Last weekend we relocated our family temporarily to Long Island, at my in-laws' house. We typically come up here every year for Passover, and given that Braden is on spring break from school, we decided to stay the whole week this time. It is of course nice to see family and get help with the kids, but the real treat for me is on the horizon. In a few hours, I am going to drive to Manhattan and check into the St. Regis where I will be spending the night with my husband (thank you, Starwood hotel points). I'll take a long bath, watch some tv in the hotel, attempt to nap, meet a good friend for a drink, and then have dinner with my husband at Nobu, where I will order a dirty martini and not give a second thought to the price of the tasting menu. THANK GOD! Nevermind that I hate Manhattan. I totally deserve this break.
I am stressed and tired.
Don't get me wrong, when I was in biglaw, I was also stressed and tired. There were numerous times (like, every week) where I would feel completely overwhelmed. This would occur when I would have what felt like a thousand things thrown at me at once. Where you think there is no possible way you can get everything done, and your stress has reached its max, and then, what do you know, an unexpected motion gets filed or a document request comes in. All you want is a break - a time out from the stress - but you can't because deadlines loom. And you hate and love the deadline at the same time - hate it because the work seems insurmountable, but love it because it means at a certain point, the work will be done. Home was a temporary respite, but the stress followed you there - through the blackberry, and through your own racing thoughts of how you will get it all done.
Once I did have children, it was even worse - because home was no longer the respite it used to be. Instead of coming home after a long day, scrolling through my DVR, and ordering in, I had an adorable little baby waiting for me. As much as he was demanding, I also overcompensated by trying to make up for the time I wasn't with him and cram as much playtime as I could into the evening hours. Once he went to sleep, it was a race to the bed for me, trying to fit in food, shower, and maybe even a chat with my husband. And then time to ponder work stress and mommy guilt.
Leaving my job gave me a permanent time out from that work related stress. I thought that maybe I would be able to relax a bit more, as my focus would be my kids exclusively. But guess what: breaks are even harder for me to find these days.
Just 5 months ago, when Casey was almost a month old, I had a near nervous breakdown, wherein I crouched on our bathroom floor, cried hysterically, and muttered "I need a time out" over and over again. This vision may make you think I am crazy, and I concede at that time, I probably was. But it came from a sincere place. I did need a time out. Just a moment to collect myself and breathe again, and I couldn't get it. Not at night, when one is supposed to sleep. No, in those days my sleep was at the mercy of a hungry newborn. I had lots of help from family, but that only went so far. Even if I had a few hours to myself, I was brutally reminded of my reality by the throbbing in my breasts when feeding time should have occurred (sorry, guys - you breastfeeding moms know what I'm talking about). I even had those thoughts of just wanting to go away for one night and get a hotel, all by myself (I've been told this is common, but maybe I am the only crazy one!). But that wasn't even an option. Because I know me, and I wouldn't be able to relax, because I wouldn't be able to stop thinking about my kids. Is Braden crying for me? Is Casey hungry? There was no hiding from myself. There would be no time outs for me.
I guess as a mom, there really aren't any true breaks at all. At home, it is chaos. Nap schedules don't coincide, one child wants attention while you are feeding the other one, and diaper changes always come at inopportune times. I am lucky if I can manage to eat lunch, and I can tell you that the house is rarely clean. You are always "on." People tell me that this too shall pass, but does it really? Sure, as my kids get older their physical needs will diminish, and maybe I can enjoy a few more meals in peace. But does the stress go away? I don't think it does. Because even when you escape the daily grind of childcare, your children are always there in the back of your head. Nights like tonight do help, that's for sure. But I can guarantee that dinner conversation with my husband will probably consist of laughter over the funny thing Braden said, or the faces Casey makes when he tries a new food. And although I trust my in-laws completely, I will of course worry if my kids are okay. I guess this never ends. I already dread the day when my kids start riding a bicycle, or driving a car. Dear God, will I ever sleep?
No one tells you this before you have children, and I suppose it is impossible to comprehend until you do. But the burden of children extends through space and time, and there is no escape! No spa, no hotel, no restaurant, and no Mary Poppins that can make you forget that you have the ultimate responsibility. And though I don't like to be biased, I think it is women, for the most part, that are plagued by this. It's just nature's way I suppose. But when life gives you something so completely precious, how can you not be consumed by it? I'll take this stress over work anxiety any day.
I am an anxious person by nature, and I admit that I do need to chill out a bit. And I'm trying. I am making it a priority to implement some time outs at least once a week. Sometimes it may be just a quiet moment with a cup of coffee, and other times it may be something extravagant, like tonight. But I also need to accept that motherhood means it is never again all about you.
This post is not meant to be a woe is me - everyone needs a time out now and then, whether you have children or not. My son Braden seems to require them on a daily basis, only his usually involve some tears and always end with an apology. Here's to more time outs for me, and less for him.