Happy New Year:
Do yourself a favor, start off the New Year with a big laugh. You deserve it.
If you haven’t seen it, SNL has the funniest Christmas skit about Christmas presents for mom. In the skit, all of the family members brag about their really nice Christmas presents, but when the camera goes to the mom, she continues to point out she only received a robe for Christmas (SNL: Krist Wigg is having a terrible Christmas, “Christmas Story”).
As mothers we often wear selflessness like a badge of honor. As if at some point before we leave this planet, we will receive an enormous prize of gratitude from our children, our spouse, hell even society. Unfortunately, there is a small chance you may leave the planet without having received your flowers (an old saying, “bring me flowers while I’m alive).
I remember a particular day when my daughter was still an infant. Nothing I did seemed to please her. I literally walked back and forth through our apartment rocking her on my hip for hours. She would fall into the deepest sleep but as soon as her head hit the bed she wailed. I kept telling myself throughout the day I will go and pee once she’s calmed down. Guess what, she never calmed down.
By the time my ex-husband came in from work I was a mess. The first thing he asked when he came in the door was, “What’s wrong with you”? I remember I just started crying and then I screamed, “I have to pee!” Well of course he laughed in my face before he took our daughter and tried to comfort her while I used the bathroom. When I emerged from the bathroom my daughter was still crying and he wanted to know what’s for dinner.
I told that story to anyone who would listen. I wanted everyone to know just how much I was willing to sacrifice to be a “good mother.”
During one of my daughter’s medical appointments, I told my war story to her pediatrician. When I finished, I stood there waiting for the obligatory “Oh, you poor thing, what a great momma” or “Your daughter is lucky to have you.” Instead, the pediatrician looked at me and asked, “Did she stop crying when your husband held her?” “No,” I replied. “But you used the bathroom anyway while she was crying?” “Uhm, yeah.” I did not like where this was going. She went on to say, “If she didn’t stop crying when your husband held her, but you used the bathroom anyway, why didn’t you just use the bathroom in the beginning? Either way she would have still cried while you peed and you wouldn’t have held your pee for hours.” And with that she handed me the card for my daughter’s next appointment and left the room.
Oh, I was hot now. The nerve of her to tell me to let my daughter cry. On the drive home I came up with every excuse I could think of to make her statement seem “less simplified.” I was a self-sacrificing shero, able to leap piles of laundry in a single bound. Where was the respect for my mothering skills? Sounds stupid and a bit whiny right? At the time I needed to believe everything I did that was related to motherhood was perfect and in the best interest of my daughter. Throughout trial and error, I came to the realization that I was my biggest critic. Many people in my life at the time thought I was doing the best that I could or they couldn’t have cared less.
Well, what’s the point of this long-winded post some of you may be thinking. My point is, remembering to care for yourself will not get you kicked out of motherhood.
Remember to laugh, remember to cry, remember to eat, remember to start on that book you bought six months ago. Remember to buy yourself flowers. Just allow yourself to do anything that may bring you comfort even if it only lasts five minutes. Taking care of yourself doesn’t mean you don’t care about your family or that you don’t appreciate the gift of your child. You are a human being which means you have the same feelings, needs, and/or body functions as the other people in your home.
As I close, I want you to take your cell phone, go into the bathroom, sit on the toilet and watch that SNL skit. If you haven’t done anything for yourself already today, you can say I did allow myself to have a good laugh. Oh, and if you need to, go ahead and pee while you’re in there.
Michelle Perkins, PhD, LSW
Flourish Staff Therapist
Michelle is a Licensed Social Worker (LSW) with over 20 years of experience in the field. Her experiences include: social service provision with families in crisis, assessment and counseling in family planning including reproductive healthcare, and trauma-informed care for those living with a chronic illness. “My belief in the capabilities of others is a constant motivating factor for my therapeutic practice. It is my belief when we assist women with becoming their best version of themselves; we greatly influence healthy family and social dynamics.”