In the past nine days I have spent approximately eleven hours away from the kids.
There have been two trips to the grocery stores — one last Saturday and one yesterday — totaling about 5 1/2 total hours between two different stores in each trip and also shopping for my parents.
The other 5 hours and 28 minutes of alone time were when I was exercising.
Thank God for running. I ran about 30 miles in the last nine days, and it is saving my sanity.
Without exercise, I would be totally fucked right now.
This current situation in which we find ourselves is brutal for moms.
I know this is generalizing and I know there are dads who manage logistics and meal planning and homework and all that stuff.
But for the most part, the burden of our current situation falls on moms.
It’s moms who are finding ways to occupy the kids.
It’s moms who are setting up puzzles and Facebook read aloud groups and Facetime “playdates” and crafts and movie nights and all the other stuff we are doing to keep the kids from going stir crazy.
It’s moms who are dealing with the online schooling.
It’s moms who are juggling all the things they usually juggle, but now doing it with the kids home indefinitely.
Moms are the ones bearing the brunt of our current situation.
And I think it can be very easy for us to stop taking care of ourselves.
It can be very easy to make sure everyone else is taken care of and then by the time you get to yourself there is nothing left.
THIS IS NOT A TIME FOR YOU TO NEGLECT YOURSELF.
Now more than ever, moms need to be on their game.
Now more than ever moms need to take care of their bodies and their brains.
Your family needs you to lead them.
YOU ARE THE LEADER.
If you are going to be home with your family indefinitely, you are going to want to model effective patience and communication and habits.
Drinking or eating or online shopping your way through the next three months is not taking care of yourself.
It’s just not.
It may be helpful right now, in the moment.
But eight weeks from now, it is not going to help you or your family.
And yes, we for sure have at least eight more weeks of this.
I think it’s really more like twelve, if we are going to be realistic.
You gotta take care of yourself.
Today I did something else to take care of myself.
The kids wanted to go for a hike today.
I really wanted to go with them.
But I also really wanted some time alone.
Honestly, I needed some time alone.
Last night I felt myself getting extra testy. And exhausted.
I had no patience left. Number 4 noticed it.
Are you okay? she asked me.
I was okay. But I had reached my limit.
And so, today, the kids took a drive to go hiking with their dad.
And I decided to stay home.
I made everyone lunch and did my best to fill them up with food before they left so they wouldn’t announce they were starving twelve minutes after they left.
I packed up a bag full of snacks, all labeled in separate containers with everyone’s names on them so there would be no arguing over who ate how much of what.
I made sure everyone had sweatshirts and jackets and water bottles, and then I gave Number 5 and 7 a hug, told them to have fun, and I went to take a shower.
I would take as long a shower as I wanted, and then I would exit the bathroom to a quiet house.
About three minutes into my shower, Number 7 came into my room.
“You’re not coming, right Mom?” she asked me.
“Right,” I told her.
“That’s what I told everyone, but they didn’t believe me,” she said as she left the room.
About 30 seconds later, Number 6 busted into the room.
“You’re not coming???”
I told him I had a bunch of stuff to do and today I needed to stay home. It was true.
“WELL THEN I’M NOT GOING! I WANT TO GO WITH YOU!!!”
It took about fifteen back-and-forth exchanges through the closed bathroom door for me to convince him to leave.
Two minutes later Number 3 came into my room.
I was drying off in the bathroom.
“Mom, you’re not coming???” Number 3 asked.
Now I was starting to get a little exasperated.
“I HAVE BEEN ON DUTY 24/7 FOR NINE STRAIGHT DAYS AND I NEED A BREAK.”
“Okay, okay,” he said. “I just thought you would want to come with us.”
Enter Number 4.
OH MY GOD.
“Mom, we need your keys.”
“They’re in my purse,” I told her, still drying myself off.
About fifteen seconds later she returned.
“I can’t find them,” she said.
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.
I wrapped a towel around myself and exited the bathroom, not at all the way I had envisioned the end of my shower ten minutes earlier.
I exhaled very heavily to make it clear I was really fucking annoyed, walked into my office, got my keys out of my purse, and handed them to her.
“Oh. I didn’t look in that pocket, ” she told me.
I rolled my eyes.
“Well, you smell good!” she said, trying to make me smile.
And then they were finally off.
The truth is, Number 3 was right. I did want to go with them. I wanted to go very badly.
This is one of my biggest challenges as a mom.
Conquering the fear of missing out. It’s one of the things that causes me to do too much and to eventually burn myself out.
I don’t want to miss anything.
But living like that, feeling the need to be present at every activity for every kid stops me from being present in general.
I’m there, but I’m not always there.
And next week is going to take tremendous energy and focus and patience from me.
Distance learning starts tomorrow, and that’s another new thing. And new things require energy.
So even though I really wanted to go for a hike with the kids today and get outside and enjoy the sunshine, I knew what I needed the most was some time alone.
Some time to be alone to get prepared for next week.
Some time alone to do some work without multiple interruptions.
Some time alone to just be… alone.
Alone and not running or shopping or doing stuff.
Some solo decompression time.
There will be more hikes.
But there wouldn’t be another opportunity for me to have some true, alone, down time today.
So I took it.
I’m really glad I did, because it was just what I needed.
If you have been neglecting yourself, stop. If you can get some time away to decompress, do it.
Because you are the captain of the ship.
And if you go down, then the ship is going down with you.
And the journey has only just begun.