I read an article a while back about the narcissism of our younger generation. The writer implied that any hyphenated word starting with self should be abandoned by society and we should stop being so egotistic. I kind of agreed with her. That is until I had a minor meltdown.
The editors of a site I write for held a lunch for their writers. It was a chance for us all to meet and get together, have a drink and just be social. When I first got the invite I was so excited. Not only was it a chance to network with like-minded creative types, but it was the first outing I was going to since becoming a mum, that was completely independent of being a parent. Strictly speaking, it was a proper adult function that I was invited to that had nothing to do with my kids. It was because of my work. Something just for me.
For weeks I thought about what to wear (I even bought new boots for the occasion). The morning of, the child was a fuckwit of royal proportions. I thought I would get through. By naptime, she had more tantrums and breakdowns than I could handle and she wore me down. She refused to sleep, my husband was at work, the baby was crying and that was the end of me. All dressed up, make up on, nursing the baby and trying to get the toddler to sleep, I sat there and wept.
I called her dad and told him to come home, I finally got the baby to sleep and let the toddler do whatever the fuck she wanted til her dad came home.
I sat in a dark room with the sleeping baby while my grown up outfit mocked me. I felt like such a failure as a parent. I was being dictated by a two year old. I changed into my pyjamas (at 1pm), crawled into bed and carried on crying.
I resented my children for what I had become. I resented my husband for being at work. His life didn’t change that drastically when he had kids. He still gets to be a grown up. I thought of all the writers at the lunch who have their lives together enjoying their boozy lunch in the sunshine.
I broke. My kid broke me. I was the saddest I had been in a very long time. And it was at that moment that I realised just how lonely I was. For all the bullshit people say about how hard it is being a parent, the sleep deprivation, the patience required to get through the tantrums, the strain it puts on relationships, all that I could handle (most of the time). It was the loneliness that broke me.
As I sobbed (I was properly snotty and gross, sobbing like a bitch), I thought of the palpable loneliness. I left my full time career more than two years ago. Aside from the income was the sense of accomplishment, the independence and the social contact that came with my career that gave me strength and sense of self. I hadn’t had that in such a long time.
My interactions now are made up of brief coffee dates in between tantrums, a workout in between feedings, a play date comprised of incomplete sentences and lost trains of thought.
No matter where I am, my children always come first. So many people will tell you that’s how it should be. Always put your children first. Except that’s what led to me sobbing. I should have put myself first. I should have asked my husband not to go to work and stay home with our child so I could do this one thing for myself.
I should have asked a friend to come round and look after my kid. I should have done whatever it takes to have one afternoon, just a few short hours where I could have talked to other adults about shit that has nothing at all to do with kids. Intelligent conversation that doesn’t revolve around toilet training, broken sleep, anything at all that isn’t child related. But it didn’t happen. I didn’t make it.
I’m sharing this very personal, very vulnerable break down to highlight the importance of self-care. I don’t care what anyone says about the self-indulgent idea of a generation obsessed with themselves. Self-care is a thing and it’s real. As a parent it is of utmost importance. What good are you to your kids if you are a sobbing mess?
So what have I learned from this? I spoke to my beloved and told him how I was feeling. Once a month, I have a me day. A whole day that is dedicated to making me ok. Spending time with people, not discussing my kids. Going for a long walk, enjoying a quiet drink, watching a movie, whatever the fuck I want to do. It doesn’t even have to be an entire day. Just a few uninterrupted hours.
Hopefully I will find some peace in that. And I will not be shamed by anyone who may think that’s being indulgent. Nor should any other parent. Your mental health is so important and a huge contributor to being a good parent. So go out and have a cracking YOU day.
Side note, after said meltdown, I lay in bed watching Great British Bake Off and ate cake = mood elevator.