It’s around 2 o’clock on a Sunday afternoon and I’m standing in the kitchen trying to decide if I want a PopTart.
Actually, I’m not trying to decide. I’ve already decided that I really want one of those S’mores flavored generic toaster pastries I had brought home the day before. I had been thinking about the sugar crusted marshmallow and cheap chocolate taste since I had placed the box in my shopping cart at the store. Like the memory of saying “You too!” to a waitress telling you to enjoy your meal, it had stuck with me longer than it should.
My hesitation was not because I was worried about the calories or sugar content of those delicious yet still cardboardy treats. I probably should be concerned about all that but whatever. You only live once. Isn’t that what the kids were saying a few years ago? What was causing me to pause and stare out of the window above the sink was what I had told the children the day before.
Even though they are good kids, they are creatures of utter destruction. If I had let them, they would have descended upon the boxes of carbs and sugar like hyenas on a zebra with a broken leg. They would have bitten and clawed their way through the box and shiny wrappers until they triumphantly reached the gooey chocolate of the pastries. So I had to lay down the law. The PopTarts were off limits unless it was a school morning.
So now here I stand, hands in dishwater and eyes locked onto a dying moth caught in the screen of my kitchen window. Do I dare break the rules I laid down? Do I chance that maybe I could sneak one out of the box, open it, and enjoy it with no one noticing? Was that little tasty nugget of goodness worth having to fend off those cute little always hungry (except at dinner time) hyenas? What was the worst case scenario that could happen?
Before I can fully decide, a little voice yells out for me.
Then a third, telling the other two to be quiet.
And finally, sounds of shuffling, tumbling toys, and finally the battle cry of children everywhere,
“I’M TELLING MOM!”
When someone says “Family is life” this is probably not what they mean. They usually mean it in the Hallmark sense. The “Share This on Facebook and Show How Good of a Mom You Are!” sense. They mean it in every way but the real way because the real way is freaking ugly.
There I said it. Real family life can be ugly. It can also be hard. It’s nasty and often gross and it hurts a hell of a lot of the time. And you know what? It can really, really suck.
When you live a life of complete and utter devotion, you’re constantly faced with a handbasket of craziness. Someone is always needing something. Someone is always touching someone else. Someone is always calling your name. You’re faced with a never-ending stream of wants and needs that layer upon the wants and needs you have as an individual.
If you look hard enough online, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of voices telling you to “take time for yourself”. They push self-care like its a street drug. But at the same time, there are just as many, if not more, voices ready grab the pitchforks the moment you do take time for yourself. They yell out that your needing of self-care is wrong.
How dare you? they type angrily. Don’t you know what your family is the most important thing in your life? Here look at these memes that prove it’s true. Why don’t you ever think of your family? They would type in bold if social media allowed such things.
And that’s the problem. As caregivers, we are expected to be on point when it comes to the care of others. But when it’s our turn for care, any action we take is seen as selfish and unnecessary. We are expected to think of our family none stop twenty-four hours and day. We are expected to be at our very best, at all times, but not to have our thoughts stray to our own wants and desired.
Keeping up in the Best Caregiver Olympics is a lot like swimming with boots on. Yeah, you can do it, but it’s the tiring and potentially the most dangerous thing you’ve ever done.
And it sucks. The constant feelings of not being good enough suck. The constant anxiety of having a scarlet letter assigned to you for being too lazy, too self-involved, too careless really freaking sucks. No matter how you choose to care for your family and yourself, someone is going to say you are doing it wrong. And that really fucking sucks.
My family is a huge part of my life. But it’s not all of my life. There’s still some of my life that belongs just to me. There are parts that I am not willing to share.
And on that Sunday, after separating the hyenas from their squabbles, the part of my life that was utterly and totally mine is a PopTart. A PopTart all my own.
Angela Zimmerman is an over caffeinated aspiring writer living the domestic life in the Southern United States. Her socks rarely match and she enjoys listening to obscene music in the school pick up line. She’s testing her commitment issues by blogging about her life at Conjure and Coffee (www.conjureandcoffee.wordpress.com).