Every morning I I make myself a cup of tea, it’s become something of a little ritual to give myself energy to begin the day. It’s both a treat (because I take it with both half and half and sugar) and a stimulant. I love tea. Hot tea or iced. Most of the day, you’ll see me drinking water or some form of tea. It wasn’t always this way.
Growing up in the South I was accustomed to drinking iced tea. With the consistently warm weather down there, hot beverages weren’t high on my list of things to drink any time of day. That changed when I attended a charity auction and participated in the silent auction. They had some perfume I really liked, that was part of a larger gift bag. I didn’t really care what else was in the bag, I just wanted the perfume. I ended up winning the gift bag and when I opened it up when I got home and rifled through the contents, I found a gift certificate that included Tea-for-Two at a local tearoom. Mother’s Day was coming up in a few weeks, so I thought I would take my mom to the tearoom to celebrate.
I honestly thought high tea and tearooms were for ladies who lunch or people who had nothing better to do with their afternoons. I thought going to the tearoom was going to be a bit of a drag but I couldn’t have been more wrong. You get to dress up, sit with people you love and have good conversation, all while people serve you delicious food and endless cups of tea—what a treat! I had no idea a place like that could make me feel taken care of, pampered and reenergized.
Thus began my enduring love affair with the beverage. Now I try to go to tearooms as often as I can (though it’s never often enough) and I host tea parties for my girlfriends regularly where we chat for hours about work, our families and lives. I try to recreate a bit of that tearoom feeling, the joy I feel and the energy I get from going, each morning with my cup of tea. It’s a great reminder for me that I need to incorporate these types of rituals into my every day, if for no other reason than to reinforce to myself that I’m worth it. I’m a better Mom for it and better partner for it.
What rituals do you incorporate to take care of yourself on a daily basis?
When my oldest son was a few weeks old I remember feeling very alone, which was confusing for me at the time. After all, my husband was present and active with our son, and I had friends and family surrounding me. I was doing my best to get some time to myself—going to Target, grabbing a drink at Starbucks or taking a walk around the lake—but it didn’t make the feeling go away. The permanence of becoming a parent was setting in and I felt incredibly lonely.
It made me question why I was feeling this way during what I had always envisioned as a happy time. What was making me feel lonely? Was it that I didn’t have confidence in my parenting skills? Was it that I was actually suffering from post-partum depression? Was it that I was scared? Or a combination of all of the above as well as other things I hadn’t identified yet?
Whenever I speak to parenting groups about this I see a lot of nodding heads in the crowd. People may not talk much about the loneliness, but I believe plenty of new parents experience it. Whether one is parenting as part of a couple or on their own, there’s an uncomfortable newness to becoming a parent and an overwhelming sense of responsibility. The nature of the support you need changes. I, for instance, needed someone to tell me everything was going to be okay, that I was going to figure things out, and that I was going to feel more confident in my parenting capabilities in time. In short, I needed much more reassurance on the day-to-day than I did before my son was born.
I’m six years into my parenting journey now and my husband and I have two sons. When things are going well, I feel great. When things get hard—as they do between managing work, raising the kids and my relationships—that lonely feeling can creep back in. Over the years I’ve learned to seek out the support I need, anywhere and everywhere I can get it. Most helpful during trying times are those relationships I’ve formed with other parents who are in the midst of struggling with similar challenges. Sometimes a simple acknowledgement that my struggle is real and that someone cares is all it takes to make that loneliness disappear–it reminds me that I’m not parenting alone.
Spring in the Northwest is something special. The brilliant colors from blooms and blossoms are everywhere and everything else is lush and green. When the sun comes out for more than a few days in a row and the temperatures start to get into the 60s, you just can’t help but hope with all of your heart that it’s here to stay, that we won’t return to 50 degrees and raining again before summer arrives.
As a parent, I’ve noticed that I’ve become much more aware of the power of hope than I was before I had children. Now, hope seems central to my life: hope for my children, who they will become and my role in this. Hope for my husband and myself that we will do right by our children, right by ourselves and right by our relationship. Hope that I’ll continue to connect with other parents, learn from them and share what I’ve learned. Hope that I’ll continue to enjoy this journey I am on as much as I am enjoying it now.
And while all of this hoping keeps me optimistic about the future, I have to remind myself that many things are out of my control. I can’t control everything that happens to my children 24 hours a day—they go to school and daycare, and I work so it isn’t possible to be with them every minute. But I can control whose care I put them in when I can’t be there. Similarly I can’t control who my children will become as adults but I can teach, guide, protect, support and encourage them while they are under my husband’s and my care. I can’t control other people’s actions (as much as I wish I could sometimes), I can only control my own. And I certainly can’t control the weather, despite how much I want it to be warm and sunny.
Almost every year my hopes are dashed as soon as I convince myself that this spring might be different—full of sun and warm temperatures. Inevitably the sun goes back behind the clouds, the rain begins and the weather cools. I know that despite my hopes, the reality is that spring in the Northwest is a mixture of all these things: sun, overcast skies, rain and weather that is cooler than I’d like, but also beautiful flowers and blooming trees. And even if the change isn’t permanent—the joy that I experience when the tulips, daffodils, and trees start to blossom is worth it. It gives me hope. So even though I know this spring will probably be like the rest, I’m reminded I ultimately don’t have control and need to just enjoy it. Much like being a parent, plenty of things are outside of my control but that doesn’t stop me from hoping for the best and enjoying the journey along the way.
I used to play golf, I used to ski, I used to swim, I used to walk around the lake, in fact I used to do a lot of things back when I had lots of time for myself. That all changed when my husband and I had our first child. At first I tried to handle everything myself from feeding, dressing and changing the baby to cleaning the house and cooking food for the whole family. I nearly had myself convinced I was okay with trying to juggle everything at once but alas, after a few weeks I reached a breaking point and finally admitted to my husband that I needed help. I was miserable and didn’t really understand why. I had been told that being a mother was amazing and would be so fulfilling. There were definitely moments when it felt amazing but for the most part it just felt exhausting.
On top of this, I felt guilty for thinking it was exhausting. I wanted to be above being human and feeling exhausted. I wanted to be a super mom who could do it all and still have energy left to burn. As I was trying to figure out how to adjust to all this, a friend asked me a really important question: what gives you energy? [Note: I've blogged about this before, but was reminded that I still have to be mindful of this!] Truthfully I’d never really thought of it, but it was a great question. In many ways, we’re like those ubiquitous smart phones that none of us can seem to live without. We depend on them for a variety of critical activities during the day, but also need to recharge them or they become useless. After thinking about the question again, I shared with my friend that I could tell them what sucked up my energy, but couldn’t come up with one thing that was recharging it. I realized I had been giving all of my energy away and hadn’t taken the time to figure out how to get any of it back.
After some further reflection, I decided that in order for me to determine what could give me energy I needed to figure out what filled my soul. One thing came to mind right off the bat: talking to my husband about anything other than the kids or work like we used to do when we were dating. He and I had often remarked how nice it was and how connected we felt after one of these in-depth conversations. As I continued to seek out what filled my soul, I realized that connecting with others in general gave me a good deal of satisfaction, whether with girlfriends over dinner or tea or other new parents with whom I could share knowledge and hopefully help out.
I had the pleasure of spending a long weekend with some very dear friends recently. It’s an annual tradition that’s always a wonderful time for us to relax, connect and take care of ourselves without the stress of having to look after our families. I go home after our trip each year feeling full. I don’t have as much spare time as I used to so I have to take advantage of these opportunities to get back to myself, one recharge at a time.