After the twins were born, my husband and I were overwhelmed. Shell-shocked. Exhausted. The days blurred into nights. Our living room became a round-the-clock hub for feedings, diaper changes, naps and occasional contact with the outside world, via visitors who came to see the babies.
I began to forget who I was. What I liked to do before the babies were born. What I found funny. What I was passionate about. I had become a robot with a singular mission: keep these two babies alive. And, as with most new moms, my every thought and move revolved around them. As the days turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into months, my anxiety began to increase, eventually reaching new heights.
My husband came home from work one night, excited. His colleague had mentioned that he and his wife, shortly after their twins were born, each picked one night per week to be “their” night. On those nights, they did whatever they wanted after work. The only rule was they couldn’t go home, because they’d most likely get sucked into household and parenting duties.
I loved the idea, and we agreed on our designated “free nights.” I had lofty goals for my first night. I’d go to a yoga class and start writing again, and maybe even make progress on that novel I started before the babies were born.
Here’s what really happened: I wandered into Target and, out of habit, made a beeline for the baby section, where I picked out new outfits for the twins. Then I went to Starbucks, where I sipped coffee while checking the nursery camera from my phone every five minutes until it was time to go home.
I had forgotten how to exist without my babies in my sight, and I felt guilty leisurely strolling the aisles of Target or relaxing with a book while they were home, so little and vulnerable, without their mama.
Fast-forward to today, and my free nights look completely different. I fully detach. I write, exercise, shop for myself (not the babies), get a manicure, treat myself to a non-rushed dinner with a friend – whatever my body and mind are begging for.
It took me a while to get here, but I’m so glad I did – with small steps. I moved the icon for the nursery cam to the last screen of my phone (out of sight, out of mind… kind of). I registered and paid for yoga classes in advance so I’d go, or committed to plans with friends. I held myself accountable to others at first, then finally to myself.
After these evenings, I feel refreshed, grateful and ready to throw myself wholeheartedly into parenting again. And when I skip these nights, boy do I feel it. By the weekend, I’m exhausted, anxious and burned out, which is exactly what I don’t want to be around my husband and kids.
To be the best mama I can be, I need to find the time to do what inspires and energizes me. I need to be me.
Mamas and dads, what do you do to stay more balanced? I’d love to hear.