who you are?

So, I took this morning off to remember, to do the things that help to connect me to who I really am. I listened to music, I danced crazily around the living room, I brewed a pot of tea and drank it peacefully, I took a bath by myself, and I wrote about it all. And I did not deal with the pile of dishes in the sink or put a load in the laundry, and I did not check my work email or answer my phone. And it felt good. And that felt bad. Like I was doing something wrong, like I was indulging in something I will have to pay for later, like I shouldn’t tell anyone what I did.

Because it’s not part of the “good mom” image to be lazy, to be indulgent, to be selfish. “Put yourself first” really means don’t forget to shower and eat. “Take care of yourself” really should be followed by “once you’ve taken care of everything and everyone else.” “Take time every day for you” is for after everyone else has gone to bed, if you still have any energy left. It’s not right, but it’s how it is in society today, where moms are working all day and night, paid or unpaid, leaving little time or energy for themselves.

So usually, I steal time away from sleep, waking up at the crack of dawn to do yoga before life’s to do lists surface. Other days, I steal moments away while he is focused on a toy to just sip my tea and breathe deeply. And today, I steal time away from my boy, leaving him in the care of others to put me first for once. It’s four hours that weigh on me as if it were a week. It’s all I can justify taking away from him. But thankfully, it’s enough. It’s enough to regain my sanity, my perspective, my sense of self. It’s enough to go on.

Liesl Jurock, M.Ed., blogs at Mama’s Log about the joys and contrasts of modern motherhood. Her work has been featured on The Momoir Project, Hybrid Mom, and in motherhood anthologies. She works as a university career educator and lives in beautiful BC with her family. You can follow her on twitter at @lieslmama

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