STRETCH AND RELEASE

On one particularly no good, horrible day, I wrote the following. And then, as the universe would have it, I was forced to rewrite the ending. This is called everyday motherhood—and an everyday miracle.

You just keep moving, moms.

Give yourself grace and just keep moving.


11:00 AM

There’s no inspiration behind this post. I’m not going to wrap it up with a “You can do it!” message, because I’m not sure I can. I’m exhausted. My son is challenging. Both of my children are challenging. These summer days are long and repetitive and I’m desperate for a break from them, both the days and my kids. I’m desperate to pass them off for even just an hour or two so I can breathe. But that’s not happening. Because, as I’ve said, they are challenging. 

My self-care usually comes in the form of exercise. You know that whole mind-body-soul connection? It starts on a spin bike for me. It’s also a guaranteed hour of alone time. Sweat and silence. I crave it. 

But lately Eli’s been pushing his peers at the gym (and everywhere else I take him) and they’ve had enough. So they call me out of class and I‘m forced to remove him. And in case you’re wondering, I’m the only one crying during this awful exchange. He shows no emotion or remorse. Nothing seems to be getting through to him. No form of punishment or reward, bribery or bargaining. I’m a pretty stern parent, things don’t slide easily in this household, so to see a kid respond to nothing? It scares me.

ELI

Because this isn’t just about missing a workout or two, it’s about the fact that the entire last four years of my life have been a “change of plans.” You can’t do this. You shouldn’t go there. Your kids need you. Only you. You are no longer you. You are enslaved to them. And no one else is getting pulled from their stationary bike. You’re out on the parenting island alone. 

Some days I think I’m too selfish to have kids. I can’t keep up with the changing flow. I need space, and quiet time, and yes, self-care. The hours are just too long for an often thankless job. Where’s my boss to give me recognition? I’m only reminded of my inadequacies. 

Today, I don’t want to do it anymore. I don’t even want to write that, but it is the truth. I just want to rest, and recover, and I want help. I’m so scared for Eli to start preschool in a month. Part of me thinks it’ll cure his issues—that increased socialization is exactly what he needs—and then the other part of me thinks I’ll be getting a phone call that he’s no longer wanted. He’s not a malicious kid, which makes this all the worse. He’s just large, and physical, and speech delayed, and doesn’t want anyone in his bubble. 

That last part I totally get.

It’s just a phase, hopefully for both of us. At least that’s what I’ll tell myself to get through today. 

FOUR HOURS LATER

So here’s what happened now. 

I got out of bed and stopped my self-loathing. I woke my kids up from their naps and we went back to the gym. Yes, the same gym we were asked to leave earlier, because that’s how we roll: we jump back on the saddle and stop being afraid. You’re not gonna win this one, Eli.

I’ve never done an afternoon aerobics class before, but upon arrival I found that the daycare was relatively empty and the workers were familiar faces who had switched to the PM shift for summer session. They know my kids well, they tolerate them even better. 

So I dropped them off with success and lugged my yoga mat upstairs. For the second time today. I’ve never felt so much tension in my body. I desperately needed to stretch and release.

But when I got to the studio it was empty with the lights off. And I was five minutes late. There was no explanation other then the class was canceled and life sucks. I could feel the tears beginning to form.

I started back down the hallway, back to pick up my kids (since I conveniently didn’t wear shoes conducive to any exercise other than yoga), when a tiny Asian lady ran up to me.

“Are you here for class?” 

YES. I almost hugged her.

I do the obligatory, “You don’t have to hold class for just silly old me,” but thankfully she declines my offer and tells me we’ll do a private lesson.

I’ve met this woman once before when she subbed for my regular morning instructor. I remember leaving that class wishing she was a bit more intense, a bit more of a calorie burn. See? I was serious about coming to sweat. 

But today her style was a gift to me. Maybe she sensed my stress. Or maybe she heard the shakiness in my voice when I warned her I may be asked to leave early again. But whatever the case, she said that today we were just to be still. 

So that’s what we did. 

We rolled out our mats, and in the dark, with calm and serene music drowning out the chaos in my head, we laid side-by-side and we breathed. We just breathed. We barely even moved. No up dog. No down dog. No sweat. Just breathing in, staying still, letting go.

I normally would’ve hated this, but today? Today was different. 

At one point during our deep breathing she looked at me stoically—this stranger, who had one extra child and a decade more of parenting under her belt than I—and said: “You know, sometimes I wonder why I even had kids.”

I inhaled those words carefully and kept them close. Here was a woman of a different age, and race, and maybe even cultural and religious background, but she felt exactly the same as I did.

I guess all moms have their moments. 

What a relief. 

family photo

The hour flew by, and for the first time in awhile my mind wasn’t spiraling so my body followed suit. We barely did anything but lay, but for one uninterrupted hour I was free.

I didn’t want to leave, but I got up anyhow and thanked her as I rolled up my mat and she stuck out her porcelain-skinned hand to meet mine.

“I’m Grace,” she said. 

Grace. 

Yep, I got it now. 

Earlier I was drowning. I had begged for “even just an hour or two so I can breathe.” 

And I got just that. One full hour of nothing but appreciating my breath. 

And I got it through grace.