I am a good mother. I can say that with confidence. I feel good about my boundaries and balance as a mother. I am fun and firm. I lay down the law, but also let loose. But I cannot say with much confidence that I am good to myself. The statements that I say on a daily basis to my children are the ones I consciously ignore.
Does that make me a hypocrite?
I look at that word, and it’s so sharp. I defend myself, insisting, “It’s impossible to enact the rules I enforce upon my kids. I’m an adult with responsibilities. There’s not enough time in the day to do what I need to do and mother myself.” But that word continuing to stare me down and ring in my ears is what will actually motivate me to prove it wrong.
It’s time to go to sleep!
I know when my kids are exhausted, and I know what will happen if they don’t go to sleep. More often than not, I say it on repeat in thirty-minute intervals, letting my older kids deliriously entertain each other with the lights out until their eyes close. But there are nights when I need to cuddle up beside them and help them fall asleep at the prescribed early hour because their exhaustion is just too much.
And yet, every night, I find myself staying up until at least 11:30 p.m. More often than not, it’s pushing 1 a.m. My exhaustion is too much. I need to put myself to bed far earlier. I need to remind myself, “It’s not healthy to be deliriously awake.” The moment I start to feel my eyes grow heavy or notice the frequency of my yawns is the moment I need to go to sleep. Even if it’s 8 p.m. and I still have hours of work to do.
Time to turn off/put down the screen!
My husband and I try our best to limit free choice screen time to under two hours a day. (I’m not thrilled with how much screen time is necessary for them as students and myself as a teacher, but that’s a post I’d be too heated to ever write). Thankfully, our kids are good about abiding by the rule.
And yet, here I am, iPhone in hand for an average of 6.5 hours a day. (This is not counting the many hours I spend on my laptop). Sure, I have emails to write, pictures to take, people to text, articles to read, but a quarter of my day on my phone is alarming. I’ve created limits for myself in the settings, but more often than not, I ignore those notifications. So now, I’m challenging myself to start small. Reduce my phone screen time by 30 minutes (at least) each day and see how much time I gain for other things. I doubt I can realistically manage under 3-4 hours a day, but that’d still be a vast improvement.
“Stop whining! Stop bugging your sister/brother! Stop fooling around! Stop right there! Stop making a mess! Stop saying that!” There are a variety of stop directions with children, but they all center around forcing them to recognize that what they are currently doing is not the best or safest choice.
And yet, I go, go, go, rarely stopping. I need to stop beating myself up. I need to stop making excuses about how there’s no time for myself. I need to stop letting my emotions overwhelm me. I need to just STOP!
I will say I’m getting better at stopping, which leads me to my last one.
Take a break.
Take a break has always been our motto with our kids. Whenever they’re frustrated, “take a break” falls from our lips. Take a break and read a book. Take a break and calm down. Take a break and grab a snack. Take a break and run around. (It’s how we’ve been homeschooling. Work for an hour. Take a break.)
I’ve been taking breaks and it’s saved me on my ugliest of days. I walk with the baby. I Zoom with my friends. I go for a drive to pick up ice cream. I dance with (and embarrass) my kids. I watch some shows with my husband. I read poems. I practice a few minutes of guided mindfulness.
But I haven’t cut myself enough of a break yet. I wrote this post after yelling at my kids and then subsequently crying for 40 minutes.
So am I a hypocrite? I don’t think so.
I’m a good mother who needs to mother myself much much more. And I need to start now.