During the few days at the Type-A Parent conference one of the things that surprised me was the depth of love for Just.Be.Enough. from so many different women across the social media space. The thing they loved the most is how we highlight the voices of many on Fridays, trying to feature perspectives, life stories, and reminders about how different the journey to being enough is for each of us. Today, we are thrilled to have Christie O. Tate share her story. Christie blogs at www.outlawmama.com from her home base in Chicago, where she is a recovering lawyer and mother of two children, ages 2 and 1. She’s found that since becoming willing to just be enough, she has more free time, serenity and laughter. Now, if someone would just do her laundry, she’ll be all set.
5:30 AM: The alarm (my 16-month old son Simon) sounds, and Jeff and I stumble about trying to get him situated so he doesn’t wake up his sister.
5:45 AM: We hear the thundering steps of my daughter Sadie (2.5), who starts her day by changing her clothes about 5 times before emerging from her room with a pull-up diaper that weighs about 17 lbs. (in urine).
Jeff and I trade off children, and duties, and keep everyone alive and relatively clean until we part for our respective workdays. Mine will be spent mostly with the kids—going to the park, having a play date, making lunches, cleaning the same lunches off the floor, and snatching ME moments here and there in the powder room.
For his part, Jeff will work furiously in his home office from 8 AM until he can break away to hang out with us around dinner time. From there, dinner is served, baths are drawn, stories are read, and lipstick is pried out of Sadie’s hand for the night.
These days, the bedtime routine is taking longer. Sadie insists on more help to get to sleep. So one of us, usually Jeff, stays in her room until she settles– usually around 9:15 or 9:30 PM. And guess what—the parent who puts Sadie to bed, usually Jeff because I am nursing Simon down the hall, typically falls asleep in her room on the floor.
Invariably, I find myself sitting in my empty master bedroom with only about 20 minutes of consciousness left. These precious 20 minutes are supposed to be adult time for us—not just for that, but for talking, being a couple and talking about anything besides our offspring. These days, however, it’s not unusual to have 5 nights pass in a row with one of us spending half the night on Sadie’s floor.
Sometimes, when Jeff is zonked out on Sadie’s floor, I love the dark quiet of my empty bedroom, where I can read or write or eat my pudding alone. But it’s hard not to wonder about the toll it takes on my marriage to have our adult time eroded so thoroughly. I have not completed Dr. Phil’s on-line psychology course, but I am pretty sure our arrangement isn’t ideal.
Last night, I polled my friends with small kids (via email) about how they carve out adult time. And I made it clear that I was referring to adult time that is supposed to be in private, George Michael’s habits notwithstanding. Five of my friends responded with the exact same suggestion: get a babysitter to watch the kids while Jeff and I enjoy rumpling the marital bed. (One friend just emailed back a picture of Ryan Gosling and said, “get busy.”)
I perseverated about the idea of getting a babysitter so we could do that. It’s hard enough for me to sneak off for a pedicure. I tried to be open minded.
Then, this morning, I checked my voicemail, and my friend Caroline left a message at 5:55 AM (she has small children, too) this morning offering her two cents on the matter. Her message to me: “You need to give yourself a break. You parent all day long. You stay off your iPhone and show up at the park and play Duck-Duck-Goose with your kids. If you haven’t figure out how to have intimacy in your marriage it’s ok. I just don’t want you keeping yourself up all night convincing yourself you are doing this wrong.”
Now, I love the “hire a babysitter for sexy time” idea a lot. But, letting myself off the hook for not living up to an invisible standard as a wife and sexual partner, that’s an idea to fall madly in love with. More importantly, I need that idea. I need it to be ok that Jeff and I sometimes pass each other in the hallway going to and from the kids’ rooms doing emotional triage work. I need it to be ok that I am not also ready to star in a soft-porn flick after a full day of mothering and managing the household. (Thanks a lot for the additional pressure, Fifty Shades of Grey.) The pressure is not from Jeff—he’s just as tired and beat down by the relentlessness of parenting as I am. The pressure is inside of me—it’s that little voice that tells me I have to be the valedictorian of marriage, motherhood, writing, teaching, and friendship. That voice tells me I am doing it wrong and need to try harder.
But, now I have a voicemail from Caroline that says, “Just give yourself a break.” And next time I am alone in my bedroom feeling twitchy and ashamed for not suiting up with whips and fancy lingerie, I am going to play her message to me and go to sleep.