After a grueling twin pregnancy, newborn life with multiples, simultaneously raising a teenager, and supporting a husband in the throws of a new entrepreneurial endeavor, it’s easy to say that I’ve completely lost myself. This isn’t a unique situation.
It seems to me that every mother I know has allowed years (sometimes decades) to pass without feeling that she’s “allowed to” take a break from her family life and daily responsibilities. A break to spend some real time alone or seek a new adventure. She may treat herself to an occasional pedicure or a weekly yoga session, but the notion of taking a trip away from her family just seems, well, incredibly self-indulgent and unjustified. We simply don’t think we deserve it.
I just returned from a four-day trip in Aspen without my husband or children and I have to say, hell YES did I deserve it. It was hands down the best thing I have done for myself in a very long time.
OH HELLO, YOU!
As I have made attempts to regain my sense of self post-pregnancy, I’ve been shocked to find how difficult it’s been to go back to the things in life that once filled my cup. My once toned and bronzed yoga body is now completely incapable of downward dogging, thanks to a very difficult bout of diastasis recti. Drinking a bottle of wine with girlfriends and belly laughing late into the night lost its luster the first time I suffered through a hangover with babies screaming at 7am. Even finding the time and space to work, create, and write has become a game of constantly starting and stopping—always interrupted by that crazy mental load everyone talks so much about. But the weight of that load is real, and there are so many needs to meet every day that life becomes a series of tradeoffs.
Moms put themselves last every day. We begin to forgo long walks with the kids because they cry in the stroller. We put off showering so we can clean bottles and straighten up the house during naptime. We fill out school forms and help with homework instead of eating dinner. Simply put, we put them first.
Choosing yourself requires a willingness to forgo being supermom all the time and sometimes letting the chips fall where they may—even when that means letting your husband and children survive without you for a few days.
So what did I do with four days of unadulterated time to myself?
For starters I had space to think. I often find myself in such a continuous state of brain fog since giving birth that my cognitive functioning has all but disappeared. My keys end up in the refrigerator; I flake on appointments and plans; and I don’t always follow up on what I commit to do. I despise what a scatterbrain I have become, and it’s honestly been my biggest personal struggle since becoming a mom to three.
The minute the plane took off to Colorado and I was jamming out to my favorite tunes—it was as if the cloud that had been looming over my thoughts lifted and I could actually think. I could organize my thoughts in a way that my world felt so much less overwhelming, and I found clarity of mind. That clarity and intentionality is such a gift, and finding that space again was an enormous breakthrough for me.
THE REAR VIEW MIRROR
It was there I found perspective. I spent most of the plane ride organizing all of the photos I had taken of my family since my twins were born. And for one of the very first times since I had given birth, I could see from a birds-eye view the magic and beauty of the moments we created, which were sometimes so stressful and focused on surviving that I had missed them.
They say distance makes the heart grow fonder, and I do think a little time and space brings a great deal of appreciation and love for your spouse as well. I think travel and exploring new places provides prospective that you simply can’t find when you’re in the middle of your every day.
ALL JOY AND NO FUN
I also remembered I was fun. Let’s be honest, most of my days I am so focused on orchestrating our life and task mastering everything that needs to be done that I often forget to laugh. Responsibility is just serious, and I think people need some element of freedom to find fun.
While in Colorado, I got to visit my cousin in her college apartment with her string lights hanging from the ceiling, sink full of dirty dishes, and friends laughing at two in the afternoon while still in pajamas. And it really made me think.
We seem to prioritize connection when in our youth, and somehow we grow to become more and more disconnected as our responsibility’s mount with age. In my experience, traveling allows you to remember who you were before there was so much on your shoulders and what you like to do when there are no alarm clocks, or feeding schedules, or other peoples emotions to take into account. It takes you out of your comfort zone, and when you are uncomfortable you are more likely to put yourself out there to connect with others in a more meaningful way.
PEACE BE WITH YOU
While in Aspen, I found peace. I watched Netflix in bed while eating an entire pizza one afternoon. I took a nap in the middle of the day for the hell of it. I savored a five-course meal while sipping a glass of rosé among adults. I turned off everything I had been constantly stressing over and allowed myself to take in my surroundings and the incredible healing power of nature.
With so much negative news, the never-ending Facebook wars, and bad shit constantly bombarding us through the media, it’s so hard as a parent to turn off the incessant worry. Sometimes I feel like all the stories of SIDS deaths and terrorist attacks leaves me emotionally exhausted. I’m sad to admit that I have wasted way too much energy on fear since having two new little ones, but somehow as I sat atop a mountain rage with the sun pouring down on my skin surrounded by nothing but land as far as my eye could see, I felt the purity of life and the simplicity of joy. In that moment I remembered how to manifest peace and to be present in the here and now and to not let fear rob that from you.
A BEAUTIFUL MESS
So what happened when I returned to Missouri? I would love to say that my reentry back into home life was as smooth and magical as my time away and that we all reunited in storybook fashion.
The truth is I came home to diaper rashes, a husband who looked like he’d been hit by a car, unfinished school reports, and babies who clung to me for dear life like I had abandoned them forever. It would have been very easy for me to feel guilty and beat myself up for what my trip cost my family. But the truth is everyone survived.
The zoo that is my life had not changed one bit. But I was different. For the first time in so very long, I felt like myself and I remembered me. I could think, I had perspective, I laughed, and I was at peace. And as the chaos of my life resumed without skipping a beat, I could see in a way that I hadn’t seen before what a beautiful mess this is. And how blessed I am that it’s all mine.