When my babies were newborns, nothing put my husband and myself more at odds than when I would leave the house.
Even if I nursed the baby right before I left, he would inevitably text or call me within 45-60 minutes, asking me what my ETA was.
My heart would start to race as I pushed the grocery cart faster. Can’t I just have an hour to myself?
I wasn’t even relaxing or enjoying the mythical “me-time”! I was grocery shopping for the family, for goodness sake!
I fought with my anger in those new-baby months. I fought with my husband too (He won’t take the bottle. He wants the boobs!).
But, really, I was fighting the limitations that come with having a young, breastfeeding baby.
The tether between me and the baby was extremely short, always pulling me back, from the kitchen, from my warm bed at 1am (and 3am, and 4:30am), from the grocery store, from a mentoring session with one of my college girls, from a weekend getaway cut short when my youngest was 14 months old.
As I became a mom 3 and 4 times around, I learned to expect the tether, the limitations, but they were still difficult, and even now that all my children are weaned, I still find myself pushing against the limitations of motherhood.
But that pushing, the striving against the natural boundaries that children bring to the adult life, only breeds discontent in my heart.
Lately, I’ve been asking myself, “How can I live comfortably within my own limitations?”
My circle of limitations has widened considerably since the newborn days but the tether of naps still keeps us homebound every afternoon.
I don’t have the liberty of going out to lunch with a friend on the spur of the moment.
For the sake of my two year old’s sleep, play dates can only be scheduled before noon.
I’d love to take Silas (4) to story time at the library at 1:30pm on Thursdays but it just isn’t an option right now.
Right now, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is at the discount theater. I wish I could surprise my twins after school one day and whisk us off to the movies but my two little boys aren’t old enough to enjoy the movie yet (hopefully I can take my two older boys one weekend soon).
Everything has a push and pull, a give and take, carefully measured, requiring acute planning, shunning spontaneity.
And I sigh, wishing for more freedom, cramped by the boundaries placed upon my life, longing to stretch fully, but knowing that I built many of the restrictions with my own choices.
I’ve done better, I’ve realized, with each baby I birth.
When I had Silas, my 3rd, I fought the limitations of my postpartum healing and, as a result, it took more than four weeks for my postpartum bleeding to stop, and even more aching months for my body to knit itself back together.
With Eli, my 4th, I planted myself on the couch, didn’t cook for a month (thank you meal train and stocked freezer), watched a ton of TV, and let my older kids have free-range ipad time. Within two weeks, I felt like myself again.
Breastfeeding felt endless at times (I breastfed my twins for 17 months, Silas for 22 months, and Eli just shy of two years) but poof! Those days are now gone, along with the intense restrictions they put on my coming and going, my wardrobe, my marriage, my sleep.
My twins are going to be ten this year and with every year that passes, I’ve gained the perspective that many (if not most) limitations will disappear with time.
But my younger two boys are still under age five so the boundaries still hem me in close. Lately, my two year old doesn’t even sleep through the night half the week and my four year old’s moods are directly tied to whether or not I remember to feed him every two hours.
(Am I back in newborn land??)
Motherhood is tough, but fighting my limitations is exhausting and only makes me depressed.
So I’m trying to make conscious choices to make a life within the boundaries that motherhood is giving me right now:
Lately, I nap when the boys nap (because Eli was up at 2am and 5am) instead of folding laundry or answering emails.
I plunk the toddler in front of the TV so I can spend 15 minutes playing chess with my nine year old because I have to take advantage of the time that he isn’t in school.
I savor each morsel of conversation I’m able to gobble down with a friend, in between interruptions from our kids, because I know that we probably won’t be able to get together again for another month.
Sometimes I stay up way too late reading, but it’s worth it because getting lost in a story makes me feel alive (there’s always coffee in the morning).
Life in the little years can be stifling, but little by little, the boundary lines will shift, growing wider, until they disappear completely.
I’m not there yet.
But until then, I’m going to try to make a life within the limitations I’ve been given.
What about you? What are your limitations in this stage of your life?
What are you doing to create a good life for yourself and your family in the middle of your limitations?
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