I am currently in the beginning stages of my internship at school. I am seeing clients a few days per week in the counseling center of the college I attend. I have had the privilege of walking with college students in the throws of reality. It has been a blessing to see these brave students wrestle with who they are apart from their family of origin, and the fear that comes with not knowing who they will become. I remember that season of life very well, and really didn't figure out the answers to many of those questions until recently. Change that...I am still learning.
|This room is very similar to the room I meet clients in!! Very calming!|
But, it has definitely changed the pace and routine of life around the house. I am not as emotionally capable as I was before. I am not as attentive and present as I have been in the past. Sometimes, my oldest has to come and push me when I am catatonic on the couch after a day of seeing clients in order for me to 'come to'. Okay, not exactly. But, there have been many conversations lately that go like this.
"Oh, hey, honey. I'm sorry. I'm a little out of it. How was your day?"
We are still trying to figure it all out. What is the balance? How do I self-care, yet be a mother?
As most therapists will tell you, we have a different type of exhaustion that sets in. No, I am not lifting a pile of bricks every day, or running around on the floor of the stock exchange, OR even saving lives in the back of an ambulance. I am sitting. In a chair. All day. In a room. Alone with one other person.
But, the thing we have to do that is not required of many other jobs is that we have to sit and be perfectly present with another one's story. My ONLY job is to hold a sacred space for the other to come and sit in their pain. And, I cannot waiver from this in that hour. I cannot "check out" and look at my phone or get up and walk around. I am looking straight into their eyes and tracking every single word they say. And I am trying to honor their life story in (hopefully) a way that is healing.
Now don't get me wrong, I do love this work!! I am, quite honestly, so honored that someone would allow me to come alongside their journey. It is remarkable to see people be so brave as to look at their pain dead in the eye!
But, when it comes to the end of the day, I am, many times, flat as a pancake. Our professors have been harping on something called 'compassion fatigue'. And, they are correct! As therapists, we must be balanced in getting enough sleep, good nutrition, breaks, self-care, emotional support, etc, before we can help other people.
And so begins the evenings with my guys...
|Bless the genius behind this place!!|
So, we have a lot of Trader Joe's frozen, heat-up-and-eat meals. Thank heavens for TJ's!!!!
As my sweet friend calls it, the "Working Mom's Grocery Store". I am really sorry for those of you reading this that do not have access to TJ's. God love them. They make wonderful prepared meals that ACTUALLY have somewhat natural ingredients, are priced reasonably, and taste delish!!!! And, if you have some "study" that says that TJ's actually has GMO produce or their freezer food is laced with carcinogens- please keep that information to yourself. Thanks.
So, many of you mama's reading this will say, "What else is new? I've been working since my baby was two days old!!"
And, you would be right to say that.
This is just new for us. I have been working different part-time jobs, music stuff, singing, and performing this whole time. But, the work has been sporadic, and I have had the blessing of being able to, for the most part, be at home when my kids got off the bus every day. I have not taken it for granted one second. Because, in this day in age, my story is the exception. Most families are two income families. And, it is unheard of that single mama's get to stay at home. I have scrapped and saved to make that work because I knew it was the best thing for MY family. Not anyone else's story. Only mine.
So, things are different. And change is always hard.
But, this is the part of the blog when I say, HOW DO YOU ALL DO IT???????
How do you single, working parents juggle it all????????
|I realize this may be the scariest picture of all time!|
Seriously, how do we all make it work? I think that being a working parent has gotten so normalized in our society that it is often seen as WEIRD if you don't work. I remember my son asking me one time why I wasn't employed full time. I had to work really hard not to forcefully grab his collar, pin him up against the wall and say, "I DO WORK FULL TIME!!! LOOK AT THE FOLDED LAUNDRY, EXCEL SPREADSHEET BUDGET, AND FROZEN DINNER BEING HEATED UP ON THE STOVE!!"
No, no, I didn't do that. I slapped him across the face and demanded that he go get a job in the coal mine because he wasn't 'pulling his weight around here'.
Okay, okay, I didn't do that either. I simply said, "You'll understand one day."
I guess what I really want to say is, I want those of you who are doing this alone to stop and think about all you juggle. It wasn't supposed to be like this. No, I am not suggesting that women shouldn't work and should stay in the kitchen. NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT. It's just that it wasn't supposed to be this hard and complicated. In a perfect world, we would all have energy to love our kids, love our work, and have fulfilling lives in between!
It is hard stuff. And, don't let the culture tell you it's just what we do. Stop and take care of yourself. Feel your feelings and let yourself cry over the pain of not feeling like you're enough. Because you are not, and you weren't supposed to be. Let go of the expectation of being together and perfect! We are all so hard on ourselves and harbor such self-hatred over the comparisons we make to other people.
Say it with me:
It is okay if my child plays on the iPad for an inordinate amount of time.
It is okay that we are eating something out of a box.
It is okay to say this is hard.
As my spiritual director, Gail, says almost every time I see her, "Be gentle with yourself."
Even though you are fighting a big battle, put your weapons down for a bit, and let this tired warrior catch a breath. For when you do this, you are giving yourself a little more to give with each breath.
This is very counter to our culture of "Go big or go home" in America.
We aren't built to do it all.
But, once you give yourself that nod of acceptance, a crazy thing happens. You find you do have a little gas in the tank left to give to someone else. You can play that silly game with your kids, or have a serious heart to heart about girls, or go throw a football.
And, when they have their own kids, they just might get it. Maybe.
One can only hope.