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Wednesday 26 June 2019
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When parenting becomes overwhelming

Self care is important

I went from Wonder Woman to Hulk in a matter of months. "You and Miss are like Hulk. You all are always angry," my ten-year-old accused sullenly after I impatiently brushed him off for bothering me while I was busy. I laughed heartily. Later, in a moment of solitude, I cried. The weight of the accusation bore down on me, especially when, in retrospect, there was no lie there. Life had taken its toll. The master of everything in the red, white and blue costume had crumbled under the pressure and had turned into an angry, green stomper. I had gone from the "best mommy ever" to the "meanest mommy ever." I had disappointed #1son. I had disappointed my niece, who had only three weeks ago had commented, "Aunty, I don't know how you manage to keep up with so many things and make it look so easy." I had failed big time and I cried.

Trying to keep up with the to and from school and extracurricular activities shuttle, home work, the domestic duties, the professional duties, juggling bills, dealing with aging and hormonal imbalances, sometimes all done under sleep-deprived conditions resulted in a querulous, shouting, unable to make time for anything fun mommy. Under normal circumstances he and I fight, but this time I think it was different. "Have I paved the way for my child to become a psychopath or sociopath?" I worried, as I recalled the numerous episodes of Criminal Minds on which I had binged. Somehow, it seems, the parents are always the cause of the diabolical schemes in which the un subs (unknown subjects) engage. Had I completely ruined my child by allowing the challenges of motherhood to transform me into a rougher version of the person he is used to?

This was not the first time, though, that I'd felt the need to take a few minutes to shed some tears because I felt overwhelmed or felt that I'd failed as a mother. And I know I'm not alone in this. Just check the number of social media memes about parenting that are being shared on your feed on a daily basis. They may be funny, but they are also very telling. Parenting is a tough job, truly a labour of love. Children are demanding of our time, energy and resources. They have the ability to make us express conflicting emotions simultaneously. Happiness and sadness, pride and disappointment, love and intense anger. They are gifted that way.

And I believe I have it easier than a lot of parents I know. I work from home most days of the week, so I have a certain amount of flexibility to do what needs to get done (laundry, cooking, cleaning) before my second job starts - home work, explaining how "stuff" works, trying to get a sense of what happened at school, monitoring the screen time, getting him into the bathroom, getting him out of the bathroom, getting him into clothes, getting him into bed, reading, pillow talk, getting him out of bed on mornings. I am not a single parent, so I can knock off at least a fraction of one of the things on that list (hey, every little helps). Then there is my village, which is almost always open for business (both ways). "Hey aunty, what is the kid doing on Friday night? Can he come over for a movie night sleepover?" my niece may ask. "If JJ isn't doing anything, send him for the weekend nah," granny may order. "We are going to Aripo, send JJ for the ride," aunty may request. I don't believe I've ever said no to one of those offers, and I try to reciprocate as a member of my village. I frequently wonder, though, if I sometimes get so overwhelmed by keeping up with parenting my one son, how do parents, especially single parents, who have to commute to their full time jobs, some with more than one children and little or no support system, manage?

My green experience has taught me that self care is an important part of coping with the challenges of parenting, and not necessarily in terms of luxuries like shopping or spa days. Because let's face it, for some of us, the odds of being able to afford anything much after the necessities are very slim. For me, gone are the days when I could casually join my media colleagues Jada Loutoo and Denyse Renne on a shoe-shopping run on a slow court day. Or just swipe my card and walk away with a $600 dress or bag that I didn't need. My well-budgeted self care package these days comes with fries and a drink, sometimes a painful tug of the wild hairs on my eyebrows, maybe a two-hour journey to a fantasy land on a big screen, or a bundle of crisp pages to turn. But hey, if it takes me to a place where I allow my mind to wander from the reality that is parenting for an hour or two, that's good enough for me. Because in spite of it all, I love being a mother. I may sometimes need to temporarily escape into solitude to regroup from time to time, but at the end of the day, I can't get away from being a superhero, whether Wonder Woman or Hulk. For coming to think of it, the green guy too has a purpose to serve.

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