Ever since becoming a mother, I have quite literally felt like a laundry doer, a milk machine, dish washer, cook, etc. I haven’t felt like me. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love being a mother, having Jackson in my life makes me feel complete! But there are times when I just absolutely want to scream! Jackson has decided that he won’t go to sleep for his dad, only his mom. So anytime that Jon is trying to lay him down for a nap, or put him to bed, Jackson just screams. I don’t mean the screaming that most babies do, I mean high pitched, red faced, totally pissed off screeching. Eventually Jon shuts down, because that is how you have to deal with this sort of screaming sometimes, and I inevitably end up picking up Jackson. I love my son, I really do. With all my heart. He brings so much joy to my life. However, if I am being completely honest, there are days when I wish I didn’t have to hold him, even for an hour or two. I recently went back to work, and sometimes those five hours are fantastic, because I know that my son is being taken care of, I will get to see him soon, but I also get to feel like I am more than a dishwasher.
On Sunday, during fast and testimony meeting in my church, a friend walked up and said that she felt exactly like I have been feeling, and she has two kids! She said something that made me smile, and something that I could definitely relate to. She said “This week I am just the person to scream at. Do you feel like having a tantrum? Scream at me, apparently that is what I am here for!” Of course she was referring to her three year old daughter, but it still just made me giggle. Jackson is only five months old, but there are days when he is screaming for, as far as I can tell, no reason, that I feel just. like. that.
Two weeks ago, Jon, my husband, had surgery on both of his knees. It wasn’t until he quite literally could not walk or do much of anything, that I realized just how much I depend on him. I found myself not only trying to be a mom, milk machine, cook, etc. but also a nurse, and sole caretaker of a five month old.
Being a mom is great, and full of all sorts of challenges, especially recently. I have a dog, who for the most part, is a good dog. One of the only problems we have with him, is that he barks and barks and barks! I swear every time we go outside, it doesn’t matter if it is a bird, mule deer, person, or suspicious looking tree, he has to bark at it. I had been really hesitant about buying him a shock collar because they make me uncomfortable, and I don’t want to see my dog in pain. But recently, we had some friends over and what does he do? He barks and barks and barks!! After that Jon and I decided to buy him a shock collar.Sunday night, I was trying to get the collar set up, and Jon kept asking me questions, my house was a disaster, my baby was crying, and I exploded. Not in an anger sort of way, more like a total mental break down. I handed Jackson to Jon, and went for a walk. I called my sister and I just cried. I felt like I had reached my breaking point. The reason I had lost it wasn’t because of the shock collar, the mess, or the crying. It was because in my mind, I felt like I needed to get all of these things done, and they needed to be done right, and they needed to be done now. There was so much to do, and only one person who could do it all: me.
As I was walking, I found myself thinking that everyone always asks me about Jon, whether it is related to his past jaw problems and corrective surgeries, or school, or work, or, most recently, his knee surgery. They never ask how I am doing, how I am handling everything. I felt terrible for even thinking about it like that. I am his wife, I should be supportive, not selfish. I told my sister this, and she said something that really stuck. She told me that it is okay to ask for help. I mean, logically I knew that it was okay, logically I knew there was absolutely nothing wrong with asking someone to come and watch Jackson, while I cleaned up. Truth be told, my friend Jess has come over and done it more times than I can count. However, in this moment of mental shut down, I still just felt like I would be a burden to others if I asked them to help. That is one thing that I truly struggle with. For whatever reason, I have this pride that gets in the way of my asking others for assistance in just about anything My dad will tell me all the time in phone conversations to ask the Elder’s Quorum for help, or the Relief society. The Idea doesn’t sound half bad, but I don’t want to be a burden.I am sure I am not the only person in the world who feels like this, or who has inadvertently pushed someone away because they didn’t want to be pushed away themselves. I have always had a hard time with people. I am definitely a people person, and I love to talk to others, get to know them, and have them get to know me. I have also been told several times that I am overwhelming, and because of that I am either always too cautious, or too pushy. I either push someone away because I don’t want to lose them, or I hold them too close for the same reason. Either way, it generally causes problems for the majority of relationships I have with friends, family, etc. That alone makes it challenging for me to want to go to others for help, and generally makes me end up extremely overwhelmed.
I mentioned earlier that Jon had surgery on his knees, and because of that he hasn’t really been able to walk much at all, which has put a lot more responsibility on my shoulders. When I was talking to my aunt Jess, she told me several things. She told me to make a list every morning, and to number the tasks. One being the most important, and ten, or however low I go, is the least, and can get done the next day if necessary. She also told me that in a marriage, sometimes one spouse is leaning on the other, and sometimes you are leaning on each other. In this case, Jon has been leaning on me a lot more. This however goes right along with something else my lovely sister told me: You can’t give, when you have nothing to give. My husband is leaning on me, but because I have been so stressed, and stubborn about asking for help, my support for him has been minimal at best.
I have been trying to give to my husband, and to my son, and to my job, when I don’t have much to give at the moment. I realized that I really need to collect myself, breathe, and re-fill my cup so to speak, before I give anymore of myself. So I started to do that. Over the last week, I made more effort in finding sitters for my son, so that I could go have some me time. Everyone is different when it comes to time for themselves. For some, something as simple as meditation might work, or sitting outside, drinking coffee, and looking at the view. For me, I have found that the best way to re-fill my cup, is if I work out. My husband and I both have memberships at our local gym, and at leas three times a week, I go and work with a personal trainer. It is amazing the difference I noticed in myself once I really started to get a good work out in. Compared to the week that I had gone without working out due to my husbands surgery, I have felt like my life and attitude as done a full 360. My time at the gym is for me. It is time for me to lift weights, and to not think of anything else. I can literally just focus on the squats and my form, because I know that my son is being taken care of, and if Jon really needs anything, he will give me a call.
All in all, I have learned a ton this last two weeks. It is totally okay to ask for help. I live in an LDS community, where just about everyone is willing to help, without expecting payment or anything like that, which is great considering my husband and I are students. Everyone is always so happy to babysit Jackson while I go to the gym, or work, or clean my living room. (However, their willingness might have something to do with the fact that Jackson is a total flirt!)
Do something for yourself! I don’t care what it is, just do it. If it is going to the gym to have an hour of alone time a few times a week, or getting up extra early, before everyone else, and enjoying a nice cup of hot chocolate, or coffee, or whatever you drink, and just enjoying the silence before the kids get up. Take time to take care of yourself, before trying to give part of yourself to someone else.
I know I sound totally crazy saying this, but I am so thankful for that freak out I had a couple of days ago. Without it, I don’t think I would have realized the importance of taking time to breathe and think about myself, or how important it is to ask for help when I truly need it. Lastly, this experience has taught me just how much my husband does for our family. He takes out the trash, helps with dishes, helps with the baby at night, and I could go on and on! Going a week doing that all for myself really opened my eyes. I am genuinely grateful for my sweet husband, and I have realized that I truly do need him in my life.
It is amazing the lessons we learn on a day to day basis. I feel like this is a lesson that I may have to learn over and over again: pride and humility. Pride, I realize, is the whole reason I am even in this mess. Ezra Taft Benson said:
“Most of us consider pride to be a sin of those on the top, such as the rich and the learned, looking down on the rest of us. There is however a far more common ailment – and that is pride from the bottom looking up. It is manifest in so many different ways, such as faultfinding, gossiping, backbiting, murmuring, living beyond our means, envying, coveting, withholding gratitude, and praise that might lift another, and being unforgiving and jealous.”
Pride is a huge part of my life as well as everyone else’s, whether it is something like being jealous, or gossiping, or looking down on others. This Holiday season, with Christmas only a couple of weeks away, let’s all try to step back, take a breather, and remember to have gratitude for the people that we have in our lives. One of my all time favorite quotes says:
“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” -C.S. Lewis.
Even when you are most stressed, try not to think of them as a burden, but a blessing. And when life does get tough, swallow your pride and ask some of those amazing people in your life for some help. We aren’t going to get through this life on our own, but we certainly will with a little help from others!