This afternoon, I lifted weights. While my toddler crawled all over me, making adorably cute “wee-oooh wee-ooh” noises as he drove his toy ambulance across my struggling-to-complete-a-thirty-second-plank torso. Then, I followed up my workout with a brownie.
Now, that’s what I call balance.
My jiggly mommy tummy, which looks strikingly similar to raised pizza dough, hasn’t seen the inside of a gym since I started working full time again. The concept of “me time” no longer exists, as the only time I’m not in my office is spent soaking up every second with my little boy. Romance has been reduced to Netflix and chill, which is actually trying to watch “Making a Murderer” while laying on the couch. In between putting the baby down for his nap, I’m serving my little hobbit second breakfast and elevenses and lunch or rolling around on the floor like a tiny pony while a teensy cowboy attempts to climb onto your back by way of your hair. I haven’t had a girls night in months, and the only things I seem to remember talking about are work or diaper rash-related so I’m pretty sure I know exactly why I’m not getting as many invites these days.
I’m starting to feel like I’ve been lied to.
Where is this elusive “balance?” How do I find it? Quite frankly, I’m starting to think it lives with the Tooth Fairy and Sasquatch in a land of make believe – something that tired mamas can only dream about, along with full nights of sleep and cups of coffee that are finished while still warm.
We mamas know how to dream big.
Last weekend I took myself on a “date.” I went to Costco, by way of Starbucks. I shopped for bulk organic, cage-free eggs and industrial-sized quantities of toilet paper while sipping a macchiato. The whole situation felt pretty decadent. Thirty minutes alone. Sneaking my “me time” in the form of solo errands, or else forfeiting that time completely. Drinking hot coffee. Not being touched. The one time of the week I get to myself, and it’s spent doing household chores.
Maybe that’s balance?
As mamas, we spend our entire day caring for our families. Whether we’re at home, alone with our child, trying desperately to soothe that screaming baby to sleep, feeling isolated and alone … or we’re at work, hustlin’ to pay the bills and fretting over the baby we have entrusted in someone else’s care, desperate for the one thing we lack – time. We’re all thinking about number one. And maybe numbers two and three. None of whom is us. We parent long into the night, in those dark hours that are spent rocking restless children and praying for just a couple hours of shut eye, only to get up in the morning and start the day over again. Feed the kids, clean up after the kids, somehow manage to get everyone out the door on time, realize we forgot to brush our own teeth, say a silent prayer of thanks for the toothbrush we keep in our desks for just such an occasion, drop everyone off at daycare or school, get to work on time, rock out our jobs just as good (or better) than our childless counterparts, rush to get all of our tasks completed in time to make it to pick up before being charged the extra late fees, run through the grocery store for the eggs we forgot on our last shopping trip, make it home to unpack backpacks, cook dinner, prepare lunches for the next day, serve dinner, clean up from dinner, then play for a short time before baths and bed. Then, somehow try to fit in the other chores that need to be done, check some work emails or do a little project prep, have a little romance with the significant other, and squeeze in a short snooze before the first wake up of the night.
Let’s add to this the fact that the single girls at lunch say things like “I can’t even take care of myself, I don’t know how you do it.” And then there’s that call from your mother that you picked up while your child was screaming for a snack which included the phrase “just wait until there’s more of them.” Most days, I forget some major self-care – like putting on deodorant or feeding myself breakfast. So, I’m certainly not concerning myself with what book I’d like to read for pleasure or which movie I’d like to see in theaters (Is the new Jurassic Park still in theaters? I’ve been dying to see it on the big screen.).
I’ve written before about how parenting is easier than everyone said it would be. I stick by that premise, while pointing out that “easier” is not the same as “easy.” I find it effortless to love my tiny human with an indescribable fierceness. I find it easy to do what I need to do for him, even if that means averaging 90 minutes of sleep a night during the week he cuts his first molars. I do it without a second thought or regret or complaint. But going to work on 90 minutes of sleep? Planning date night? Trying to adult is the hard part! This is what leads to things like eating Cocoa Puffs for dinner or wearing dirty pants because you forgot to do laundry. Growing your bangs out because you regularly forget to wash your hair. Turning the dishes into a date night activity because otherwise, neither date night nor the dishes will get done.
The hard part is seeking balance, when balance doesn’t exist.
Not permanently, anyway.