Have you ever heard the saying, "You can't pour from an empty cup?" I've heard it many times over the years but never experienced a truly empty cup until B was born. Thankfully, my coffee cup overfloweth or there'd really be hell to pay. But my emotional and mental cup felt totally bone dry for a while there.
I'll give those heinous postpartum hormones their fair share of the credit for this one at first. However, I felt as if the minute I was back to my pre-baby level of irrational emotional outbursts, it was time to go back to work. If I was starting to view the cup as half full again, going back to work dumped it right back out. (Side bar: I was starting a brand new, high stress job working with some very emotionally needy students at 8 weeks postpartum. If that's not your idea of fun, well.... you're right.)
I was ( / am) in a strange place. We had partially put off starting a family until I was done grad school. I swapped the MRS for DR and not long after, our dream of becoming parents was well under way. Amazing husband, new job I had worked (really) hard to attain, bouncing baby boy... I should have been over the friggin moon, right? Why the hell wasn't my cup overflowing as much as my boobs were? I have a theory about that...
Most of us learned how to mother from the moms before us but in the same way generations differ in other life choices, our perspectives on motherhood differ on some really fundamental levels. I think that motherhood has been described to us our whole lives as almost 100% sacrifice. I don't know about you but I feel like I've heard different versions of "what I had to do without because I became a mother" over and over again. Playing these stories in my head, when my son was first born I had this overwhelming compulsion to 1) make sure that my husband's life changed as little as possible and 2) try and make him think I was Super Woman and that all of this just came naturally to me. Let me state right here that I only recently admitted this to him so he had no part whatsoever in creating this insane idea in my head and was a very hands-on dad from the start.
In our first weeks as parents, I was completely exhausted yet I ran myself ragged so that my husband would walk in after work to a fairy tale. I'd be working on a home cooked meal with my hair styled and a little make up on, the house would be in order, and our cherub would be cooing away in his rock 'n play. I was only mildly successful at making this fairy tale a reality from time to time and of course, my failure to pull this off filled me with an insane amount of guilt and self-doubt.
The fact that I was killing myself didn't become completely apparent to me until I started my new job. I finally realized that I had to find ways to fill my own cup from time to time so that I would have something to give to my family. This was no easy feat. As any nursing mom will tell you, I had T minus an hour and 59 minutes from the time I snapped my nursing bra back into place to get back to my hungry little chubs. But I had to start making me a priority or none of us were going to be happy. I started asking for and accepting help. My mom was eager to take B on walks around the neighborhood which I would happily accept and take a nap. My husband started taking the baby out for his usual morning routine with the dog giving me a half hour alone each morning. Now that I'm not nursing any more it's a bit easier to take longer chunks of time to myself. I've started to become unapologetic about being a person and a mom. And guess what? No one is knocking down our door asking for my mom card back. In fact, I think.. I know we're all better for it.
This is still a work in progress for our family but I'm trying to remember that somewhere between filling others' sippy cups and coffee mugs, we have to replenish our own emotional cup too.