The witching hour madness occurs like clockwork every single night, right as I begin preparing dinner. “Alexa, continue my podcast.” As the familiar voices of friends I have never actually met fills my ears, I breathe out slowly. Grabbing an onion off the counter, I begin chopping, letting muscle memory take over as my mind wanders far from the kitchen. Today felt especially hard and I’m not sure if it was the full moon last night or the heat of the summer but the kids have been fighting all day long.
Spaghetti and garlic toast is a recipe that requires zero brain function on my part, my hands instinctively chopping, sauteing, stirring on their own. I don’t know if I could handle managing another task, so I listen to the bubbling water and familiar voices and imagine a world where for just 24 hours, no one needs me. No chores, no poopy diapers, no getting snacks, no doctor appointments or Muppet Babies episodes. I need a break, but I’m afraid just a couple hours won’t be enough to feel like a normal human again. “Mom, Bubby hit me!” I snap back and realize the stupid bread is burning.
“I’m just so tired all of the time. You know? And I feel guilty for being overwhelmed because I do get to stay home, and I don’t want to sound ungrateful. It’s just…a lot.” My friend sips her latte as she cautiously nods in agreement. We are cross-legged in my daughter’s room trying to catch up on life as one kid sings Elsa at the top of her lungs and the other crawls all over us with a dinosaur toy in his tiny grip. “It sounds like a lot honestly.” She has no children yet and I find myself wondering how nice that must be. To just leave the house and run to the coffee shop for a couple hours to work or read, or to go out of town for a weekend get-away with the hubby. Am I ungrateful?
“So, what are you going to do about it?” I nearly choke on my luke-warm latte, startled by her nonchalant attitude and intrigued by her words. What am I going to do about it? If I don’t choose to take control, to create margin and invest in my own creativity, who will? The conversation shifts to summer plans, work and upcoming anniversaries as the little ones begin to ask for more snacks (always snacks) and to sing Baby Shark. I return with two small bowls of goldfish to find my sweet friend entertaining the littles with funny voices and dress-up clothes. Bless her.
That still quiet voice echoes in the back of my mind. What can I do?
The words are rushing out of my mouth before I can even take inventory of the damage they may cause. My poor husband, the concern in his eyes growing as he tries to absorb the word vomit spewing from my mouth. “I don’t even know who I am anymore. I’m overwhelmed and I just want to write or read or pee in peace for 5 freaking minutes!” Hot tears roll down my face as I wipe my snot on my sleeve and take a shaky breath. My sobs soften as my husband’s steady arms wrap around my shoulders, pulling me from the anxiety spiral and grounding me once more.
He reminds me that he will always support me in whatever I choose to do. There is no invisible leash holding me hostage inside this house, no matter how much it feels like it some days. All I have to do is ask for help and communicate when I need a break. We brainstorm ways I can steal away to a coffee shop or the garden store for a few hours a week to recharge and breathe. Five minutes was all we had before we hear the familiar pitter patter of tiny footsteps across the hardwood. Little humans in search of (more) snacks and snuggles. With one last squeeze, my husband whispers he loves me, and we are back in the throes of parenthood.
I cue up my podcast once more, turn on the stove and pull out the cutting board…only this time I welcome the sound of giggling children and feel a smile forming. “I’ll find you again,” I whisper to myself feeling a spark of joy rising within my soul.
All this time I thought I needed to ask permission from everyone else in order to chase my own dreams or be myself. It turns out, the only permission I ever needed was from my own self. Armed with this knowledge, I decided to set aside time for myself to lean into the passions I have found, to dig a little deeper into my own heart and find myself again. As fate would have it, a coffee shop opened a block from my home this summer and with it a chance to stretch my creative legs for the first time in a long time. One tiny step is all it takes.
I grab my keys, my laptop, kiss my husband and kids’ goodbye and embrace the next 2 hours of creative freedom. Hello Hannah, it’s so good to see you again…
This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in the series “Permission Slip”.