I once had a professor at my very-strict Church of Christ college who said that he thought he existed for the students who hung on the fringes of our school. He was a reformed partier who married his sweetheart after an unexpected pregnancy decades earlier. My professor shared these stories with us because he thought students should know there was no such thing as a perfect professor, parent, Christian, or student. And that making mistakes didn’t mean we wouldn’t be successful or blessed.
I think everyone needs someone like that; that person who is willing to admit and mirror the things one is really thinking, feeling, doing. And so I’ve always mostly let it all hang out. I remember, shortly before leaving Washington, my mom-friends and I got together for a girls’night. These were women who were polished and organized and doted on their children with love and patience. So when I admitted to all of them that there were days during the deployment that I gave Evyn the same thing for every meal, and evenings when I put her to bed early (sometimes without changing her into pajamas) just so I could turn the single-parent switch off a little earlier for the night, and that she sometimes caught me crying with worry for James, I couldn’t have imagined the chorus of “faults” the women would admit about themselves as mothers and the relief they’d feel just having admitted them.
It is in this spirit that I’ll share some less-than-perfect me with you. Some weeks ago, I fell apart at the seams. Ashlyn’s sleep patterns were not falling into step with what I expected. And the more I expected, the more I was disappointed. I spent every evening dreading going to bed, not knowing when A. would wake and how often. And I dreaded getting up for the day wondering if she would nap and for how long. Her sleeping became even more erratic, and I became even more anxious. The lack of control I felt over the situation induced a sort of panic-driven downward spiral over the course of several weeks until I woke up one day almost completely debilitated. My sweet baby wasn’t the problem; I was. I did the only thing I knew to do: I frantically dialed for help from my mom, husband, and friends and sought day therapy for a couple of weeks until I felt well again. I was surprised at how many of my friends would reveal that they were hiding dark struggles of their own.
I like to think of myself as well-spoken, in control, and sometimes even a little charming. But this episode left me helpless and embarrassed and feeling like a failure as a mom. I even felt selfish for having to enlist so much help for those weeks. But I knew better than to let those feelings stand in my way, and here is my point: Ladies, our physical, emotional, and mental well-being are a gift we give our kids. It sounds like a “duh” statement but I’m always surprised at how many women are short-changing themselves, and the variety of ways they do so. So here’s your permission: STOP. And then do whatever it is you have to do to be the best you you can be.
Today I am feeling better, and my kids have a better mommy. There was a time, during that whole mess, that I couldn’t even envision getting through my day, much less doing something inspired or creative like writing, sewing, or taking pictures. But a couple of weeks ago I got out my sewing machine for the first time since. I patched up a sizeable hole in our favorite handmade swaddle sheet - on loan from Evyn, who was taken home from the hospital in it. I didn’t do the best job, and my husband told me it just looks like a fat bird.
I love it anyway.