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Search for Self

Leah Gebber

Feeding, changing, bath time, bedtime. PTA, a cake for the neighbors, another load of laundry. The whirlwind spins faster and faster. How can we reclaim our selves?

Monday, October 02, 2017

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Y ou know you’ve stumbled upon a piece of good writing when one account condenses and distills the experiences of many. When Deena Wiedermann’s essay appeared in our submissions, we knew it was a standout piece. We also knew that the pain and bewilderment she expresses echo the experiences of so many mothers.

Deena started a crucial discussion. We’ve continued it, highlighting the voices of other mothers, voices that contend with definitions and demands, expectations and aspirations.

All of them asking,

Who am I?

Deena Wiedermann

Those noises and jumps could not be coming from the baby’s room…

I check my clock. It’s 6 a.m.

I go in. Dovi is in the baby’s room, laughing and playing with her. He was bored, so he went in and woke her. Which means I’m officially on duty at this too-early hour. After I yell, I cry.

I don’t know who I am anymore. I don’t recognize this woman, this person who has become the sum total of survival at all costs. I try to keep my head above water in this foreign world of little people who need me so utterly and completely every moment of every day.

It’s become about anticipating and mediating the next meltdown, about calculating how I’m going to balance helping out the neighbor who just had a baby along with baking those cookies for my sister’s 40th birthday, along with…

It’s like the game I play with my students: Where can I take one block out of this tower without toppling the whole thing? (In the end, I invite the neighbor’s kids over for hot dogs and fries, and I host the birthday party on a day the cleaning lady is supposed to come — but she doesn’t show.) Somehow, the tower stays erect, but my heart has turned to stone, and I wonder why it’s become an effort to simply make it through each day.

 

Self-care is all the rage these days: You can’t give when you’re on empty. I know that. I’m good at it. So I nap, I read, I feed myself, I rest, I take breaks when I can, I walk. I look up at the sky as I walk and touch something bigger, a perspective I don’t have when I’m lost in meltdown world. I taste something… and then I rush back to pick up the pieces of my disheveled home.

I schedule a date with hubby, it rejuvenates, this adult conversation that centers around our feelings and thoughts.

And still.

The self-care helps me continue surviving. To make it through the next ten minutes of crying and screaming and chaos. On my luckier attempts, perhaps I can stretch the fuel to keep me going for an hour. And then I’m back on empty. My brain is full of noise, of the latest little victim who got a beating, of the royal princess who got woken at 5 a.m. and is now a royal mess, pulling the rest of us down with her.

I valiantly try to stay above water. I know all the right methods and all the damaging ones, I could write a book on child development. But in the moment, it’s all gone. I am swept along into the whirlwind of turbulent hysteria. Of keeping our home running. Because if I let go, it will fall apart.

I will fall apart.

One day, I do. And so I do the bare minimum. Anything that is not a barebones necessity — like breathing — goes. And I start to laugh. And relax. That constant uptight feeling I carry around with me eases a bit.

And I remember.

I remember the girl I used to be. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 562)

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