And so I've also been thinking a lot about how my bull-headed insistence on doing what I "have" to do has affected my life - particularly in the last decade, which is when I started having children. And I realize it's all been a big, fat mistake.
My introduction to motherhood wasn't an easy one. My water broke at 20 weeks; I went on bed rest. The doctors pushed me to abort our child. Then she was finally born at 25 weeks gestation; I never had a third trimester. Our daughter spent four months in the NICU (the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of the hospital). I can't even begin to explain all the ups and downs of that in this short amount of space, but let me tell you, when a mama goes home without her baby, it ain't easy. A few times, our daughter nearly died. And the entire time she was in the NICU, I was pumping breast milk every two or three hours, even at night. Through it all, I thought, "I just have to keep going, keep pushing through."
When our bundle of joy finally came home, I was already
exhausted. I continued to pump breast milk for many months after that. Imagine
getting up, pumping, cleaning that up, fixing a bottle, feeding it to a baby
who eats very slowly, then cleaning that up, then going back to bed. By the
time I was done with that routine, I had only an hour or two to sleep before I
had to start all over again. Exhausting doesn't begin to cover it. But my
husband felt insecure about feeding our daughter, and I thought, "I just
need to push through this. I have to get it done myself."
Then our daughter had months of physical and feeding therapy. (Yes! There is such a thing as feeding therapy!) We rarely had babysitters because our daughter was high risk for RSV - which is like a cold for most adults, but can be deadly for preemies. I keep pushing through, dark circles under my eyes. After a time, I recovered a little, and our son was on the way. This pregnancy was high risk, too, though the problems we faced were different than with my first pregnancy. I had to go in for fetal monitoring several times per week; thank goodness I let my mother help out with that, at least. Eventually, our son was born huge and healthy.
I wanted so very, very much to be a fantastic mother. I read tons of parenting books. I prayed for my children's futures. I made plans about the sort of things I wanted to teach them. Unfortunately, though, I had to start working (from home, as a writer) during my second pregnancy, and I found myself feeling stressed. Then my daughter hit three years old and suddenly became very difficult to raise. (Look up "strong willed child" in the dictionary, and you'll find my daughter's name and photo there.) Then my health began declining. Then I started homeschooling. And all the time, I was doing virtually everything all by myself; we had rare babysitters. Housework, writing work, school work, parenting, and cleaning were all up to me.
Can you see where this is going? I was not the fantastic mother I wanted to be. Instead, I was sick, exhausted, and grumpy. But I felt I HAD to keep pressing forward. I couldn't see anything I could set aside to make my life easier. There was no one to help. Even my husband, frankly, wasn't much help. (Although he's become more helpful as the years have progressed.)
Well, I think all this came to a head a few weeks ago. I couldn't do it all anymore. I am not super woman, hear me roar. I am a human being. Who needs rest. Who needs to occasionally do things for her self. Who can't spend all her time pushing. Who can't be entirely independent. Of course, I was never truly independent because I was very dependent upon God - and knew it. But I was being unfair to myself and my family by trying to do "everything" without human help.
Nobody can do that. Nobody.
Last week, I wept as I thought about the person I wanted to be 10 years ago and the person I am today. I wept from regret. I wept because I was stinkin' mad at myself. I wept because I hadn't given my children and husband the best. I was too busy spending my energy - my whole self - on trying to do everything.
And so I post this today, hoping it reaches some other mom out there who thinks she has to push through and do everything. You don't. And you don't want to. In the end, you'll weep with regret. And yes, I know the name of this blog. And I know many people feel the Proverbs 31 Woman is someone who DOES do it all. But they are wrong. That Proverbs 31 lady, she didn't do all those things at any one stage of her life. She wasn't getting up at night with babies AND making wise real estate decisions AND weaving the household cloth AND running a textile business AND, and, and. No, in fact, "She makes herself ready with strength and makes her arms strong." In other words, she takes care of herself to preserve her health and strength. She works hard, but she knows her limits. Her listed accomplishments are those of a LIFETIME, not a season of her life.
I think my thick brain has finally had this lesson pounded into it, though I know making changes - learning to ask for help - won't be particularly easy. Yes, part of the reason we're moving is so that we (specifically, I) can get help from family. Like babysitting from time to time, or letting me step aside to BREATHE when things become too much.
Here's to the new me. The less grumpy, less over-worked me. And to how that new me is going to positively affect my kids, my husband, and everyone else around me.
Now the question is do YOU need to cast aide your Super Woman costume? Do it, my friend. Don't hesitate. Do it now. Your future self - and your family - will thank you.
UPDATE 3/4/16: This post has generated some surprising (to me) comments that I've chosen not to publish. I want to clarify: This post is not about people not helping me. It's about me not seeking out and asking for help. It's all on me, folks.