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On Being Hard

parenting

I went back to work 8 weeks after delivering my third daughter.  I had 3 kids under the age of 4 and I still was not sleeping a lot at that time.

I used to take pride that in a full day of patients, I would also multitask during my 30 minute lunch break.  I would eat my lunch, take a phone call, and pump using my hands free breastpump - all at the same time, while typing away at my computer, finishing my clinical patient notes.  I remember the other person on the call would sometimes ask if there was a strange whirring sound, and I would laugh a little and brush it off, saying that there was a lawnmower outside.

Then I would finish my day, go home, stay up all night with a fussy baby, then come back to the hospital to do it all again.  Rinse and repeat.  For months. 

It’s strange for me to think how I felt so productive, important even, when all I was doing was pushing my poor body to its limits.

I think about that now, every time I work with a parent who is bone tired and exhausted, and trying to juggle their busy work demands with their newborn and potty training their toddler while figuring out what to make for dinner while their laundry piles up.

I say that because it took a while for me to admit to myself that I was a little addicted to being busy and tired.  I was busy and pouring myself and my own physical body into taking care of my kids and my work and the household.  And then that meant that I could also be pissed because I was so busy and burnt out. But also secretly proud at the same time of how busy I was.  And also irritable to my kids and my husband.  But also feeling like I was killing it, and doing it all.  But also exhausted.  And pissed.

What was I doing to myself and why was I doing this?  How does this even make sense?

I guess the point of writing this is that it didn’t necessarily make sense to me at the time.  I was just trying to survive.

And yet, if I was aware of what I was actually doing, it might have given me the opportunity to pause and look up and assess the situation and see if I really wanted to be like that.  

I was so IN IT that I couldn’t even realize what I was doing.  I couldn’t even question if my life really had to be that way.  Be that hard.

Maybe, just maybe, if I could have looked up for a second, I could have realized that it could be slightly different.  Maybe I could have done one tiny thing differently so that I didn’t have to be so overwhelmed and pissed. Maybe I didn’t have to keep on pumping.  Or I would have sleep trained earlier so I could get some sleep myself.  Or I would have asked for lactation breaks during the day so that I could actually eat lunch during my lunch break.  Or hired some extra help so that my body could rest at home.  Or just let the laundry pile up.

Maybe it’s because I’m in my 40s and I’m starting to get my own aches and pains, I am now more thoughtful about my own health and my own body.

And I realize that it would have been worth it to do one thing differently during that earlier time - I could have treated myself, my own body a little more kindly.

We are so ingrained in our society to be kind to others.  In the busyness of life, though, we can forget to be kind to ourselves.

So here’s a public service announcement to all of you busy working parents out there - don’t forget to ask yourself if it really has to be that hard.

Maybe, just maybe you can be kind to yourself when you need it most.