Considering that last week’s anxiety was about how little time I spend with Ziya, it’s ironic that this week I’ve been thinking about how every mother needs to make time for herself. Those first two years, all my energy and every last second was given to working and mothering, and I still felt that neither was getting enough time. With hindsight, I can see how those efforts were unsustainable.
At some point, you start to feel like you need to get away, you need something for yourself, you need to make time just for you even if it means that someone else – your husband, his parents, your mother or your babysitter – is filling in for what should rightfully be your shift. Your options may be guilt or self-preservation, but chances are that some minor or large crisis in your sanity, relationship, health or capacity to manage everything eventually compels you to choose.
I was meditating on my choices while walking through a river and climbing the cascading terrain of a waterfall in the hills of the Northern Range, enjoying having no responsibilities for anyone or anything beyond the next step. It was really a day I should have spent with Zi, a gift of extra time over a long weekend, and I felt like I was neglecting her, knowing how much she misses me, and knowing that someone else was with her when I should have been.
Still, I had made a choice, if necessary to be even less of a present mother for now and the next while so that I wouldn’t neglect the chance I needed to kneel in a crystal river flowing through an ancient forest, and to reconnect to the quiet spirit inside of me. Some go to church or mosque or temple. My cathedral’s walls are towering trees, scattering leaves like psalms in the wind. For me, streams are calls to prayer that draw you closer, promising to wash away unconfessed sins, and the open sky is an orhni resting softly over my head as I revere the elements of the earth and find stillness within.
I had realised that I couldn’t be a good mother, worker, partner or even person if the combination of job stress, marriage commitment and sleepless motherhood had pushed me beyond my current reserves. Some women get their hair and nails done, some take evening classes, some splurge on desserts or clothes or rum. If I didn’t walk these clear waters, whether deep in Chagaramas or in Cumaca, I’d look for escape or rejuvenation or a brief suspension of reality however it came.
I’m not sure if it’s like this for all of us, but I think that many women will give until they are empty before realising that looking after themselves though it may feel selfish, and taking a long view of relationship, responsibility and reciprocity, is an absolute necessity. You want to do your best in every moment, but it’s also important to see your investments beyond just the now.
When I sacrifice time with Ziya, I wonder if I’m setting up a bad pattern, whether one day she’ll think I didn’t spend enough time with her. However, if I don’t forgive myself for those decisions, I’ll miss why my instincts propelled me to them. I’ll also miss the lessons that will enable me to share with her the predicaments of womanhood, and its perils, pressures and growing pains.
Luckily, that day, pristine waterfalls help me to find, not my old carefree self nor a new and more perfect maturity, but an understanding that healing is found in steps in-between.