Recently I was going through my pajama drawer and found a pair of tiny women’s boxer shorts – the kind 18-year-olds buy from American Eagle – that I haven’t put on my body in years. I’ve lost a little weight so I thought I would try them on, and amazingly they fit! I think you’re probably all familiar with the dance that ensues when something actually FITS. I was so excited.
I strutted into the living room and waited for my husband to look up. He didn’t. I cleared my throat. He glanced, and then wordlessly went back to what he was doing. Not one to be ignored, I spoke up.
Me: “HEY MAN. Look at my shorts.”
Me: “I haven’t been able to wear these in years!”
Husband: (still silent)
Me: “I can’t believe you aren’t saying anything! Hello … ”
Husband: “OH! I thought those were my boxers.”
He is 6’3 and has a good 50+ pounds on me. I was so annoyed that he thought the boxers were his, I asked him to try them on just so he could see how ridiculous that was. And now the poor man is never going to hear the end of it.
I am very lucky to be married to a great guy. He would do anything to make me happy, truly. We love each other and we have a great life, but recently I realized we were in some kind of rut. After thinking about it for awhile, I determined that we were taking each other for granted. I felt like he saw right through me (and to be fair, I was seeing right past him, too) but I also realized it was probably because I never had anything interesting or new to say AND we are both beyond exhausted.
Caring for our small children brings me so much happiness, and my husband loves hearing about my day, but I don’t want to talk about my kids all the time. I’m sorry, but that’s boring. Occasionally I hear myself talking about how many poop diapers I changed in a 12-hour period and I realize that I AM ACTUALLY BORING MYSELF RIGHT NOW. But do I stop talking? Nope. So, while I knew I couldn’t do much to make our life less tiring, surely something could be done to make my part of it more interesting.
Now here is where I make sure that you understand where I’m coming from, lest you think I am unappreciative of my life situation, or that my husband is a terrible person. Neither of those things are true. I’m just being real. My kids are amazing. I am thankful to be home with them full-time, but with that comes a unique type of exhaustion that I can’t really explain. If you’ve been there, you know what I mean. It truly feels like their cries are melting my brain, which is exasperating because I have an education and I have original thoughts. But for some reason, when I encounter another adult, my melted brain doesn’t allow me to conversate intelligently.
I had someone tell me once, when I was still working outside of the home, “stay-at-home moms are … well … they’re kind of dumb.” And I guess the look of horror on my face (because I was secretly aspiring to become one) led her to say, “Have you ever been stuck with one at a party?! Oh my GAWD. They’re dumb as door nails. Just trust me.”
I thought that was an awful thing to say. And now nearly 4 years later, I WAS THAT DUMB PERSON. For the first time since I became a stay-at-home mom, I truly felt like I could put myself to sleep with my own company. And so, I sought the advice of a mom of 4 who has an MBA and used to hold a very prestigious position in the work force before she quit to take care of her babies.
It is INVALUABLE to be able to talk to other moms who are more experienced than you, and get their advice or encouragement. It’s absolutely more helpful than any self-help book out there, and I know this because I have a shelf full of them. I am lucky to be a part of a network of moms who are at a similar place in their motherhood journey and while it is awesome to have people to talk to who GET IT, it’s also a bit like the blind leading the blind. So, I really needed this woman’s help.
She called the place we are in a “valley,” which will end eventually, but until that happens I need to fill it up so I don’t lose my ever-loving mind. She encouraged me to create a life for myself, outside of caring for the kids and my husband. It’s not easy to make that happen, especially when time and money are in short supply, but I knew she was right. As mothers we live a life of service, and it’s a blessing, it really is. But the world we live in is isolating, and not many of us live on the same street as our moms, sisters, and aunts. While being a mom fills my soul, I know that it does not complete me as a person. It is only one part of who I am; a big part, yes, but not the whole.
And it is okay to admit that.
I encourage us all to support each other in our journey through this muddled mess called motherhood. I honestly wish more women who have made it through the valley of raising tiny children could or would take the time to shepherd the rest of us through it. Times are different now; mothering through a valley is a daunting task and most women do not have the support they need. Not enough people are okay with embracing simplicity. Not enough people are honest.
So back to her advice for me to get a life, I looked around my house that I work so hard to keep in order. I looked at my children with clean faces. I looked at the stacks of folded laundry. And then I decided it’s time for me to get a life outside of these walls, let the dust bunnies breed and the ketchupy fingerprints stay on the wall. Life is short, and there is a time to devote all of yourself to your children and a time to devote some of your energy to your other interests before you disappear into a black hole of boring nothingness … which is where I was headed.
I can’t give you an ending to this story yet, because after I announced to my husband I was about to “GET A LIFE TO FILL THE VALLEY!” (which was answered with one of his silent stares), I set about throwing a lot of balls into the air. I figure even if they rain down on me, I’ll still have something new to talk about. Which I’m sure you’ll appreciate, should we ever stand next to each other at a party.
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