Wednesday, July 16, 2014

My mini-break from motherhood

Motherhood is an all-consuming experience...

Last week, I had a huge burnout. The fighting with my mum really stressed me out, I was feeling depleted from managing a tantrum-prone toddler 24/7, I was craving alone time with my spouse, and I was anxious and scared of looking into the option of having a babysitter to watch my little treasure.

Motherhood has taught me that I CAN'T do it all. I can't look after my daughter, be a good spouse, a good family member, coworker or friend, whilst ignoring my own needs as a human being.

In the midst of my burnout, I started to order books from the library like, "The Hidden Feelings of Motherhood: A guide to Coping with Stress, Depression and Burnout" and I started doing Google searches like "mommy burnout" and "things mothers can do to relax". I read a bunch of articles and made a big list of things that I could do for myself everyday to help cope with stress (for example - sleep, read a book, exercise, take some "me" time) But the patterns that I demanded on myself for the past 2 years were practically unbreakable. A week went by, I fell into my usual routine, my meltdowns continued, and I didn't do a single thing on my "feel good" list. Not a single thing.

You see, when you are a mother and a wife, you naturally put every other demand before your own needs. What does "me" time even mean? I didn't know. I often catch a glance at myself in the mirror and not even recognize myself anymore. Who I was before I had my baby seems like a different person.

Then, I literally had a 7 day meltdown. By the end of the week, I locked myself in the bathroom and was crying pitifully on the bathroom floor, when I had an Aha! moment. The clouds opened up and I realized that what I really needed and craved was alone time, for myself. Not with husband-ji, but just me - all by myself.

All day long there is something demanded of me. I am the go-to person that everyone can rely on. My daughter, husband-ji, and when I go to work I have to deal with customers, my family and coworkers. I just wanted to go to some quiet place where I literally didn't have to speak to anyone to have some uninterrupted time to myself.

I spoke with husband-ji and I was so embarrassed and nervous to tell him my needs. He is going to think I'm some selfish Western wife who requires so much "me" time. And what will his parents think? OMG. I shuddered. Luckily, he was beyond supportive, as usual. Why don't you go on vacation for a week to see one of your friends or go have some quiet time in Hawaii? he suggested. It was a nice idea, but I was simply too tired to travel.

So, I did the next best thing. I decided to check into a fancy hotel downtown - you know, the ones with 5 star room service and pillowy beds as soft as clouds. It was exhilarating and nerve-wracking to leave my family for the night, just to pamper myself.


As soon as I got to the room, I collapsed onto the bed as if I had just completed a marathon. I rested in silence without even a thought passing through my mind. I was on the 19th floor overlooking the city in a cool air-conditioned suite, with floor to ceiling windows that were soundproof. I watched the busyness below in the city, seeing all the tired and sweaty mothers pushing their strollers in the hot sun. I was so thankful that I had a night "off".

I decided to take full advantage of my hotel experience by going to the hotel's Ayurvedic spa, where I had an authentic Ayurvedic massage. - it was such a treat. Apparently my Pitta Dosha was off and needed to be re-aligned.

I came back upstairs and spent the evening in bed in a luxuriously soft bathrobe. I sat in my king size bed and had a 3 course room service meal and watched a pay-per-view movie that I missed in the cinema. Since husband-ji was nowhere around, I decided to order a steak!!! I had not eaten beef in 4 years since husband-ji is "pure-pure-pure veg Brahmin"! I don't even like beef, but God...was it delicious! 

In the evening, I sat at the window and watched the sunset in silence, as the sun disappeared into the ocean and all the skyscrapers mirrored each other in different shades of orange. It was beautiful. 


I took a hot mineral bath, with those fancy imported travel size bath potions. I snuggled up with a good book that I had been meaning to read, and slept for 12 hours straight.

Conveniently, my mobile phone died and the hotel phone lines were down all night. I don't think this was a coincidence. I think the fates were giving me a wink, and letting me rest undisturbed. Take as much time as you need, they would have whispered.

The next morning, I had breakfast in bed (more non-veg!! so naughty!) while watching those crazy American bridal shows on TV - the ones where the bitchy bridesmaids are always arguing about the bride's dress. It was so silly, but it was really fun.

Meanwhile at home... husband-ji handled Maya's bedtime routine all by himself, which he had not done in 6 months. He did great and he didn't have any problems. However, the morning was a different story. He had a tough time dealing with the long procession of getting out the door, and Maya's morning tantrums. He had to make her breakfast, feed her breakfast, get her dressed, do her hair, pack the diaper bag, as well as get ready himself. By the time he picked me up, he was totally frazzled and complaining that he didn't get enough sleep, he didn't get a chance to eat or take a shower. Ha! Welcome to my world! I thought. I think now he understands why it takes me soooooo long to get out the door and why I'm always late.

It was such a treat to have a mini-break, being completely isolated in luxury-land and not having to speak to anyone. I really needed it and I'm so glad I did it. I left the hotel, completely recharged and ready to rejoin my family.

It is comforting to know that anytime I feel severely burnt out, there is a lovely hotel that I can check into, right downtown. My secret hideaway...

During my stay, I reflected on a lot of things. I realized that it IS possible to take care of myself and my family at the same time. And not only is it possible, but it is ESSENTIAL...


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18 comments

  1. Good for you! Mothers neglect taking care of themselves at time because it seems indulgent and selfish. But, taking care of ourselves lets us give the best to our families. It's a win-win!

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    1. Thank you! Yes, I had the same fear, I felt selfish. But it was so worth it! It worked wonders :)

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  2. Before I 'embarked' on my intercultural marriage I got some tips from a S. Korean lady whom had been married to an American man for 25 yrs.
    She advised not to be too 'clingy' to one's spouse & most importantly TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF FIRST.
    And take care of yourself very WELL first.
    Her reasoning behind this?
    You can not do a good job taking care of anyone else unless you take good care of yourself first.
    I know that goes against everything us western moms have been taught (& Indian moms too) but it really is true.
    'nuf said.

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    1. So so so so true........Honestly I don't even know how my MIL survived after all those years neglecting herself.

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  3. Oh, I am so glad to read this! This is great and you should do it more often. Massages are so awesome!! Apart from this, you should have a list of 10-20 self care actions (what feels good to you) and try to do at least 6 of them every day. Schedule it!

    Don't worry you are NOT a selfish western wifey. Some people are introverts. Being around someone all the time can be very draining on energy for introverts or HSP's like me (http://www.hsperson.com/).

    I need lots of alone time, much more than an average person and that is okay. I was kind of born with it, what to do ? ;) Anyways, on the other hand, this quality comes with abilities to not be bored when doing nothing, being absolutely okay being alone, strong intuitions and being able to concentrate and have fun doing mundane chores (how many people feel meditative washing dishes ha ha).

    Besides, if I don't get alone time, I can be irritable, cranky not fun to be around. Who wants to hang out with me like that? Isn't it more fun to hang out when I am happier? So, it is not selfish to take care of yourself when that allows you to take care of other much better.

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    1. That is so interesting about HSP - my friend had posted something like that too. Becoming a parent, I definitely miss my alone time. I am making some efforts to schedule it in..

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  4. Forgot to add, you do not have to feel guilty for eating meat. Sometimes these small changes we make when we are in love seem minute but they do add resentment in us because we are giving up what we love.

    My idea is you guys could take turns going to vegetarian or vegetarian + meat serving restaurants and you could eat meat or you can cook meat only for yourself when alone or eat out alone once in a while when you crave meat.

    I do not think I can give up drinking chai because my guy likes coffee. He makes his own coffee and I make my own chai.

    There is this life coach who has like a separate home life from her husband and they have been married for 15 years or more. They shop separately, cook, clean up separately because they follow different diets.

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    1. I guess it has naturally happened, but becoming veg has certainly not helped my postpartum iron deficiency. Now it is better but I struggled with it for years longer than I should have. I think the constant togetherness is a problem too. I am always thinking (like a typical woman) of all the things we can do together as a family, but sometimes it is really great to do stuff by myself.

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  5. I have experienced first hand how the well being of children is negatively affected when the mother is not given (or rather does not take) the time, space and empathy to unwind, relax and recharge. My mom went through that grind, and yes, we kids did feel the repercussions. Now that I am a mother, I do keep that in mind as I raise my child.
    You did good Alexandra. And hats off to your husband too for understanding and supporting you. I hope you get to do this often. Your family will only benefit from it.
    I have been reading your posts related to mommy burnout and one suggestion I have is trying our part time day care. There are some wonderful day care centers (Kindercare in the US is an example) where children mingle with kids of their own age, learn new things and thrive. The first half of the day spent in such a center can only do good things for the child. And it will give you some time off on week days. After 2 years of age, kids generally are more expressive and sociable, so it's a good time to start this.

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    1. Yes, I had felt myself losing patience a lot and then feeling guilty and horrible. I also take my daughter out every single day to do something fun - I told this to my friend who has two kids and she was like "seriously?! I don't even do that!" So I have really reeled it in.
      In Vancouver all the day cares are booked up with huge waiting lists, but I am sending her to preschool in January, so I'm sure time will fly by.

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  6. Good for you!
    And the more I think about it, the more I think our generation is sacrificing themselves for other more than our parents generation. Every freaking magazines out there tell us we have to keep the kids entertained, and busy 24/7 that all food need to be fresh, organic, and healthy, that we have to be super organized, ideal wives for our husband, preferably have a career ourselves, and be an achiever. all this giving us the idea that putting ourselves before others is an evil thing!
    My parents never put us before them, they let us walk along them, but the needs they had for themselves never took the back seat the way our generation is told to do. My mom did go out on her own leaving us with a friend and neighbour, my dad had his alone time too, we still did tons as a family, it is just that if the parents are frazzled and have no lives of their own, they simply can't provide a quality one for their kids, yet sure, thanks to every media out there we are made to feel guilty if we actually do what our parents did. This is NUT

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    1. I think the media is absolutely to blame - they create these standards for the ideal motherhood - especially magazines geared towards women - that we have to look like Jessica Alba, be SAHM, cook, look great for our husbands, and also be a CEO of a company - it is just not realistic. Also nowadays I feel as though the village is gone - I know so many women who are isolated in motherhood, everyone living abroad and separately. It is hard, and as we all know, all the responsibilities fall on the mum!

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  7. I do think you put a lot of pressure on yourself, Alexandra, especially for food, I wondered about this before. I know I couldn't do it. Would it be a problem for your husband if you ate non veg at home from time to time ? After all you've had a major health problem recently and I think eating what you like is a good medecine.

    Mummy burnout is a serious problem, and many stay at home mums suffer from it. There is something I don't understand ; who takes care of Maya when you work ?

    Take care. (Padparadscha)

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    1. Since we have our own business, we alternate working, so one of us can stay home with her. The shop is open 6 days per week, so now I am working 2x per week and he is working 4x. I used to only work 1 day, but increasing it to two has really helped.
      My hubby says I can cook non-veg but then when I try, he always makes a big fuss about the smell. And I can only use certain pans because then he won't touch them after. So I don't even bother, it is a real headache!

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  8. Alex,

    Glad you took some relaxing time at the hotel, you needed that extra time. Take some extra time more often, this will relieve stress on you.

    Take care,

    Melissa

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    1. Thanks Melissa, I have made some efforts every day since my hotel stay and it has made a huge difference! I really need that time away to take a good look at my life.

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  9. Good for you! It reminds me of the plot line to Shaadi ke Side Effects! :) but in a more innocent way of course!

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