Saturday, December 1, 2012

Mothers, Take The Time You Need

I accomplished a lot of great things this November. The most important, of course, was taking care of our baby. We finally taught him to take a bottle and figured out the food that caused his acid reflux (smoked salmon, weirdly). I stopped getting sprayed when I changed his diaper, which improved the laundry situation. Occasionally I even got 3-4 hours of sleep at a time.

More importantly, I watched Edwin learn to knit his fingers together, start recognizing the cat, roll most of the way over, and laugh uncontrollably when his Daddy makes fart noises. We also had a successful first holiday where I was able to eat a whole Thanksgiving dinner (thanks, Nanna!) and enjoyed many other family gatherings. Now we're enjoying introducing him to his first Christmas milestones: first tree, first stocking, first viewing (of many) of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

However, I also set and met two other goals that were very important to me:

1. I exercised at least 4 times each week and managed to lose another 4 pounds, which means I've now lost more than 2/3, almost 3/4 of my pregnancy weight.

2. I wrote 20,000 words of my novel. It's almost finished! This is the accomplishment I'm most excited about. I started with about 35,000 words before Edwin was born. Now I'm at 79,000. To give you some perspective, most first novels are around 80,000 words. I think I have between 10,000 and 15,000 left to tell the story, and then some editing down to do. I'm so excited for the day I get to say, "I wrote a novel," not, "I'm working on a novel." Barring any major disruptions, that day will come before Christmas.

I also managed to keep my house clean and our laundry baskets from overflowing.

I'm not writing about this to toot my own horn (though I am proud of meeting these goals). I want to make a point that even with an infant at home- even with the countless hours it takes just to feed him, get him to sleep, keep him from fussing when awake, and even with the extreme unpredictability of time- it is possible to do things for yourself.

The narrative of motherhood in this country, especially of stay-at-home mothers, is that of complete martyrdom: spending every waking hour (and the sleeping ones too) taking care of the child, and taking no time for yourself. I believe that is both unhealthy and unnecessary. I know I can take better care of my baby if I'm healthy myself, which means taking care of my body and my mind, equally. If I don't exercise, I won't feel good. If I don't write.... well, I can't not write. It's like not breathing for me.

So I exercise in the morning while Edwin plays on his activity mat, happily squealing at his friend Ocho, the blue octopus. I write on my laptop with one arm circling his head, propped with a pillow, while I'm nursing him. I don't count on his sleeping time because it varies so much day to day, but I usually use that time to clean and do laundry. Edwin doesn't miss this time with me, because he's otherwise engaged. And even if he wasn't, he likes to watch me do things, and it's a learning experience for him to see me exercise, fold laundry or bake cookies. (I doubt he gets much out of watching me type, which is why I don't do that when he's awake and not eating.)

Things would certainly be harder if I didn't have the time off from my teaching job or helpful family members. But since motherhood of an infant definitely takes up more hours than a standard full-time job, I consider myself a working woman who is still meeting her personal goals.

So mothers, take some time for yourself. Don't wait until New Year's to make a resolution! Set some goals for this month that don't involve your family, the house, or holiday planning. You may not be able to do everything, but if you prioritize and look for the time in your day, you can achieve something meaningful to you. I promise you, at the end of the month, meeting that goal is going to feel fantastic.

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