Friday, February 11, 2011

Nothing Left to Give

Yesterday was a long day, filled with frustration and worry and little things going wrong, and by the time the kids went to bed I felt that I had nothing left to give to anyone. When we are feeling weak and damaged inside of ourselves, each day can feel a hundred hours long, with tasks too big and demanding for what we actually have in resources to meet the challenges.

One of the best things about the growth and change I've experienced this year is the grace I'm willing to extend to myself. I used to offer it to my family and friends, but rarely to myself, and I've relaxed in my rigid expectations on what I can do. Sometimes I simply cannot manage the stress, and I am learning to admit that, to myself and to others, and there is immense freedom in not expecting myself to pretend I'm fine when I'm not.

I think we give what we can give, and then when we are buckling under the strain, we communicate this and withdraw to find energy to carry on. It was foreign for me to say to my family after dinner, "I can't do anymore for you right now. I still have laundry to do, and I'm exhausted from my day, and Daddy can help you because I need some time to myself."

I holed up to fold laundry and re-make my bed in silence, and explored why I was feeling so low, and when it was time to read stories to my kids at bedtime I was better able to concentrate on them. I don't know that I've ever done that before. Usually I would push through, getting my work done and focusing on the kids, but it would be clear in my words and attitude that I was burnt-out and frustrated.

Communicating and then withdrawing seemed like a better option. The cats went in for spaying and neutering yesterday, and Ava was worried about them, so I gave extra to her to help her through, even though I too was concerned about our littlest family members. Then the motor on our garburator fried out, and the sink began to back up, and when I called the plumber I hoped for a quick fix but discovered we needed a new disposal. Then the van gear shift stuck in park and it was really hard to get it to move to drive, and an intermittently annoying problem became more urgent.

Any one of those things on their own could have been handled individually and not defeated me, but the combination effect was too much, and it was freeing to admit that it was overwhelming. I didn't panic about the money we hemorrhaged out, which in itself is another sign of growth, because I used to worry about money almost all of the time. Now I recognize that we are healthy, and we love each other, and we have a good life together, and money is not as important as all of those things.

We have to take growth where we find it, and also accept our limitations where they exist. We can't do it all, and be everything to everyone, and sometimes as women and moms we must put our hand up, and say, "I need to recharge before I can continue." That's what yesterday was about for me, and I'm glad that in spite of frustration and difficulties, I am slowly learning to take care of myself, and not feel guilty about it.


  1. Like you, I am only starting to admit to myself that I'm not doing okay. Unlike you, I can't usually walk away and get some time for myself, because my husband is really busy and my youngest is a hardcore mommy's girl. However, even just admitting to myself that I am depressed or stress or whatever helps me to re-evaluate the situation and find a way to deal with it more productively.

  2. I had years where it was harder to walk away with babies and toddlers, where you are now, but I promise it gets easier to snatch moments for yourself as they grow. Take what little time and space you can, and be ultra-gentle with yourself, because giving to your children takes a lot from you, but it also gives you something.

    There will be time for all of the writing you want to do when they are a little older. I'm talking to myself here too, because it's easy for ambition to overwhelm us, but being a mom is very rewarding too. Hang in there, KBW. You are doing a LOT right now and stress is a part of that package. You are amazing.