Inspiration comes from anywhere and Inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere. I signed into Facebook on a Sunday morning, and my UK friend and fellow author Rachel Brimble (catch her interview at my blog here) posted a comment that suggested she was a little freaked out about being alone at home: Not sure how this happened, but I am writing alone, in an empty house, on a Sunday! Eeekkk!!
What I heard: How can I possibly be allowed this kind of downtime to myself? (As if any mom isn’t entitled to alone-time to regroup and /or recharge her batteries and just get to spend some uninterrupted time doing something she loves simply because she loves it. Some pastimes, too, demand we isolate ourselves: reading, writing. I know I can’t concentrate once the men of my household are up. Not only do they have questions and want to share their daily goings-on, but now I also need to be tuned in to what the ‘younger’ men are up to. Then they bring over friends, etc. Mommies start cooking for the crowd…you know.)
That same morning another friend called me, terribly stressed out over family issues and being ridiculously hard on herself. She was crying and judging herself because all she wanted was to be alone for a while. She didn’t want to hear “Mommy” or her first name being called… She didn’t want to deal with the paperwork she gets to bring home or the weekend grind of putting one’s home back together after a week of work outside the house. (Mind you, this particular friend works a full-time AND a part-time job, has two daughters and allows herself the luxury of bowling with a league once a week. If she doesn’t have a sitter, she takes her elementary-aged girls along with her and even attends to their homework while she plays. And like those of us who are married on top of all that, she’s got the marriage to attend to as well. Admit it people: even the best ones are work.)
I also remember a phone conversation I had with a cousin when my guys were small, probably about one and three years of age. (She raised four—ages ranging from eight to newborn when her set was complete):
Joanna: “Remember when I used to call and cry because I would never get married and have kids?”
Joanna: “Well, I’m calling to cry because I’m married and I have kids.” (Not that I had a clue about my writing aspirations at the time. Those are a full-time venture all their own, as are many areas of interest one chooses to pursue.)
BTW, I want to be clear on one thing: I consider stay-at-home moms those who don’t get paid for their daily contribution to the family unit/ mgt of household. (Read an article once that stated $500K annually might cover the labor costs that go into raising kids and running a household.) Those of us who have day jobs on top of that—out of financial necessity or self-imposed for whatever reason? We get to add that to the daily to-do list.
All this got me thinking: as working mothers, we are WAY TOO HARD ON OURSELVES. We do not cut ourselves any real slack and judge ourselves far more harshly than we would anyone else.
This takes me back to Rachel Brimble’s post on my blog. She referred to writers, but I’ll apply the principle to mothers.
Sometimes we do so by listening. When my friend called, I knew she needed to talk simply because her name flashed across my cell screen on a Sunday morning. I let her spill it all, which was what she needed. She wasn’t looking for advice or answers.
Once she calmed I reminded her she was entitled to her feelings. We all are. Emotions don’t have to make sense or fit some preconceived bill. Feelings aren’t facts, folks. Anyone with any neuro background knows, that frontal lobe and the limbic system housed inside is IRRATIONAL. Even murderers are allowed an insanity plea for goodness sakes! Moms who just want a little “time off” judge themselves up the ying and yang for needing—forget wanting—to be human.
Next, I reminded my friend just how full her plate really is. I listed the things I commented on earlier in this article. Sometimes, just hearing what we think we should be able to handle fed back to us helps us get it: maybe we are expecting just a little too much from ourselves? (I know I tend to judge the wealth of a day by how much I got done, whether it’s a report or cleaning my house. I forget to count the time I took for a friend, or to write an article that might feed someone’s spirit—especially mine—or to write that next scene, for goodness sake! BTW, I’m writing this on a Sunday morning, while the notes for my next evaluation are glaring at me and I know my mom is waiting for her morning call, lol.)
Don’t really remember that much more of what my friend and I talked about that morning. (I’m sure I shared the exchange with my cousin, and I do recall my friend laughing at some point.) I did, however, ask her what she would have said to me had I been the one to call her stressed out. Kind of changes the perspective, don’t you think? (Almost like writing that scene from another character’s point of view. That distances me a little from the situation and helps me see things in a different light.)
That segues me right into these questions we overwrought and overstressed moms should be asking ourselves (once we’ve made our way back to semi-rational thoughts):
Would I berate and judge someone else the way I did myself?
What would you tell another mom who came to me seeking a shoulder and support?
Whenever possible—I’m sure I preach this sermon better than I implement it—do the following:
Put physical space between you and the situation that’s making you crazy. (You may have to lock yourself in the bathroom or hide in the basement. Both perfectly acceptable courses of action! J)
Drop the judgment. Hear the words and the pain. Allow yourself to feel your feelings.
Treat yourself the way you’d treat someone who came to you feeling broken, desperate and tanked out.
Call that particular friend who knows your situation better than anyone (and loves you just the same—wink!). You know exactly who will help get your mind back to that place of balance. If that friend isn’t available, send a text, an e-mail or write a note. I promise, just getting it out of you in some shape or form helps. (You may wind up not even sending it but feeling better just the same. Works for me.)
At the ‘friend-end’:
Be quiet and listen. Don’t make this into a time when you want to share your ‘worse’ story.
If you can, make your friend laugh.
Finally, and if you can, be available later, should that mom/friend need you. Be honest about your time and the best way to connect with you. (I often ask people to e-mail me and get back to them as soon as I can.)
Anyway, that’s what comes out of a single comment on Facebook, Rachel!
Thanks so much, Diane, for allowing me the privilege of sharing on your brand-new blog sight! And thanks to all your readers, too!