This stage of life can feel as if we're leaving behind many of the gains we made for ourselves in our 20s. Little ones can make us feel alone and drained, and there seems to be far more questions than answers.
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To my fellow 30-something moms:
This stage of life can feel as if we're leaving behind many of the gains we made for ourselves in our 20s. Being a mom now means many of us have young children, maybe one or two in the early years of school and a preschooler and an infant or toddler. They are at the ages where they are quite dependent on us, though they're testing out small ways to be "independent."
With these young ones, it's easy to feel marooned on a deserted island at home, where the walls of our houses might as well be the shores of the ocean, cutting us off from civilization on the far-off mainland. Leaving the house for what were previously simple trips, to the grocery store, to Walmart or Target, is at once a treat (to see different sights and actual adult people) and a trial.
Getting two or three small people dressed (with shoes), pottied or changed and fed, as well as trying to catch them in good moods (after naptimes) is a challenge. And then once we're out, all that preparation was a waste of time and energy because somehow, they still absolutely have to go to the bathroom, eat a snack, grab things off shelves (or at the very least touch every single one of them) and even, just for fun, throw a satisfying, attention-grabbing fit. We can feel like ringmasters encircled by a few circus acts, and everyone is watching as we make our way through a store.
If we are stay-at-home moms, we're likely not getting to do much in the way of the paid work we were trained to do and enjoyed. It's easy to feel we're missing out on prime years to stretch our career wings and really get traction in jobs. At the same time, our fellow moms who are working can easily feel left out of things on the homefront: missing out on some of their children's milestones and activities, perhaps misunderstood or even judged by some of us stay-at-home moms.
Earlier generations of moms didn't have social media to exacerbate any negative feelings that come from comparing. But now, Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest just taunt us about how much we're not doing (or not doing right), while our friends all seem to be nailing it.
In this stage of mothering, we're tired all the time and worried we're not doing something right: With a baby, we don't know if we're holding him enough or too much, feeding her too often or too infrequently; we feel guilty for putting her down and letting her cry while we run to the toilet or take a quick shower. With a toddler, we start to wonder when we should be potty training and if we should be letting him drink juice. Preschoolers: Just how long is it until it's embarrassing that he's still not potty trained? Should we put her in a preschool, and which one? Should we be scouring Pinterest and doing lots of enriching activities at home? Are we bad moms if we're not? And once they're old enough for kindergarten and those early grades, is it now time to put them in other activities like dance, gymnastics or soccer? How much is too much?
And just when we're overwhelmed with all we could and should be doing for our children, there are our husbands to consider. It can be tough to work on our relationships with our sweethearts by going out on dates and doing nice little things for them.
It's even tougher, seemingly impossible, to take care of ourselves, to nourish our souls by taking a little time to read or get out in nature or put on makeup and do our hair for an evening with some gal pals.
The answers aren't easy to come by at this stage, and that's OK. Many other moms before us have faced the same quandaries and not found simple solutions. And self-care will continue to take a back seat as we go on to parent teens and navigate an entirely different stage of our children's lives. But one day, a day that seems very far off now, life will change significantly again. We'll start having more breathing room for ourselves and won't be utterly consumed by taking care of our children's most basic needs. Our children really will become more independent (yikes!). Then we'll be working on helping them with altogether different kinds of needs: teaching them how to become self-reliant adults who can turn around and give back to their communities and their families.
In the meantime, we can hand off the babies to our husbands for half an hour and retreat to our rooms to nap or read. We can ask our moms or a good friend to take the kids for a couple of hours so we can try out a spa nearby, like Island Spa and Sauna, where we can relax in the hot tubs and saunas and even get a massage or body scrub.
And most important, we can take solace in the truth that we really aren't alone. No mom is an island, though it may feel that way.