Right after my daughter was born, someone told me that what’s best for the mama is what’s best for the baby.
Alas, at the time I was too wrapped up in the dangerous idea that dark under-eye circles, scraggly hair, and spit and shit stained sweats made me a Good Mother. Sleep deprivation meant I was tending to my child’s every need. The two tell-tale wet spots on my shirt meant I was too busy breastfeeding to care about personal hygiene. Matted hair? Awesome. Pit stains? Bring it on. Oh, and do me a favor, bring over a large pot because I’m too busy shushing and swaying my colicky child to use the bathroom. Thanks.
“Go out with a friend for coffee!” my mother-in-law said.
“When can we see you?” my friends asked. “We miss you!”
I missed me, too.
But I thought that women who waltzed off for a night out with a friend or–God forbid–their husbands, were selfish bitches.
And in between obsessing about germs and aspiration pneumonia, in between counting M’s poops with religious fervor, in between pouring boiling water on one of the organic wooden toys made by magical elves in Scandanavia, I realized this: Would I die for my child? You bet. Would I kill for her? Touch her before washing your hands with antibacterial soap, and you’d find out.
But, I hated being a mother.
When I found out I was pregnant again when my daughter was 8-months-old (um, you guys? Breastfeeding is not birth control, just saying) I started writing as a means of survival. I couldn’t live the way I had been living any longer and bring another baby into the world, so I took a (very) deep breath and started writing. And wearing a push-up bra.
Maybe it was also a hormonal thing. Maybe growing a teeny tiny penis in my uterus gave me the balls to take myself less seriously. Or more seriously.
Regardless, I started to enjoy my kid. And the idea of having another kid.
But it still wasn’t enough.
And when we moved to Israel–when I left the community I loved in Los Angeles for a place that confused me, while we dealt with a barrage of illnesses strange and new, while the idea of sleep seeped down the drain and I tumbled headfirst after it into a world of manic exhaustion, I lost it.
Take a break, take a break, take a break my friends back home told me on Facebook and g-chat. But I couldn’t when it felt like there was no where to go.
This isn’t why my marriage imploded. This isn’t why I’m living 30 minutes away from my children in an apartment in Tel Aviv. But my fragile sense of myself–of what I liked and what made me happy–certainly contributed to the collapse of the family I worked so hard to protect.
So please, mamas who think they can “do it all,” take me as a cautionary tale. Take me as an example of what NOT to do. And go take a fucking break.