I went to see my spiritual director because I was sick of crying at work. My teammates are incredibly supportive, don’t get me wrong, but it was getting a tad ridiculous. Almost six months into being the primary care giver to two children, my (part-time) hours in the office were my only hours away from the kids. So inevitably, every now and again I would let my guard down at work in the in between moments and crumble. Scheduling an appointment with my spiritual director required finding a third babysitter to get through the day, but I decided it was time.
I sat down, took a deep breath, and started with the emotions I was experiencing around my milk supply being perpetually low. I felt betrayed by my body and was tired of working so hard to get my baby fed. I knew the milk was just the beginning. We unwound ball of yarn, airing out layers of emotion around the intensity of loving children. It became clear I was operating out of a scarcity model. There wasn’t enough milk, enough time, enough sleep, enough support. I wasn’t enough. I was also equating showing my boys love with quantity of time with them regardless of how depleted I felt.
She said, “What I just heard you say is that you need to put your self away to take care of your boys.”
“Yes,” I said. That is how it felt sometimes. The self that likes to sleep uninterrupted and eat leisurely, read and write, see friends and exercise had been dormant for a long time.
“Ok, well let’s work on that. What would be a true statement you could use to replace that statement?”
“I honor myself and my boys when I am being my best self.”
“So what would it take to wake up one morning feeling totally rested?”
I laughed, and then I realized she wanted me to answer. I pretended to have no idea, but I knew almost exactly what it would take, I was just afraid to claim it. In so many ways, it is just easier to stuff parts of yourself away for later and commit to the grind.
“You don’t want to wait for your kids to be in school to grow into your best self,” she said. True. I wanted my boys to know my best self and have that best self be their primary care giver. Knowing I have always taken homework a little too seriously, she assigned me a 14 Day Self-Care Reboot.
I left feeling hopeful and excited. That lasted all but a day. When I sat down to plan out my 14 days, all I could see were barriers and invitations to put the process off. A more balanced life is easy to talk about and so much harder to carve out, build and claim. I sat in the tension of the ideal and reality and started chipping away:
- Meditation: a friend recommended downloading the Calm app onto my phone, and I have been meditating (almost) every day for ten minutes. I am horrible at it. Horrendous. My mind wanders to about eight different places every breath, but I humbly try again and again with each inhale. It’s good practice in trusting renewal and trying again. My breath is slowly becoming a tool, and the focus on things like calm, impermanence, letting go, being present and gratitude have been gifts.
- Child care: I’m slowly, ever so slowly widening my village of babysitters so I can feel less frantic at work and do things like go on a date without worrying about how my boys are doing. It’s hard, but I’m getting better at asking for help. This includes asking my spouse to put the kids to sleep himself one night a week so I can go into work and have an additional chunk of time.
- Yoga: I bought a Groupon for yoga. 10 sessions for $33. None of the class times were ideal, but I picked one that will work and it’s on the calendar once every week. The first night the yogi kept repeating, “What you are looking for is looking for you.” Through the sweat I pictured my best self- a lighter, more creative, and more joyful version of myself working her way back to me. He also talked about resilience as being able to return to a baseline easily after a stressful event. Inevitably there are hairy moments caring for two little kids, one needing food and the other needing help getting onto the toilet, for example, but I’m trying to build resilience and only visit the place of stress, breathe through it, and return to living from a place of joyful calm.
- Streamline my freelance work: By saying no to things I don’t want to do, creating small achievable assignments and triaging my to-do list, I can create more peace in my work life that includes healthy boundaries, allowing me to be more present to work at work and to my family at home.
- Running: a few days a week running is on the calendar. I either talk my son into a jogger ride once my spouse gets home or I wait until the kids are asleep at night. It’s fresh air time to clear the mind and body movement that allows me time to reflect and think.
Day in and day out, the changes may appear micro, often just ten minutes of meditation different than before, but the shift feels monumental. When I feel myself slipping into the land of not-enoughness, I stop, take a deep breath, and play the new sound bites in my head. I’m spending a tiny bit less time with my little ones in the course of a week, but way more of that time is time when I am energetic, silly, creative, calm, brave, curious and open. Eventually I’d like to find more time to read and sit with friends as well. The journey of finding more balance in parenting will be far from over at the end of the two weeks, but I am so grateful to my guru for inviting me to craft a schedule that centers around joy, gratitude, self-care, acceptance and empowered action.