Every once in a while, I find myself outside the house at dusk. I’m usually surrounded by irritable children, attempting a picnic where the food isn’t right and the forks are missing and the flies are buzzing … or I’m on a risky errand way too close to toddler bedtime and so I’m belting out NSYNC Bye Bye Bye which seems to be the winning tune in terms of keeping a 2 year old awake. But, even in those moments, with my attention parked on wrangling and managing, I catch a glimpse of the golden light, the pink and orange clouds. I see bats darting around low and high, signaling the sky to darken. I feel a breeze even on the hottest of days and I smell in the air the closure of things. And I see young professionals walking slowly—hands free—into grocery stores and restaurants and yoga classes. I see people riding bikes without wagons attached, without a time stamp on adventure. I wonder, But will they ride past 8pm?
I think resentful thoughts at first. And then sad thoughts. I think about lost time and lost autonomy. I think about how dusk has been hijacked by bedtimes for the last 15 years of my life and, ugh, I just feel loss so big that it could crush my snack-ridden, three rowed SUV.
It is hard for us caretakers to admit this. We wait for the fixers of the world to come in and say, “Ask for help” or “Get a babysitter” or “Savor this time, you will miss it one day”. And then our grief is run over by shame and we remember, Oh, don’t say those things out loud.
But, I know that we all know a much more nuanced truth, one that speaks of the depth of all of us: Caretakers are whole people. We can share a hunger for the parts we miss about our pre-kid lives with an intense love for the privilege of raising children. They can exist together. In fact, what if hunger is just as important to express as love? What if that defines our personhood as much as our ability to be present and grateful? What if it reminds us to focus on self preservation not as a selfish act, but as a birthright that fuels ourselves AND our children AND our communities?
After the year (plus) that we have all had, I am personally struggling with the restarting of our engines. And not because I want to live isolated in my house forever. No. No. Wow. No. Maybe sometimes. But because I want to start over in a way that truly feeds me. I want to take a minute and gather what I have learned over the last year. And then I want to pay attention to my hunger for the parts of my life that disappeared decades ago in the hustle and bustle of work/parenting/etc-ing.
Sure, some of these things will need to be parked for a while. They may not be feasible right now. But, I can still look at them and hug them and say, hey, I didn’t forget you. And then there will be some things that don’t have to be parked, but can be placed consciously back into my daily grind. I might even form some non-negotiable habits and rituals around them. I just know, though, that if I don’t do this now and if I don’t take an inventory of my own hunger, I’ll end up right back where we all started pre-pandemic.
I’ll finish by saying that this process can feel scary, that it might open the floodgates of needs that can’t be met or feelings we don’t have time to feel. But, as I have learned here in MommaStrong, the reality is that no harm comes from listening to our true selves. Just listening. And then doing what you can in a way that fits into our reality right now, just enough today and just enough tomorrow.
The really great news is that you can do this with company and expert guidance this month in our July Challenge, focused on What Fuels You? We will dig into hunger (outside of food), sleep, rest, play, and relationships. AND, it is being led by our MommaStrong FUEL dietitians who have a refreshing lens on sustainable health. Meaning, they aren’t going to teach you what to eat or even talk about food, instead, they are going to talk about how other things are actually even more important. I’m excited to share this adventure with you this month.
The challenge starts on Monday, July 5th, so you’ve got time to get signed up! You can sign up as a current member by clicking on the Challenges link in the teal navigation menu (one you have logged in). Or, if you aren’t yet a member, you can join us for the challenge by signing up today (only $12) and then registering at that Challenges link.