I can admit it: I’ve been so self-absorbed with a low self-esteem now for years, really since a couple of months since Rock Steady was born, that I’ve let J take the lead with childrearing because I felt like I was not good enough. That self-absorption led to a self-fulfilling prophecy, as my mental health spiraled out of control. So here I am on disability on the basis of my mental illness.
Now, J is a one of the world’s greatest dads, right up there with my own dad and my father-in-law. He handles way more than one person should have to with grace, on a regular basis, both at work and at home. What I am writing about this morning is not meant to diminish his efforts at all. I want to be a better partner and mother, is all.
It’s time for me to pick myself up by the bootstraps and be a better mother and partner.
I don’t think I’ll ever be the kind of mom that cooks three course meals nightly or keeps a dust-free house. People I know encouraged me to strive for a dust-free home when Be-Bop was a toddler, because of his asthma. For those of you who know what my house is really like, well, I am not a housekeeper. For instance, here’s what my living room looks like right now:
Despite the dust and pets, though, Be-Bop has done rather well with his asthma for the last couple of years, as has Rock Steady with his own breathing issues.
We do have an unusual family routine, though, which helps us all to function a little better as a family in light of my disability. I don’t work and my children go to daycare, with Rock Steady attending all day and Be-Bop attending after school.
Yes, I am at home all day every day and yes, I don’t have a job outside our home. Yes, my children go to daycare. Yes, it may seem odd. But I’ll tell you why we handle our childcare this way.
My children need social time. There is an argument that play dates and play groups can provide that social time, but we found that when we scheduled them, play dates generally happened twice a week at most. While that’s a routine, it was not often enough for my children. For Rock Steady, who is 3, he is learning social rules. His teacher says that it’s wonderful to sit and listen to his class as they talk to each other; they have conversations like “little adults,” she says. Be-Bop, who is 5 and in kindergarten, gets to ride home on the school bus with a driver he’s known practically all of his life, as the daycare owner also drives his bus. Then, he gets to play with his friends until it is time to go home. We don’t have a good yard for playing outside, so it’s doubly important as it gets warmer weather outside for both boys to get their outside, unstructured play time.
And then there’s the setting of our particular daycare. We are very, very lucky. The folks who run our daycare center treat our children as if they are family, and show concern for us as if we are family. I wish that for every child out there, that they have adults outside their families who care for them as our children are fortunate enough to have in these adults. What’s even better is that our daycare is a mile from our house and we cannot go anywhere without passing it. God was looking out for us when we found these wonderful people who have not only taken care of our children for four years; they’ve become our friends. They genuinely care about us as a family.
And, here’s the point I was getting at related to motherhood: I am a better mother when I do not spend all day with my children. That may sound incredibly selfish to some, but I do not feel guilty in the least about it. I have more energy to spend the quality time they deserve with them when they have had the proper care they need and when I have had the space to do the self-care kinds of things I need to do. There are also days when I simply can’t handle the children because of my depression.
This situation is fun, actually, for everyone in the family. My children are so smart. Both of them have learned things in preschool that I would never have thought to teach them had they been at home with me. Rock Steady ,in particular, is so outgoing that his social development would be greatly stifled if he only had me for company during the day. His behavior is better, too, when he has the model of other children in front of him to see how he should behave.
This post is not an argument that all children should attend daycare or that all parents would be better parents if they had their days to do with as they wish. I am simply acknowledging more of my limitations in public. My disability gives me some limitations and one of those limitations is my ability to care for my children all day, every day.
Anyway, back to the “better mother” part. Recently, as I’ve been depressed, I’ve done things for which there’s just no excuse. I’ve managed to let Rock Steady stay in his pj’s until 10 am, only to call J at work and ask him to come take Rock Steady to his “school,” as he calls the daycare. I owe both J and Rock Steady better than stunts like that.
In the spirit of becoming more healthy, being a better mother to Be-Bop and Rock Steady, and being a better partner to J, here’s what I pledge to strive to do in the next month. It will take baby steps, but I will:
- Get up at a regular time
- Do yoga at least three times a week
- Help get breakfast for the kids, as J has been handling all morning routine before Be-Bop gets on the school bus
- Tag-team with J, helping Be-Bop with his homework, instead of letting J handle it all
- Get back to a “family night” on Friday nights. We used to play games or watch a movie together, and I miss that routine.
That’s a start. Hopefully, more healthful functioning will follow, but I have to start with small triumphs in this journey to more successful motherhood and better healthful living.