On September 25th 2009, I found myself in a very strange place. I was at home with my just-turned-one-year-old son and my three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, as a single parent.
I might have been in shock when the door closed behind my ex-husband, but how could I even tell? My daughter had just started preschool three days before. Precocious, curious and easily bored, I could tell her need for stimulation was growing exponentially. My son was your typical one-year-old boy: exhausting. During the day he was constantly on the move. At night he would wake up and cry so loudly and so often that I finally had to move my daughter out of their room and into mine and insert earplugs, so the two of us could at least sleep. And still, there was dinner to cook and stories to read, some semblance of normalcy and stability to uphold because, even though I knew it was okay if it happened, I didn’t want my children to see me fall apart.
In the meantime I had a small business to run. I own BodyTonic Pilates Gymnasium in Park Slope, Brooklyn. I am the proud boss and co-worker of 8-10 instructors there and was teaching clients and apprentices 4 or 5 days per week. I’ve always been responsible, but I think that this level of responsibility warrants an entirely new word. It was a completely unmanageable existence, but I didn’t see any way around it. I was just spinning around and around like one of the balls I was keeping in the air.
Within the midst of all of this, I was approached to co-lead a Pilates and yoga retreat in Tulum, Mexico. My first thought was, “I have too much on my plate.” And then with a little uncertainty, and a hint of mischief, I said, “I’ll do it.”
I went. And I slept and I practiced yoga, and I taught Pilates, and I ate three full uninterrupted meals per day, with many uninterrupted conversations, and met many interesting people. There was sun and sand and water and blue sky as a constant backdrop. On the very last day, after all the guests left, I walked to the waves, took a deep breath in and burst into tears. I would never be able to return to my life the way it was. I could not allow myself to live a life with no time for a delicious breakfast of fresh fruit, yogurt and a croissant. I could not live a life without space for beautiful sounds, scents, sights and nature and laughter with good people.
When I arrived back in Brooklyn, the kids were fine. The ex was fine. BodyTonic was fine. And each of them grew a bit without Mom there. Voids got filled and new spaces opened up. I could see that the more I cared for and nurtured myself, the more that everyone benefited. The myth of “too much going on to get away,” is just that, a myth. The truth is, I was not acting in a responsible way by being totally responsible for everything and in fact, I was probably being irresponsible.
In the next few days I served croissants and yogurt and fresh fruit for breakfast, even if it wound up on the floor. I downloaded the sound of ocean waves to have in the background while I cleaned up at the end of the day. I spent my nights in candlelight. I reserved a day each week to take care of ME. The following month, I began sending the kids to Dad’s to sleep one night per week. From a stressed out mom at the end of her tether, I was restored to a caring, present, patient and fun parent! I became a full person again, someone I was be happy to be. A year later I completed my Yoga Teacher Training at OM yoga Center NYC and now I am gearing up for our Pilates and Yoga Retreat 2012 and all of it’s positive aftereffects.
Hi, I’m Natalie, founder of Mommywise. I’m a Brooklyn mom of two (now) teenagers, PPD survivor, still humbled by the early years of parenting. I started this blog in 2004 as a way to help other parents who felt as dark and lonely as I felt to feel less shame, normalize the feelings of not loving parenthood, and raise awareness about postpartum mood disorders. I’m passionately committed to helping new parents feel more joy, offering sustainable employment for women and mothers, and contributing to positive change in the world.