“But then I don’t get her feet or legs!” shouted my four-year-old to my eight-year-old. I had been reduced to body parts by my children. Pieces of myself for my kids to fight over.
It was bedtime and I was lying on twelve tiny inches of my enormous king size bed while two of my kids were fighting over who would lie next to me. I had refused to lie sandwiched between them, because, well, we all have our limits, right? And that was my limit. My four-year-old was disappointed that she couldn’t claim my legs or feet, which she liked to burrow against with her busy feet. My eight-year-old claimed she hadn’t had enough time to snuggle with me. So there they were, claiming pieces of me like candy from a pinata.
Of all the things that are hard about motherhood, for me, the hardest part is the being “on” all the time, with all of your senses. The noise, and the need to reply, engage, explain, or intervene, is constant. And the touching, oh dear God the touching. It’s incessant. Even if you spend a healthy amount of time letting the kids entertain themselves, it still feels like you’re always on.
Ready to catch that falling toddler or sudden vomit.
Ready to explain why they can’t stuff an entire roll of toilet paper down the toilet. Ready to duck before you get head butted by a toddler.
That’s why I find myself chasing the void lately, actively seeking out brief moments of peace and quiet. I know you'd recognize that magical place: it's the void of noise, touch, and being the one to handle whatever shit is thrown at you (sometimes literally) by your little ones. That void—where you can just exist and nothing is required of you—is the stuff of dreams for mothers.
And it is also different for all my friends. One friend does hot yoga because, in her words, it’s so hard she can’t think about anything else. Not a single list running through her head, not a single worry invading her thoughts. Another friend runs outside almost every day, because it is her time and just makes her feel better. While exercise would be the better void, I prefer solo scenic drives in my car where I can just . . . be. For me, it’s a time when I can know that no one will bump into me and slosh my coffee against my face. When I can listen to music if I want, because that noise doesn’t demand anything of me except singing at the top of my lungs.
Let’s face it, just being is hard when you’re a parent because there’s always someone needing something. But you know what? As much as they need breakfast or clean underwear, we, as parents, need to find the void. Just being—whether it’s running, yoga, or belting out music in your car—is just as essential as changing the diapers, brushing their hair, or doing the laundry.
Here’s to chasing the void, friends, whatever that may be for you. If you need me I’ll be in my car, slurping a piping hot latte and shout-singing along to pop hits on the radio.