I remember it like it was yesterday.
I’m lying in bed with one sick child wheezing in my ear and the other snoring snottily in my armpit. The cat is lying on my feet. The hand that is attached to the very numb arm under child number one is being licked by the dog.
I. Want. To. Cry.
Nobody told me how tough it is to be an introverted mom, especially in those early years. The toddler wants to twirl your hair, or snuggle, or wrestle, or tickle. The baby needs to be held, changed, stimulated. My kids are snuggly and clingy on their best days. When they’re both sick? Just shoot me now, you know what I mean?
Finally, the kids are asleep. I slither out of the spot in the middle, prop up their heads, and refill the humidifier.
I shower. That helps. It’s the first time I’ve been alone with my body all day. Eww . . . is that snot in my hair or something worse?
I really should sleep . . .
OK, freeze playback. This is the part where reasonable people will say I should go to sleep. This is also the part where almost every parent will go flip on the TV. Why do we do this? We do this to prove to our delirious minds that we are actually grownups. We aren’t bound by bedtimes. And because we need 45 minutes of this day to belong to just ourselves.
Oh, tired mama watching How I Met Your Mother re-runs, I see you.
You invite your hubby to join you on the couch, but for the love of chocolate, honey, stay on your side of the couch. Maybe you’ll feel like holding hands after a couple of hours. Or, maybe not.
You stay awake until 2:00 in the morning reading or watching a movie or just scrolling aimlessly through Facebook because you just need to be your own self.
You need a nap (ahem, see above), so you turn on Curious George, grab the snacks, and lie on the couch. (Tip: for two kids, lie on your side and tuck the one who moves constantly in the crook of your knee. Put the snuggler in front of you. You’ll wake up in a sea of Cheerios, but it’s worth it!)
Seriously, though, friends. We need to tend to ourselves, even while we’re tending the kids.
And contrary to what the internet might lead you to believe, massages, meditating, and salt baths aren’t the only way to do this.
Try taking a walk. In the stroller, everyone strapped in. Going to the zoo often saved my sanity. Even just a walk around the block can do wonders. It gets everyone some fresh air, vitamin D, and time without touching.
Mama time-outs are totally OK, friends. Many times I’ve told the kids that mama needs a few minutes to get calm. Everyone gets to spend 30 minutes in their rooms quietly. I would usually play an audiobook to help with the quietly part.
I have subscribed to an audiobook streaming service ever since my son was little. We listened to Dr. Seuss and Arnold Lobel and Loren Long (read by Trace Adkins, which totally soothes MY soul) when they were little, and The Boxcar Children and Beverly Cleary as they’ve gotten older and started going to school. We’ve done classics like Winnie the Pooh and The Jungle Book. It saves me in the car, super long days, and in the bathroom when I really want to make sure he’s in the shower long enough to get clean.
Something that’s been hard for me is learning there are definitely times it is OK to use the TV as a babysitter. Check out PBS Kids, and they can learn something while they veg out.
If you have a fast food place with an indoor playground nearby, you can bet your boots that other stir-crazy moms are there on those rainy mornings you can’t get outside. And if you pick the right place, the staff will come and refill your drinks so you can keep a constant eye on the kids.
We like blanket forts and hide and seek with our stuffed animals as quiet games to play inside. I Spy books are must-haves. We like to color . . . a lot. Figure out a couple of go-to quiet games that get the kids out of your arms but still with indoor voices.
Ask for a time-out. It would be oh, so nice if we didn’t have to ask, but society hasn’t evolved that far. So just ask your hubby to stay with the kids. Or better yet, take them OUT. Talk to your mom, your neighbor, the older lady from church who the kids love. Tell them you’re going stir crazy and need some time to yourself. I find if I have even one predictable hour a week I know I can be alone, it really helps my anxiety.
It’s so rewarding being the one whose touch cures all, but it’s definitely depleting.
Sweet friends, hang in there. Enjoy it when you can, and when you can’t, take a mama time-out. Letting yourself step back when you need it will help you keep your sanity, not to mention joy—for the long haul. And as a mama of clingy little ones who are growing into snuggling big kids . . . the stages really do keep moving on. Keep moving, sweet mama. You’re going to make it!