Lately, reading bits and pieces on the web, I stumbled on this post about when moms need a break — and it struck something for me. Nothing about her thoughts or questions is new or particularly jarring, but it happened to be the EXACT rumblings of conversation my husband and I were having this weekend. Here was my scenario: beautiful Saturday morning. We’d already been out and about and had enjoyed our family music class together, and were still a bit uncertain about the rest of the morning plans. The eldest wanted to run, literally amuck, through our thawing backyard and swingset, and my husband was all set to tackle this. I was not.
They all went out to enjoy the sunshine. I sipped my coffee watching from the window and feeling terribly…. guilty. I should be out there with them. No reason why my husband wasn’t super capable of handling both little ones, but it was time we could be, should be spending together as a family. So instead of enjoying a moment of quiet, I paced for a while, and landed on folding clothing as a way to be productive and assuage a bit of the tugging guilt I was feeling.
Here’s the thing: mothering is an always, all the time job. This is clearly stating the obvious. In previous jobs I’ve had, I’ve always tried my best to give it my all. 100%. Put in all the effort. It works, because there is always a point in which you go home at the end of the day. Yes, I’m sure I’ve spent plenty of energy thinking about, planning for, work — but this is not the same as being on the clock all the time. When my husband goes work he, generally, knows what is expected of him. He knows his job description, he knows the work that he has been entrusted with. There are things that are his to take care of, and there are others that are outside his purview. Mothering is so different — the edges are fuzzy, the lines undefined. My job description is always changing, and I must always be up for the current challenge. Is this why I feel guilty over something as silly as not playing outside with my family? Am I not giving this 100% right in the moment? Is there more I could be doing to make my family, my kids, better (more thoughtful, more compassionate, more interesting…)? Of course the answer is always yes, and no.
Though this particular instance wasn’t exactly helpful in it’s ability to give me a break, it was my own doing. I didn’t let myself have this break. It did, however, give my husband something. It gave him this beautiful half hour of uninterrupted time with both kids, playing and enjoying one another’s company. Often when I’m involved, I’ll take the littlest so that he can romp around with the eldest, but this time he got a chance to be involved with the give and take of playing with them both, and together. I let him have this time — this memory, these smiles — that is so often mine only. And that was something special for him.
I need to remember this. Too often I can selfishly hoard the mothering and by not allowing myself to have the pause that I so badly need, I am not sharing this bounty of blessings. Next time, I’ll pour my coffee and enjoy my quiet. Without guilt.