It was a series of empowering decisions that led me to allow 4 strange women into my home.
It wasn’t easy.
I struggled for a long time with feelings of guilt and unworthiness.
I felt like my needs were insignificant. Unreasonable even.
But slowly, I came around. I started to realize how legitimate my needs and wants were. As I began to speak them aloud, I became aware of the burden of just having them, and I shoved them deep down to a place just as insignificant as I thought they deserved. I discovered that there is actually no place in your mind or heart that is insignificant at all. It’s all extremely important, and interconnected, and delicately interwoven. The body is a well oiled machine that needs every single tiny screw, bolt, or spring. There is no room to shove or hide anything. That’s not how the machine works. It was well designed. Extremely efficient. Every part and piece intentional and purposeful.
Anyways… back to the four women and why I let them in my home:
1. Once I had babies, I realized taking care of something’s every need, 24/7, was not fun and magical at all for me. I found it exhausting and draining to my introverted self. It’s hard. Relentless. Yes, joyful, but still the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do. I realized I wasn’t designed to do it alone. I got to a point where I knew the mommy guilt was no longer working for me. I got to that yucky, desperate place where the need for change is so overwhelming, I couldn’t function without it happening. My mind would be totally lost and shut down if it didn’t get it’s quiet time to rest and process in it’s own slow, quiet way. So, I finally spoke up. I realized how significant my feelings and needs were. And here’s what happened:
A) We moved closer to family.
B) Twice a week I hired a babysitter, then eventually put the kids in a day school to socialize and catch colds, and not feel pressured to do play dates (I have a very extroverted toddler).
C) I enjoy weekends without them and even short vacations. I struggled with a lot of guilt at first, but realized this is what I, Emily, needed… to be a good mom. I am my own idea of what a mom is, and I get to choose what that looks like.
2. For years, I struggled with fear and anxiety every time my husband left on a work trip. After we had kids it got worse, since now (should disaster strike) I was not only responsible for myself, but for two little humans, too. On occasion, I’d sleep with a knife under my pillow and my car keys next to my head. Other than asking him not to go (which wasn’t always possible – gotta get that $$$ ya’ll!) I didn’t think my feelings were a big enough deal to do anything about. But then, I began to get anxiety and panic attacks when I traveled, which I had never had before. I was frustrated. I got to that desperate point again. Clearly, it was time. I finally spoke up, and:
A) We got a security alarm system.
B) I enlisted a therapist to help address and figure out my anxiety with some good ol’ CBT techniques and support.
3. With two toddlers, even in day school a couple times a week, I still felt like I didn’t have any time to myself. I chose to be a stay at home mom, and be responsible for all affairs of the household, and children (and sometimes the husband). It is no easy task for one person to manage, especially when you have a ton of square footage of old house, half of which is your husband’s studio where guests, friends, and clients visit often, and interns work every day. So, finally, I spoke up, and:
A) I let go of the need for perfection, and really, my idea of what a Mom is, what a Mom “should be,” or what a Mom does. The image of a Mom’s role somehow got stuck in my head, and it was totally wrong for me. (*I like to blame society and social media for this, while simultaneously thanking them that the role of Moms from the 40s and 50s are no longer around). I am not solely a Mom. I am way more than that. I started creating my own ideas of who I am and what my life looks like that works best for me and my family.
B) I hired a cleaning service.
So yes, four strange women are in my home right now, cleaning. I feel vulnerable, judged, and uncomfortable. But more importantly, I feel relieved. Like a heavy burden that I’ve been carrying around has just disappeared. And fortuneately, I know that those feelings of vulnerability, judgement, and uncomfortableness will pass. They always do over time, and I know this for sure, because:
Every time I speak up, it gets easier. I feel lighter. And stronger. Empowered. And I reach that exhilarating point where I can take care of myself and my needs, take care of my family’s needs, and still have something left to give to others.