Sometimes I open my mouth and my mother comes out.
…And sometimes it’s not a good thing.
My mom was an immigrant from Honduras and barely spoke a word of English, but worked incessantly to give us a comfortable life. No matter how hard things got for her, she made sure my brother and I never suffered her hardships. There was always dinner on the table and a roof over our heads, but as kids, we never realized at what cost our comfort came.
The older I grew, the more cognizant I was of how hard she worked. She cleaned apartments—sometimes up to three a day—ironed, watched kids and sometimes even cooked. Long grueling days took a toll on her physically and only now that I have two kids of my own, am I realizing just how mentally exhausted she was. With no one to tag team with, like Jarred and I do, she came home to deal with my brother and I. So, when we misbehaved, she would react according to her mental state: anxious and completely deprived of self-care.
As a child, I wouldn’t have been able to understand her reactions to us as a consequence of her exhaustion. I mistook her reactions as lack of love and I grew rebellious, which created this endless cycle of fighting and emotional neglect. Our home was a battle field, overwhelmed with mistrust and unease.
Since I had Oliver, I’ve reflected greatly on how much mental health affects parenting. I don’t think a day goes by without me saying to my mom, “I don’t know how you did it!” I’m beyond proud of how strong she was to keep it together for our sake. But how different would it have been had she taken care of her mental, emotional and physical state?
Conscious Parenting and The Importance of Self-Care
Lately I’ve noticed that most of my time with Emma is spent raising my voice and just trying to make it to bedtime without losing my shit. Between the baby crying for a boob and Emma being her loud usual self (that’s her Cuban side), my anxiety sometimes gets the best of me. I lash out on Emma, I am unable to calm the baby and it takes me twice as long to get anything done. When both kids are finally asleep and I calm my mind and reflect, I am not proud of how I’ve handled myself. I have flashbacks of my childhood and realize that I am repeating my mom’s behaviors. This is deeply unsettling to me because I would never want Emma to feel the way I felt when I was her age.
For about a week or so now, I have tried to be more conscious of the way I speak to her and handle situations when I feel my brain entering to a state of anxiety. I try not to react to the chaos and simply take a step back, breathe and ask myself: How can I correct the situation? Am I overreacting? Am I taking on too much? When I take the time to analyze my environment, it becomes easier for me to respond appropriately.
“When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it’s our job to share our calm, not join their chaos.” -L.R. Knost
Being mindful in parenting has been greatly beneficial to me, though it has only been a step forward in correcting my behavior. I know for a fact that there are certain things I need to do for my mind to be in the right space. For one, I need to EXERCISE. It’s been close to a year now that I have not done ANY kind of exercise. This is something I plan to take on within the next week or so. Secondly, REST—an incredibly difficult feat. I know that I take on way too much and my expectations for myself are very high. I am very hard on myself if I do not reach my goals and I tend to run myself to the ground. Not to mention I have a 4-month old chunk, who feeds like he’s being starved to death every 2 hours. Last, but not any less important, MEDITATION. I used to make the time to listen to Deepak Chopra or any other meditations I could get my hands on. Or just listen to calm music to get my mind to stop running through that never-ending to-do list.
It’s been difficult adjusting my life to being a mother of two and allowing myself the time to take care of my mental/physical health. I feel like I’m falling apart sometimes and I know I can’t be the mother I would like to be if I am not in right state of mind. Now that I have come to acknowledge my behavior, I am going to make more of an effort to take care of myself. Yes, it’s going to be hard—doing anything for oneself as a mom is definitely hard—but at the end of the day, my kids would rather have a healthy and happy mom than one who cannot partake in the fun.
And to my mom who did the best she could and who sacrificed herself for us to have what we have today, I get it now. And I hope that Emma looks up to me, the way I look up to you.