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It’s one of those universal parenting truths they warn you about ad nauseam: Having a baby will exhaust you. To the bone.
But what they don’t really warn you about — what no one ever really fully prepares you for — is that the exhaustion isn’t solely reserved for the baby stage. Or even the toddler stage. And while you won’t be waking for middle-of-the-night cries or round-the-clock feedings once your kid hits elementary school, the exhaustion never fully leaves you then, either.
At least, not if you’re a mom. Because as writer Christine Organ so eloquently puts it, the reason moms are so damn tired all the time is rooted in something else entirely. It’s rooted in that late-night quest for “me” time — you know, those ever-elusive personal moments everybody keeps going on about, that seem to escape moms between the hours of 5 AM and 9 PM. Because squeezing it in somewhere is better than not squeezing it in at all, amiright?
In her Facebook post July 5, Organ paints a familiar scene:
“The rest of the house is sound asleep. I know I’ll be exhausted as hell tomorrow morning, but damn, if it doesn’t feel good to spend a few minutes in a quiet house. No one is pestering me for snacks or whining about how so-and-so got more time on the Xbox and why didn’t he get a bigger cookie. The phone isn’t ringing. No one is emailing. I’m not late for a baseball game or a conference call or camp pick-up. It’s just me, my coffee mug, and a candle in some seashells (because that’s about as chic as my home decorating skills get).”
So what if all those articles you read seem to be telling you that “me” time looks a whole lot like weekend yoga retreats with the girls, an hour of meditation in a silent house (HA!). Ain’t nobody got time for that.
“So often when we think of self-care, we think of things like yoga, massage, and girls night out, but those aren’t always possible due to financial, time or childcare constraints,” Organ tells Babble. “Sometimes a cup of coffee, a little Amazon shopping and favorite music is enough.”
As Organ notes, every mom knows that real “me” time looks a whole lot like scrolling through your phone at 9:30 PM because the kids are finally in bed and you have like 85 saved articles on Facebook to catch up on.
“Things like yoga and meditation never really worked for me,” Organ tells Babble. “They made me even more stressed because I would wonder ‘why can’t I clear my mind?!’ and ‘am I not doing this right?!’ But scrolling through Facebook or texting a friend late at night helps me feel connected and recharge. Just sitting in my car after I get home from driving my kids around can be really refreshing, too.”
“I know I should go to bed, but the entire day is filled with should’s, isn’t it?” Organ continues in her post. “We should be reading with our kids more. We should be doing more or doing less. We should be practicing piano and playing board games and feeding them more organic fruits and vegetables instead of Uncrustables and Capri Suns. We should be going to the park and turning off our smartphones. We should be working less or working more. We should, we should, we should … Blah. Blah. Blah.”
The real beauty of alone time, says Organ, is in the art of simply “being” — whatever “being” looks like for you.
“Right now no one is bothering us with should,” she writes. “No one is begging for snacks. No one is whining about how utterly unfair it is that we won’t let them act like an acrobat on the roof (true story). No one is asking us for anything. We can just be. And isn’t that why we stay up late at night or get up early in the morning, so that we can JUST BE for a hot minute before the chaos of life with children starts again.”
Organ says she often writes in the late-night hours — in fact, that’s when she managed to pen her first book, Open Boxes.
But just like most moms, she also gets up at the crack of dawn to take advantage of those quiet, kidless hours, too; just so she can exercise or “enjoy a cup of coffee before the chaos starts.” And while she admits that waking up early “sucks,” she also notes that “starting the day on my own terms with a little calmness is outweighs the exhaustion.” So yeah, those 7-8 hours of recommended sleep we should all be getting? NOT happening.
Organ ends her post with one final truth bomb, that pretty much says it all:
“Life is busy. Parenting is messy and loud,” Organ continues. “We have to take our quiet and still moments when we can. Even if ‘quiet’ means playing inappropriate music with lots of swear words and ‘still’ means surfing the web, impulse shopping on Amazon Prime, or scrolling through Facebook. We need moments to just be, whatever that means.
Solidarity, night owls or early birds. Enjoy your moments of just being.”
Right on, mamas. Here’s to staying up late and getting in that much-deserved “me” time. (And hopefully not operating any heavy machinery in the morning.)