November 22, 2012

Mummy Martyr.

Photo: Alan Cleaver

Lately I’ve been getting this panicky feeling, like I’m running out of time.

Not in an existential sense; something far less philosophical. I simply feel like there are too few hours in the day to get everything done.

Recently, this anxiety has reached a new level. A pervasive sense of urgency has taken up residence in my bones, my muscles, the nooks and crannies of my mind. I’m grinding my teeth and my shoulders are sitting a few centimeters higher than they should. My heart feels full in my chest—not in that lovey-dovey way it feels when I look at my son or husband—it’s a sense of fullness that is threatening and unpleasant.

What is making me feel this way? What on this earth could be so important? That’s the scariest part: it’s just a simple ‘to do’ list. Nothing fancy, nothing life-threatening, nothing earth-shattering. Do the groceries. Make dinner. Feed baby. Socialize.

Every day while my baby naps, I frantically work my way through a list of chores, my mind racing towards the next task before I’ve even skimmed the surface of the first.

This ‘busyness’ is kind of addictive though. I’m not going to lie, there’s an odd sense of pride I feel when I think about all that I’ve managed to squeeze into a day. Laundry, cooking, cleaning—all before 9 a.m.! What an achievement! Never mind the fact that this domestic ‘success’ is causing premature aging or that it comes at the cost of any sense of peace I’ve conjured up in the past. The fact is, I feel exhausted, frazzled and at the mercy of a pesky list.

The really ridiculous part is that I feel this way even once I’ve worked my way through the list (or all the big-ticket items, anyway). Leisure time? Sit with a cup of tea and read a book? Yes. Yes.

Oh dear, why is my heart thumping that way? Surely there’s something else I should be doing?

Am I becoming a mummy-martyr?

This time-worn, clock-watching woman is not who I am, or at least not who I want to be. How far have I strayed from the “do one thing at a time, be mindful, take time to smell the roses, appreciate the moment” mantra that I preach? Too far.

So, here I am, stopping and reassessing. What do I want? To feel stuck in this never-ending circle of ‘must-do’ pressure? To continue being a martyr? Or, to find focus, contentment and even a little guilt-free leisure time?

Definitely the latter. Not to mention the fact that I want to impart a sense of presence and mindfulness to my son. I’m quickly discovering just how much babies learn by example, so it’s time I set one.

All very well and good, but now what? Let’s face it; that ‘to do’ list isn’t going anywhere.

Realistically, the washing needs to be done, dinner needs to be cooked, groceries need to be purchased. Now, though, I’m going to approach these tasks mindfully, with a sense of pleasure for the small things. While I fold the laundry, I’ll take time to appreciate the softness of my baby’s little clothes, pausing to acknowledge just how fleeting each moment is. As I scrub the dishes, I’ll be grateful for the food I was able to lovingly prepare for my family. Picking up the toys, shoes, papers and other bits and pieces that are scattered throughout the house, I’ll feel thankful for the home I love and the people who share it with me.

I’ll also try to keep some perspective. Yes, the washing basket is full. Chances are, though, it will still be there in half an hour, after I’ve finished my book.

This is my plan. I’m a realist though—there will be times when I inevitably find myself in a place of anxiety and tension. I might even start to feel a little thrill at the prospect of juggling five domestic tasks at once. I might slip my shoes into those tempting mummy-martyr sneakers. Hopefully, though, I’ll pause before I do up the laces. Instead, I’ll put on my slippers, make a cup of tea, turn off the phone, sit and just breathe. I’ll be kind to myself.

Sometimes that’s the best thing anyone can do.


Ed: Brianna B.

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