I feel like I’ve been holding my breath for five years. Unable to fully inhale or exhale. Scared that if I do I might explode.
I’m not sure when I reached my breaking point, but it happened for a long list of reasons. I’m a stay-at-home mom to two kids under five, I have a husband who travels for work and is gone all the time, and I don’t have any family close by. I had a baby during COVID-19 and that was a whirlwind. (To be honest, I think I’m still recovering from that one.) We sold our house, moved into an apartment for what was supposed to be six to eight months that turned into 21 months, and built a house (without killing anyone, surprisingly) in the process.
I’ve been treading water just to stay alive instead of swimming.
And that takes its toll. It’s hard to be “ON” all day every day for days at a time, much less years. I’ve been the primary parent, carried the mental load of my family, and hardly had any breaks for five years. And I reached a point where I couldn’t do it anymore.
I needed air.
Y’all, I love my kids, I love my husband, and I’m proud of the life we’ve built. I’m not complaining about circumstances or whining about life. I’m trying to paint a picture of the reality that so many stay-at-home moms face. I was depressed.
I thought that being a stay-at-home mom was going to be easy and breezy. I thought I was going to make my kids three square meals a day, teach them their ABCs, be the first one in the preschool pick-up line, sign up for arts and crafts, and meet my husband at the door with a hug and a kiss every day when he came home from work.
EL. OH. EL.
None of that happened. Well, maybe occasionally some of those things happened, but it wasn’t real life. The mother picture I painted for myself wasn’t me.
And it took me five years (plus some therapy) to realize that.
I was drowning in my day-to-day management of my kids and family. I didn’t have a thought that didn’t revolve around my kids and my husband. I felt like I was doing all I could for all of them, but I was bitter, resentful, angry, sad, and honestly, just worn out.
I didn’t get out of the house much. My kids were with me all. the. time. I couldn’t breathe because I didn’t have space to.
I wanted to enjoy being a mom, not resent it. I wanted to look forward to my husband coming home, not looking at it as my time to run out the door since he was finally home to “watch the kids.” I wanted to matter, too.
Five years ago I would’ve called myself selfish. But now that I’ve lived it, I know better.
It took a huge mental shift for me to get to where I am now, and a large part of it (outside of therapy and Lexapro — thank you science!) was going back to work part-time.
I recognize that I’m lucky to work in social media and work from home. I have great bosses that know I’m a mom first and allow me that needed flexibility (as I am still parenting solo most of the time). But with working, came a bit of freedom. Freedom for my mind. That was the freedom I needed.
I needed something to get my gears turning. I needed something to allow me to be creative. I needed something to give me something to look forward to. Y’all, I just needed to talk to other people over the age of five.
Going back to work saved my sanity.
I mean it. I thought I was going crazy. I couldn’t keep my thoughts straight, I was exhausted all the time, and my anxiety was at an all-time high before I went back to work.
Now that I am able to turn my “mom/wife brain” off for a few hours a day and turn my “work brain” on, I feel like myself again. It’s been a very strange shift in my life to put my wants and needs first occasionally. And now that I’ve done it, I’ve seen the effects cascade through my family. Surprisingly, all good things.
I’m able to feel like more than just “Mom” or “Wife.” I’m able to enjoy time with my kids instead of staring at the clock and waiting for bedtime. I’m able to feel excitement when my husband comes home from work or a trip instead of being jealous and resentful. Just a few hours a day that I have dedicated to myself, in the form of a job, has helped me be a better version, a much happier version, of myself.
Mamas, if you’re feeling run-down, exhausted, overstimulated, and/or depressed, please reach out to someone you love and trust. Then, I don’t want you to find the time for yourself, I want you to CREATE the time for yourself. What you need to do in order to put yourself first for a bit is going to be different than mine, your sister’s, your neighbor’s, and probably everyone else’s you know, but do it.