I see you, mama.
It’s 10am on a Tuesday morning, and your roots have grown out four inches after months of neglect. You’re staring at yourself in a hallway mirror, taking a deep breath, and trying to pretend you still recognize this person staring back at you.
It’s 8pm on a Saturday night, and your Instagram is full of couples out on dates, eating sushi, being adults, seeing movies where no animals talk, and rekindling the romance of their pre-children days. You’re on your couch with your husband, scrolling through Netflix, keeping the volume down so the kids don’t wake up, hoping to actually finish an episode of something before one of you dozes off. You both have a phone in your hand. It’s comfortable, but it’s not quite romantic.
It’s 6:30am on a Thursday, and the baby is sick again, and the daycare won’t take her. You’re about to use the last of your vacation days sitting at home wiping snot and kissing tears away while debating how many days in a row of ibuprofen is too much ibuprofen.
And in all of this, you just think, “I need my mom.”
Because you know what? Raising kids away from your tribe is hard. It is SO VERY hard! And until you experience it firsthand, it’s difficult to even comprehend just how mentally and physically taxing it will be. You’re alone all day, except that you’re not actually alone at all because you have these tiny little people who depend on you for every.single.thing. all the time every minute of every day, and you might actually experience spontaneous combustion firsthand if you have to wipe one more bottom or fix one more snack or answer one more “But why?!”
But we can’t quite burst into flames as needed (or check into a hotel for a solid three days of uninterrupted showers and sleep) because there’s no back-up plan for when we’re gone. Instead, we have to protect our sanity however we can. How do we do this? I have a few ideas.
Protect early bedtime.
Other people may think you’re crazy for getting the kids to bed by 7pm. However, when you know there is no respite or help coming your way, those quiet hours after the kids go to bed are your time to catch up with your spouse, finish whatever was left undone during the day, read a book, or get some much needed sleep yourself.
Find a creative outlet.
Yes, your kids are your world, but it’s so refreshing to find something just for you. I started an Etsy shop shortly before my oldest child’s first birthday. It was the perfect way to earn a little extra babysitter money while indulging my creative side through digital design.
Join a mom-centric group.
Shortly after my son was born, I joined a fantastic group of moms through Meetup.com. Each week, we had a playdate or party or special event we could attend. My son made a few friends, and I connected with other moms. Several of those moms were also raising kids away from extended family, and it was always so encouraging to know I wasn’t in this alone.
Make one awesome friend.
I think sometimes we get so caught up in the idea of making mom friends that we miss the opportunities right in front of us. You don’t have to meet thirty new moms. You really just need one. One mom you click with. A mom you can have a girls’ night with. One mom who you can drop your child off with on Friday so you can escape for a date, and then return the favor for her on Saturday. Find one awesome mom, and invest in that relationship.
Take 30 seconds to be sad. Then be awesome instead.
I’ll admit it: I stole this one from Barney Stinson. But these are words of wisdom. Sometimes raising kids away from family sucks. Sometimes it’s not so bad. (Awwww, we can’t go to four Thanksgivings in eight hours because we live too far away! Darn!) On the days it really hits you hard, give yourself thirty seconds to pout. Don’t feel like you don’t have the right to feel bummed just because other people have it worse. Take your thirty seconds to just really dislike the distance between you and your loved ones. Then tuck that sadness back in your pocket and persevere.
Because listen. You’ve got this. You are a boss. Ain’t no other mama like the one your kids’ got. Yes, your job is hard. Yes, the days are long and often thankless. But as my mother-in-law recently reminded me, the reward comes when you watch your own kids raising their kids, and suddenly those long days feel like they weren’t quite long enough.
Three deep breaths, mama. I know your struggle. But I see your strength. I know you have another round in you.