Today it was my turn to come down with the mild cold that my kids had last week – only for me, it was clearly shaping up to be not so mild. I got up, gave the kids breakfast, and got Katy ready for her play date with my mom. After her departure, I surveyed the scene before me:
Messy living room, complete with a wet diaper Maggie had flung off earlier. Messy kitchen, with dishes strewn about, various candy wrappers littering the island, and counters crying out to be wiped. Mountains of laundry summoning me from their near-permanent basement abode.
Next, I thought about the agenda for the day:
Faith and I were supposed to read together and plan an outfit to sew. Thomas wanted me to arrange a play date with his friend Mark. Katy was adamant that she become an expert at tying shoes before the week was out. And Maggie was dying to play outside.
Not to mention the always-growing, never-ending mental list of things I really should get to but never do: clean the toffee off the play kitchen. Rediscover the original color of the refrigerator shelves. Plan a bunch of super fun, nutritious new snacks. Download information about the upcoming election. Make fall crafts. And so on. And so on.
As passionate as I am about unschooling, there is always one aspect of it that trips me up: the part about keeping my cup full, so that I may have an abundance of myself to give to this life. I’m so much better at giving and serving and draining my cup – right down to the dregs. It seems more righteous, somehow. More good mom-ish. So time and again, I slide my needs ever lower on my to-do list, until inevitably, I’m at the bottom.
It’s so strange: nurturing my children is as second nature as breathing. Caring for my husband, my home, my friends – that’s a snap. But nurturing my own inner child and caring for myself as a person – not a mom, not a wife – well, sometimes it seems as though rocket science would be easier to master.
Does this sound familiar to you? I think it’s a pretty common theme among us moms – especially those of us who homeschool or unschool. There are probably about a million theories out there explaining the phenomenon. There are certainly that a multitude of self-help books covering the subject. So why is it still such a struggle? And what are we to do?
I’m one of those people who feels the need to tackle tricky problems like this in a big way. I get a program. I read a book. I make a schedule. I plan a complete 180 degree turn around. And of course, I fail! It’s too much pressure to make such grand, sweeping changes. So after a while, I start to slip. And before I know it, I’m right back to where I was.
So today, I tried out a new idea. Instead of getting an entire program into place before actually starting to take care of myself, I decided to throw caution to the wind and just do one little thing. No pressure. No expectations for tomorrow’s self-improvement. Just giving myself a little grace right in the moment.
I told my children that I was sick, and that I really wanted to take care of myself today, so that I wouldn’t be even sicker tomorrow. I asked the two older ones to help keep an eye on Maggie. Then I flopped onto the couch and gave myself permission to rest and recuperate. I embraced my untidy house exactly as it was, reminding myself that my messy counters and mountains of laundry were nothing if not long-suffering. I mentally tore up today’s to-do list, and promised myself that my children would not sustain permanent damage if the play dates and shoe-tying had to wait until tomorrow.
And then, I took a nap.