Stand Up: (A mental health reminder for introvert parents)

silence-sunset-1379641I’ll rush to defend a friend, but cringe and sometimes fall silent when it comes to defending myself.

I once loved to argue. I am still easily riled up.

When it comes to protecting time to myself, to write, to sleep, to speak to no one, I am apologetic yet fiercely determined.

I explain to my husband that my attitude of distant exhaustion is not so much a reflection on him as it is a dried up, empty-tank-feeling in me.

I can’t decide whether I do a bad job of standing up for myself or if I’m just in the throes of how *difficult* it is to actually stand up for myself as a mother of two young children.

“What are you looking forward to when the kids are older?” my husband asks me.

He has already told me he’s anticipating hikes and boy scouts with our eldest. I’ve made a reference to my eagerness to learn at all over again when I begin homeschooling my son. Then, with a deep sigh, I say “Is it horrible that I’m really just looking forward to having more time to myself?”

I don’t want to go join a convent. (Though a week in one would be amazing!) I don’t want to leave my kids at my mom’s and drive to Canada (okay, last month, there were several panicked days when the idea stuck to me) and I don’t actually wish that I had a different life altogether, I just feel like the fight to protect a little space for myself, to preserve a few minutes for writing in my day, a snatch a sliver of time to exercise my body, is more effort than its ultimately worth.

I looked at my face in the mirror the other day and thought, “Okay, I see it. I’m aging.” And I wondered if I should feel some other emotion than resigned. My new beauty slogan has been “the most beautiful thing on your face is your smile” which I think is a paraphrase of Mother Teresa.

This is what I’m trying to say today—I don’t think that standing up for yourself has to look like a heroic, top-of-the-cliff-with-your-hair-flapping-in-the-wind kind of moment. I don’t look like Rosie the Riveter every day of my life. But I love myself. I love who I am after I’ve finished a new short story. I love the excitement that flows through me when I’ve finished organizing some part of my life. I love the gentle grace of a weeded garden bed and the peace that settles on me when I glimpse it from my window. These moments of preservation for my art and my sanity are not extraneous time-sucks. The non-essentials just might be the essentials. And if I don’t successfully protect them every single time, that’s okay, too.

Because I might just be living the hardest year of my life. (A mother of four told me that her first year with two kids was her more difficult, and I think I’ll take her word for it).

So I’ll keep standing up for myself. I’ll try to defend this tired, worn-out woman, and keep finding ways to nourish and delight her spirit. I’ll do my best to shield her time from busywork and facebook binges, from disorganized bouts of spinning her wheels, and also especially from moments of self-condemnation. Because she really is doing her best. And “best” is not perfect. It’s usually messy.

Stand up for yourself when you can. I say this especially to us parents who are used to giving and giving and giving to our kiddos. Find something that delights you. Rest when you can, even if it’s ten minutes on your back in the living room listening to a white-noise app. (Yes. I do this.)

So I’ll keep standing up for myself. I’m okay knowing I don’t have to look like Wonder Woman while I’m doing it. I’ll just try to keep some semblance of a smile on my face so that I can be beautiful the way Mother Teresa sees it.

I’m worth the fight. My heart and my mind are worth the fight. I want to stay filled up and strong for my husband and kids.

So I’ll keep standing up for myself.

About Elise

Elise Stephens began her career in writing at age six, illustrating her own story books and concocting wild adventures. Stephens counts authors Neil Gaiman, C.S. Lewis, and Margaret Atwood among her literary mentors, and has studied under Orson Scott Card. She dreams often of finding new ways to weave timeless truths into her stories. Her novels include Moonlight and Oranges (2011), Forecast (2013), and Guardian of the Gold Breathers (2015), a finalist for the INDIEFAB Book of the Year. She lives in Seattle with her family. Follow her on Twitter @elisestephens and Author Elise Stephens on Facebook.

Leave a Reply