I’ve decided not to be too strict with myself about this blog – I have two full time jobs (my work place and being a mama), both which require my full attention, but I DO want to give this my full attention as well. I apologize for the lack of an update in the past two weeks.
In the same breath, I had an incredibly rough week the first week of July. Those first few days of this summer month gave me some very real and raw emotions to think about and go over. I hesitated to write a post about it for a while, and couldn’t think of what to say – except I promised you, the reader, that I would be honest. Open. Without fear. And sure, part of me is incredibly afraid to be judged (sadly, aren’t we all?), but I decided I should put this out there – in case anyone else has felt this way, or needs to connect with me. You’re not alone.
Olive was away for a week with her father and his family on a fantastic beach vacation in North Carolina. From pictures and a few text updates, I know she had fun, I know she enjoyed spending time with her big sister, and it makes my heart SO HAPPY that she was able to experience the ocean, his family they rarely see, and her quality time with her sister. I love that she was in the pool every day, experienced a hurricane (and was so brave!), ate yummy ice cream, and did cartwheels on the beach.
But it still hurt me like hell.
I’ve been away from her before, she has been away on vacation in the past, as have I, but for some reason this particular time hit me very hard. Maybe because instead of a week, I was without her for almost 10 days. 10 days, I had originally thought, I could lose some weight by working out, make some yummy food, hang out with my girls. I made lists, made plans, entered everything into my planner, and had each day and each meal structured from dawn until dusk. This wouldn’t have been any different for me from any other week – each day of my weeks are planned on the Sunday before so I don’t have to do any extra thinking or scrambling, and can just focus on Olive and what matters most. I enjoy having an agenda, sticking to it, and crossing off to do lists. The Type A Anne has really come out in the past year or so, and I get along SO well with her!
The week Olive was gone, I was excited to be able to go to CrossFit every morning, use a free week pass at another local gym, run a lot, catch up on a book or two, paint and redo her room, and see some friends…
…none of which I ended up doing.
I mean not a single one. I ended up ignoring my morning alarms, cancelling the classes, not being able to wake up until the very last minute for work, going to bed either incredibly early or incredibly late, and was always exhausted – even though I had done nothing strenuous with my days. I ended up having my landlord paint her room instead of having an awesome DIY moment. I ate anything and everything, forgot to check my meal plans, and gained about 7 pounds. I cried a lot. It was horrible. Very obviously, I experienced some sort of depression or separation anxiety. This is not to say I didn’t try my hardest to be positive – I felt so ungrateful, so silly for ignoring my healthy needs, so clueless ignoring my planner, but with each missed alarm blaring at me to get my butt up and get to the gym, I grew even harsher on myself, and soon I felt I was almost “punishing” myself for being so lazy and not using my time wisely. So back to sleep I would go.
I am absolutely my own worst enemy at times.
As I look back at the first week of July, I pity myself in a sense, but I also judge myself a little bit. Why was I so heartbroken? Why couldn’t I even get out of bed? Why was this such a big deal? I had known about this trip since January. I have had months to prepare, WHAT HAPPENED TO ME?
I came to a few conclusions, one being that, without realizing it, I absolutely 100% have come to define myself as a mom. Olive defines me. It sounds scary, but I don’t know who or what I would be without her. I read so many articles how parents lose their own identity after they have a child, and never believed it until now, but goodness. You do. It’s scary. Not in the sense that I’m bemoaning myself for losing ME, but scary that I depend so much on HER dependence on ME. She NEEDS me. She needs me to be 110%, 24/7, 365 days a year. She needs me to be up at 5 each day, checking my to do list, to keep the house clean and tidy so she has a good home to grow up in, my weekly meal plans and schedules that revolve around keeping her nourished and her bedtime. She needs the structure just as much, if not more, than I do. And I need it, too. I love it. I thrive on it. Where would I be without her? What mistakes would I be making? Where would I be without this little person to take care of? Instead of reading a book at exactly 8:15PM each evening, what would my life consist of? And why don’t I trust myself in that sense? I know what you might be thinking, ok lady, time to get a hobby. But in reality, I don’t even go to the gym when I have her, or get a babysitter so I can go for a run – each moment with her is so precious to me, that I can’t even fathom doing something for myself while she is home. That’s what every other weekend at dad’s is for.
Olive and I are very close, and very much in tune with each other, so when I say that my right leg was missing for a whole week, it certainly felt like my whole right side of my body was gone. I couldn’t even find the words to write, and began a blog post or two about single parenting but stopped. Partly because I was afraid for maybe sounding a little bit crazy for admitting the above, but also because I just couldn’t even think. A cloud settled over me that week, and I know I have to address it head on. It’s one thing to miss your child and anxiously wait for them to come home, but it is a completely different story to let that anxiety overtake you, disable you, and keep you from living and doing what you do best. I don’t have an answer. But I do know that next time I’ll prepare myself a little bit better, talk with someone openly about my anxiety, and make plans to go the gym with someone, make plans to have dinner with my mom or a friend, someone to hold me accountable for doing what I say I am going to do, and keep me distracted. Does this make me unable to hold myself accountable and overly dependent on others? No. It certainly could be seen that way, but I hold myself accountable in so many quiet ways over many other instances, that I know I am quite capable. On the weekends Olive is with her dad, I have no problem waking up early, going for a run, sticking to my meals for the day, maintaining my to do list. (Which is another reason I’m so baffled by my reaction the week she was gone.)
Guys, THIS side of single parenting is HARD. It is HARD to be without your baby for any length of time. Sometimes even going to work in the morning can be sad (and some days I can’t get to work fast enough!). And to not have a husband or partner yet to be there with me to help me work through the anxiety and separation is hard, too. Sometimes you need someone to keep you distracted. And tell you that what you’re feeling is ok, even if it seems a little weird to them.
Olive of course is home now, and I’ve lost 2 of the pounds I’d gained, I have been up early in the mornings, and have been crossing off items on my to-do list left and right. She loves her new room, and I’m excited to add the final details (check out my idea board on Pinterest!).
I feel upbeat again, am excited to get to CrossFit on Thursday morning, and am giddy about my meal plans for the week. (I love having my week laid out for me, can you tell?) I like the “mundane” life that we lead. It’s quiet, it’s lovely, it’s ours. And if anything, what I have taken away from my experience is how grateful I am to be able to be Olive’s mama, and how very lucky I am she is in my life.
Have any of you experienced severe anxiety?
If you’re a single parent, what are some things you do to keep yourself busy when your kids are with their other parent?