It was 5 years ago, and I still remember it. Alone, without my newborn son in tow for one of the first times, I stopped by the coffee shop near our apartment.
The barista, who had seen me frequently that summer, as it was one of the only places I was brave enough to visit with my new baby, called out as she saw me at the register, "Where's the babe?"
"Oh, he's home with my husband. I'm getting a little break, I guess," I stumbled, inexplicably feeling embarrassed by my new-found, short-lived independence.
"Break?! You don't get a break!" she exclaimed loudly, not without some humor in her tone.
Startled, I couldn't come up with a response, so I forced a chuckle, grabbed my drink, and instead of sitting peacefully at a table as I had planned, I hurried out the door.
Surely the barista wasn't trying to embarrass or hurt me. As far as she was concerned, she was engaging in friendly banter with a regular customer. However, to a sensitive, tired new mother, her words made me want to run and hide. Maybe it is absurd that I need a break, I worried. Maybe other moms don't need breaks from their babies.
Now, five years later, just when that very baby is starting kindergarten, I get angry inside thinking of that fleeting, seemingly inconsequential moment from my past. Of course I deserved a break! Of course I had the right to enjoy a latte by myself for a few minutes while my husband held our baby!
So here's my pay-it-forward to all the new parents out there. You DO deserve it. You 100% deserve it. Don't let anyone make you feel badly about taking care of yourself. Don't listen to that inner guilt-- far too easy to let fester-- when you are at Target by yourself for the first time in days/weeks/months and a friend with her 3 kids teases you for your "luxury" of being alone. Don't let your mother-in-law's warning that 'you'll miss every second of the baby years' sink in too deeply when you are feeling overwhelmed. Don't let yourself drown in the all-encompassing responsibility of parenthood. For me, Motherhood is like a gerbil wheel that never stops turning completely, so you need to take time for yourself in order to keep going.
We simply must take care of our souls in order to care for our families, and this means breaks. Breaks from being responsible for anyone but ourselves.
As far as the barista who cajoled me that day, I have no ill will for her, but I do resent the underlying implications of her words. I did darn well deserve a break that day, and I didn't need someone to make me feel any more guilty than I surely already did. Words matter.
I love and strive to live by J.M. Barre's (creator of Peter Pan) quote, "always be a little kinder than necessary," because you never know how much your words might impact someone else.
~Julia @ Frantic Mama