Giving Back To Ourselves

I am often the only one still awake in the house. Most of the time, it’s not by choice. I’m usually awake because I have just spent a few hours getting my son to sleep, or giving him water, or helping him use the potty, or because he wanted to cuddle or just because I’m barely hanging on to the bed with a toddler and two dogs pushing at my back. But sometimes I am awake by choice, because it’s the only time that it’s just me. Those silent moments in the dark are all mine. No one needs anything from me. I can just be.

My days, like most moms, involve giving. From the time I saw those two pink lines three years ago, everything has been about my son, about my family. It was exhilarating to have my identity shift so completely and so suddenly to mother. But to have so much of my sense of self about one thing, can be exhausting. What makes it so draining is that the roles of mother, of wife involve so much giving. More specifically, giving to things and people that are outside of ourselves. Not that giving is a bad thing, of course. Giving love, attention, affection, care, concern, and effort is one of the best things that we, as humans, do. The issue is when we forget to give to ourselves, to our souls.

From the moment I wake up, to those silent and dark moments before passing out, my mind is focused on survival. Breakfast, playdates, lunchtime, coloring, whining, snacks, laundry, cleaning, cooking, tantrums, wine, dinner, baths, bedtime, and oh god why is this wet and sticky… pretty much sums up a typical day around here. In between moments of giving my everything to my son, I’m doing what I can to give my everything to my husband. Like every relationship, a marriage requires effort and presence. And so, when I’ve spent the day giving as a mom, I spend the evening giving as a wife. Sometimes I even try to maintain the friendships that I have left. While I do not regret a second of time and effort and love given to my loved ones, it leaves very little time for much else. With a child, especially for a stay at home parent, there is no time for “me”.

I admit, there are times when I try to get lost in Facebook on my phone, or attempt to read a novel while my son plays, but no matter what, at least part of my mind is focused on something else. And so I forgot about all the little pieces that built my identity. That built my soul.

Because my time is spent on, well, survival, I don’t seem to think very deeply lately. But something magical happened. During the few hours between my son’s bedtime and my own, I was watching a show with my husband that unexpectedly mentioned King Arthur. It was like being slapped into reality. You see, King Arthur is one of those nerdy passions that I used to spend hours studying and countless minutes hunting down stories about the Knights of the Round Table. It was that moment that made me realize how starved my soul was. When was the last time that I fed my passions? When was the last time I got lost in something that captivated me and held my full attention? When was the last time I gave myself full attention?

I may be a mother. I may be a wife and even a friend. But I’m also me. I love anything on Camelot, I paint portraits and salsa dance, I love cheesy horror movies and am a huge fan of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. I also happen to be a fanfiction-loving-Ravenclaw that wishes every day was Halloween and that everyone knew more history. There’s more, but the point is that those little fragments are a part of me too and deserve some attention.

Being a mom, being a parent, is the most selfless and all-encompassing job there is. It requires giving more than you thought possible every minute of every day. In between sleepless nights and whirlwind days, it’s so easy to forget to give back to ourselves. But our passions, our quirks, our nerdy obsessions, all of those little pieces of ourselves that have been pushed behind the more demanding ones, they need a little love too. Our souls, our identities, cannot be partially built or all of those missing fragments will weaken us until we shatter.

I may be so tired that I feel like I’m going cross-eyed, but in those quiet midnight moments, when I’m the only one still awake, maybe I’ll take a minute to give back. Maybe I’ll crack open that book on King Arthur. Maybe I’ll finally paint that portrait of my son. Maybe I’ll just stay up late watching horror movies or reading fanfiction or do a little dancing in my kitchen. But it’s time to start dusting off those neglected pieces of myself and put everything back together.

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