Being a mom is absolutely the best. It’s my life’s greatest joy and the love I feel for my son is off the charts.
That said, motherhood is, of course, a balancing act. I have never had a nanny or night nurse. Bear has only been with a babysitter infrequently. I can’t even remember the last time, honestly! His Dad and I share time and care for Bear ourselves. I know that may seem strange compared to other celebrity families, but this was important to me. Likewise, our home is media-free the majority of the time, and since I’m a single mom, that means no TV babysitter. So when Bear is not with his dad, it’s just me and my kid. And it’s full-on.
There were times when Bear was younger when he wasn’t in school, or, most recently, when schools shut down, where it felt overwhelming at times. I couldn’t think or take a pee without being needed! A sip of water? Hell no. I know these difficult moments pass, but there were times when it felt like just hearing my son’s stories and voice made me cringe—even when I also love him so much.
But then, after I’d sleep well, I’d notice that everything would change. I would feel more present, centered, and relaxed. Brushing his hair or teeth and all the sweet care—the simplest things become so joyful, caring for our dogs together. Feeding him, hearing his stories, picking out clothes for the next day, it’s all pure joy when I’m rested.
Being a good mama requires every ounce of my being. What I know for sure is getting quality sleep is so critical to being the most loving, available mama. And eating a healthy Kind Diet is instrumental in getting that quality sleep. When I eat well, I sleep well! When my diet and sleep are in alignment, every moment with Bear feels like the greatest thing on earth. But if I break from this, it’s so easy to slip into feeling drained, impatient, not present, and overwhelmed. The moment I reprioritize nourishing food and commit myself to good sleep, my world changes. I can savor every moment with my son. And holy moly is it magical.
Most days, taking care of him and making his food, hearing his stories, and, of course, snuggling with him is the most divine, delicious thing ever. I feel so empowered and deeply fulfilled. Even My mom admin work is fulfilling because I know I’m doing the best I can for him, whether that’s researching and meeting with 3 orthodontists before I find the one that feels right, finding the best organic underwear, or the non-flame-retardant organic PJs. Being his mom is an irreplaceable high–the ultimate love.
But sometimes a Mama needs to pee without a plus one.
It becomes so clear that those school days or play dates allow us mamas to live in our bodies for some hours, with nobody clawing (lovingly!) at our breasts or legs or arms. It’s there in those moments we can recharge and attend to our passion projects. In my case, I have so much work to do. So many things I care so much about that make me ME.
During lockdown, this was the work–for all of us mamas–finding space to be our own women selves, but without respites from the needs of our families. At times, it was challenging.
As much as I want to prioritize getting to sleep, I all too often stay up and catch up on the hours of emails and texts I haven’t touched throughout the day.
This is not healthy!
The recharge that happens when I turn off the lights and noise is integral to who I wake up as the next morning. And when I do get to turn the computer and phone off at 9 or even 9:30 and just piddle, take a bath, read, omg, I feel amazing! It’s crazy silly how much that simple act feels so good. That self-care.
So, why can’t I do it every night?
Because I would never get anything done at all. But I keep trying. I see it as a huge success when I do it just even one day a week. And if it happens more than that, I’m really impressed with myself.
Before Bear could read or spell what helped me a lot was keeping a list in the kitchen while cooking, and if he started telling me stories or had questions that required focus on my part, I would say I’m adding this to our bath list. So when I was done focusing on dinner we could discuss it at dinner or at bath time.
I have found that having an inner monologue of pre-set responses for Bear when I’m tapped out is tremendously useful, too. I can redirect him to write me a story, draw me a picture, chop the herbs, fold some tee-shirts, play with the dogs, practice a silly dance, or call a friend when I have my work to do.
I’m a highly sensitive person, and sometimes that means I can’t fully take Bear’s needs in while I’m cooking and starving. I’ve learned that saying; “Hey Bear—You do your work, and I’ll do my work!” in a loving voice is something he can hear and absorb.
When we come back together—I can savor every morsel of being with him and be truly present.
I realize this may not work for families with more than one child, since someone always wants something! I have learned from my kind parenting Mama friends that having a loose daily schedule of activity options helps. For example, one of my friends with three children writes up a list of daily “challenges” for her boys in the context of a schedule that includes things like: Teach your brothers a skill, build every puzzle in the house, do a creative LEGO challenge, write a graphic novel, build a pillow fort, crafting hour, etc. She finds these schedules allow some structure to an otherwise unstructured time in parenting history.
These are some media-free family activities that have been pure gold for us, and may work for your family, too:
- Jumping on a trampoline (even on a mini one since that is what we have!)
- Walking the dogs
- Cooking together
- Doing puzzles
- Having a jump rope contest
- Making housekeeping activities fun (chores can be cool: vacuuming, cleaning the counters and organizing/getting rid of stuff to donate)
- Having dance parties!
- Reading together: Bear reads to me and I read to him.
- Snuggling and cuddles
Try keeping your own list of suggestions for when you need a break so that you don’t default to exasperation. Remember, kind mamas must put on their oxygen masks first.
P.S. Check out my books the Kind Diet and Kind Mama books for more info on parenting and health.