I haven’t written an article in several weeks, and I have been blaming a writer’s block; I know exactly what I want to say and yet cannot seem to find the words. Several days ago, however, I admitted the unspoken truth: I am burned out. There, I said it (actually, I just got off a bit easier, since I wrote it…). It is difficult for me to admit when I am in need of a break from my children. Actually, I think that may have been one of only three times ever. Ugh, I can barely even write that sentence. What a horrible thing to say when I am so head-over-heels in love with each of them! However, I need to remember that it is not really about taking a break from them, but rather, taking some time for myself. After giving so much of ourselves, each and every one of us needs time to invest in some good ol’ self-care.
Lately, my youngest has been teething in a horrible way. As her eighth tooth pushes away at her gums, she has been irritable: biting, crying, and nursing like crazy. I feel terrible for her as she covers her ears in frustration and pain. We both have sleepless nights and then during the day it takes me the same amount of time to get her asleep as she actually sleeps during her naps. My oldest is fed up with all of the attention the youngest is receiving for these nursing and sleeping rituals and has been in a super-moody-mode. Although she is acting out, she is really in need of hugs, fun, and physical work she can concentrate on. Both of their needs are getting more and more difficult to satisfy with good intention.
Rudolf Steiner states that a person is free if he acts only out of love for the deed itself. Once the love for the deed is lost, he is no longer free and his personal growth cannot continue. I think about this often; are my choices for each act I perform in my daily life done out of love for the deed itself? I can honestly say that it takes effort to find the love in cleaning the toilet. But I do love knowing I am caring for a space my children will be in (or on) and that they deserve it to be clean. What makes me gulp is the idea that I may not be loving or cherishing every moment I have with my children. Life moves too quickly and is too short not to find every right now, incredible.
Before taking off on an airplane, the flight attendants will always review the safety procedures. They will remind everyone that in an emergency, oxygen masks will emerge from a compartment above and that you are to place your own mask before assisting anyone else with theirs. It makes sense—how could I possibly help anyone else if I am unconscious? We can relate this directly to childcare and, although it may not be quite as dramatic, it certainly can come close in some cases. Our children are building their physical bodies at a rapid pace and, in doing so, they look to adults for the energy they need. Have you ever notice they seem to need you more, the more you feel the need to back step? Adults can feel “drained” after caring for young children day in and day out because the child is literally using our energy to grow. This means that we must take extra care to sustain our energy levels. When we come back refreshed, our children feel it and are far better for it.
So, get rid of the Grouchy-Mommy Syndrome and take those moments (even if 5 minutes is all you get) to meditate, read a chapter in a book, do a yoga pose, grab a coffee with a friend, or just ask for one uninterrupted shower (please!).
Self-care is not self-ish. Your children will thank you—with millions of loveable moments all carried out in freedom.
Jennifer Sullivan is a LifeWays certified, Waldorf teacher-in-training, momma of two beautiful girls.