About Me

 

 The greatest thing we can do is to show up for our lives and not be ashamed.

 -Anne Lamott

 

I'm a creature of the word, learning to tell my honest story.

I offer it here because telling stories is the road back home.

Motherhood is not a biological designation
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Saturday
Nov022013

Feed so you can feed

 I keep a picture next to the sink in my kitchen.  It's not a family picture; it's not a wedding picture reminding me to kiss my hubbins before he goes to work, just like the good ol' days. 

It's a picture of a momma buffalo, and her baby.

 

I keep it where I will see it everyday, because I think it's the perfect image for mothering.

 

The mother feeds herself even as she feeds her baby.  

It makes me think of the small arsenal next to my bed every time I had a newborn: diapers, wipers, butt paste, nose sucker, nursing pads, burp cloths, a book (wishful thinking), and towering over all of it, the enormous plastic water bottle given to me at the hospital.  The one with the slinky straw that makes that cool scritchy sound if you pull it in and out of the hole, like you're laying down some late-night beats.  Did anybody else find this to be highly entertaining, or is it just me?

The need for water was primal.  Like I'd be fine one second, and the next I'd be, "Oh my GOD! I need water NOW! Where is my bottle? Michael, bring me my bottle!!!"  And then I'd realize it was right next to me because I had not moved, because I had a newborn, and all I did all day was lie in bed and nurse, and rub salve on my chapped and whimpering boobaloobs. 

If I did not drink water, my baby could not drink milk.  

Why is it that our kids get older, and we stop applying this principle?  

Why is it that we start to feel guilty for taking care of ourselves?

 

I once read a book about marriage called The Five Love Languages. The basic premise is that we all have a love tank, and if our love tank is not getting filled, we feel unloved.  A full love tank means you can love; an empty one means you start to get resentful of your person who is doing such a crappy job filling your tank.

I think this metaphor works equally well for parenting.

I have a tank inside of me; each day it starts out full; I have what I need to love well; by the end of the day, I am drained dry.  I had just enough to make it through the day. I think this is called having my daily bread.

 

This past September, I realized my love tank was running dry around, oh, 9 in the morning.  The rest of the day I was coasting on fumes, full of resentment, snipping at my kids, frustrated with everything.

A sign that you have a low tank is when the basic needs of your children tip you over the edge.  "You want LUNCH?!  GOD! You are so DEMANDING!"

"Oh, great. You POOPED! I have to change a DIAPER?!  Geez, kid. Why can't you stop pooping already?!"

"You need your TEETH BRUSHED?!!! GAHHHHH!!!!!"  (This is the worst because it happens at the end of the day when you've been smelling your own exhaust for hours)

I decided that if I could not find time to refuel throughout the day, I needed to get rid of the things that were sucking me dry.  And that did not mean getting rid of my children.  

It meant reckoning with my own limited resources.  I am one person, with one tank. I am not super woman.  If I try to be super woman, I end up being Mad Mommy monster.  Mad Mommy monster resents everybody and their needs because she has not been drinking from her water bottle; she has not been filling her tank, so she's got nothing to give.  

Mad Mommy monster sometimes does all the right things, but for the wrong reasons, or in the wrong seasons; she makes homemade lunches with chocolate chip smiley faces pressed into the sandwich bread; she makes sure only wooden toys enter her household, and she disinfects them once a month; she drives her kids to extracurricular activities every single day, and multiple games on weekends; she only uses cloth diapers, and she only lets them dry naturally on her clothesline; she decorates for every holiday, challenging herself to a new DIY project each time.  

These things are not bad things, but if they drain her love tank dry, if the things become more important than the children, and doing becomes more important than just being, then chances are, the kids won't remember the things; they will remember how frazzled mommy was, how spent, how exasperated, how short-fused.  

I think mommies fear that if we take care of ourselves, we will neglect our children.  The scary thing is that we can neglect our children even in the midst of taking care of them; they know when our hearts are not in it.  

My kids know when I am just going through the motions; they want my presence more than anything else I can give or do for them.

Staying present requires a full tank. 

 

This past September, it felt like someone was siphoning gas while I slept. I woke up overwhelmed.  So I decided to deal with my fuel suckers. If love is energy, then everywhere I spent mental energy was a withdrawal from my tank.

Standing in front of my closet and asking, "What should I wear?" followed by, "If I lose five more pounds, I could fit into that shirt," was a fuel sucker.  I got rid of all the fuel-sucking shirts.

Things stored in my basement "in case I need them one day, or have time to do that project" sucked my mental energy. I gave them away.  Well, first I tried to sell them at a yard sale, which is the same thing as giving them away, except add in some insulting haggling and the inevitable, just give me whatever, after they've worn you down to a shadow of your former self.

Toys that never got put away, got given away.  Now I don't have the fuel sucker of fighting with my kids to put away their toys.  

Same thing with clothes. Less clothes, less laundry, less folding, less yelling at kids to hang up their clothes. More fuel to spend on things like being present, laughing, actually enjoying making dinner, being able to brush my kids' teeth without feeling like I was going to snap in two.  

Pinterest.  Total fuel sucker for me.  So much energy going to what I could be doing with my life instead of celebrating what I am doing. I only use Pinterest for myself; I can't let myself browse.

Facebook. I have to be really careful.  I can feel the suck of so many instant interactions with so many lives, and then the wondering about those lives, and then realizing how many friends I don't keep in touch with, and then comparing myself to those friends, and then feeling guilty about all the time I just spent on Facebook.  My neighbor is a therapist, and she stopped doing Facebook when client after client came in her office with directly Facebook-related problems in their lives.  It puts the fear of God in me.  

It doesn't take a ton for me to refuel my tank.  It might be less than some women, maybe more than others. Who needs to compare? I am not them, and they do not have my kids, or my life.  Judging other women, comparing, wondering what life is like behind someone else's closed doors, is a total fuel sucker.

Maybe I need twenty minutes by myself in the morning to read a book.  A cup of tea in the middle of the day. Five minutes zoning with a magazine while the kids eat lunch. Planting something in my garden.  Playing The Lumineers station on Pandora and rocking out in the kitchen with my kids before I do the dishes. Coffee that someone else made. Blow-drying my hair.  Just some sips from the water bottle, acknowledging my own thirst even while I try to pour out on the people I love.  

 

When we were recovering from our fire, my wise momma mentor Kathryn told me to go ahead and let my kids eat pbj for days.  "They'll love it," she said, "and you aren't going to ruin them.  You need to give yourself time to recover, let all that stuff go, and just heal and be together."  

She was right.  My kids still talk about how much they loved that Christmas, when we laid a plastic tablecloth on the living room floor of our temporary home, ate DiGiorno's on paper plates, and watched a new Christmas special every night on the television. It was magical.

So much better than if I'd run myself ragged trying to teach them the reason for the season through three different Advent calendars, two nightly devotional readings, two Creche sets with new figures to set out each night, one Advent wreath with candles to light, and a partridge in a pear tree. (I've done this, for real).  

If it's going through the motions without presence so you can check off some imaginary good Mom box, it's guaranteed draining your tank.  

 

My mom used to say, Nobody gets points for being the most efficient suitcase packer.  

Go ahead and throw three bottles of body lotion in there for an overnight if it makes you happy.  

Now, if packing a suitcase efficiently fills your tank, go ahead and do that. Your kids will be better off for it. And so will you.  

I guess what I am saying is, feed so you can feed.

Fill, so you can be emptied, so you can be filled.  

 

 

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    Feed so you can feed - Home - Trinity Wilbourn

Reader Comments (1)

I love this and read some of this out loud to Eric. We love the Michael get me my water bottle part! We relate! I'm going to be thinking about my fuel-suckers now and redistributing energy. LOVE you

November 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrit Weber

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