I’m not just a SAHM (stay at home mom), I’m a WAHM (work at home mom). That means juggling my daughter’s care with trying to grow a business. It’s been stressful, to say the least. I’m with her all day long, practically every day. Other than one overnight trip to a wedding, I’ve seen my daughter every day of her life. I take care of her when she wakes up, then usually I’m the one who puts her to bed. And in between, it’s a mix of making meals, blogging, emails, meetings, and emotional breakdowns. I was starting to see that my way of doing things was becoming unsustainable- I had spread myself too thin, and it was catching up with me.
After abandoning my business for a few weeks in an effort to regain my mental sanity, I had a conference that I needed to attend. I had purchased my ticket (plus airline and hotel) 6 months ago. Despite wanting to attend for 4 years, I suddenly didn’t want to go. I was so wrapped up in mom duty (you know… mom OBLIGATION) that I was beating myself up for going. I felt such guilt for leaving my baby, my husband, and all my responsibilities. But I also knew that I desperately NEEDED a break from being “mom”. I wasn’t being a good wife, mom or business woman. I needed a break from my daily grind and I needed to remember who I was.
So, I boarded the plane by myself and felt a little like Moana- I had a mission (to make new friends and restore the heart of Te-Mommy) but I didn’t know what I was in for. During my layover, I started having a panic attack. I called my husband as I cried at the airport. Totally wasn’t embarrassing or anything. I was tempted to turn around and head back. Who did I think I was, going on such a trip? To stand with other business owners when I felt like such a fraud? Also- who had I become?! I used to love doing adventurous stuff like this, and here I was cowering at the airport.
Fast forward to a week later, and I realize this conference was the best thing for me. I needed a break from being a mom. I couldn’t even give myself permission to take a day off before this trip. Now, I understand that it’s best for me and everyone else when I take some time for myself.
Aside from learning some important skills for my business, I learned a few things about myself. First, I got nicknamed “Sassy Cathy” which made me very happy- I feel like that’s totally “me” and I would have called myself “Sad Sack Cathy” before this trip. I felt like there was a cloud of doom around me, and I missed feeling vibrant. Since I didn’t know anyone, there wasn’t a pressure to be a certain way. For the first time in a very long time, I finally felt like I could be myself. Second, I learned that I needed a creative group of women to surround myself with. It felt good to be in great company, with like-minded individuals. For the first time, I didn’t feel like the odd one out. My crew had the same struggles I did, and we brainstormed them together. Third, I learned that I didn’t need to be such a perfectionist, but that it’s ok that I am sometimes. For example, I didn’t need to be dressed perfectly or fit in with any crazy idea of what I “should be”. But also, I made some business card packages that I took a lot of precision with. I learned to pick and choose my battles and that I can’t beat myself up for little things anymore. Yes- I would beat myself up for looking lazy one day or for being meticulous! I was so hard on myself and this trip made me realize how silly that was. I am just me. I don’t need labels to define me anymore.
I think the most surprising thing I learned was that I could take time away from my daughter and be happy. I do practically everything with her, aside from my doctor’s appointments. She comes with me to work. Nearly every outing I go on, she comes with me. There was very little separation. I thought that this was what I wanted, but I realized that maybe time alone was more for me. I might want to do something like get a job where she didn’t come with me. Where I had some space to be myself and learn and grow. This trip was crazy for me, because I had never gone away on my own- no camp, no dorming during college, and no living alone. This was the longest I was by myself and it was a relief. I’ve always said that my greatest fear is being alone. Turns out that while I wasn’t physically alone, I had separated myself emotionally. I’m not sure I’d ever felt so alone.
I know that not everyone can take a week off to attend a conference. But, you can take a day. Stay over with a friend. Get a cheap motel in your town. Take time for yourself. Even just go get a manicure. We all need time away and we definitely don’t get it enough. If you don’t feel comfortable with it, make someone hold you accountable for your time off. Line up a babysitter to watch your kids (even if it’s a friend or family member). Trade off with another mom to get some time alone. Advocate for yourself so that your spouse takes a turn watching the kids to give you a break. And, even if you think you get a break already- take a longer one. It’s amazing what some time off can do for you, and also for your family! I’m so thankful that I didn’t chicken out. I feel like I understand myself better than before. It was definitely worth it.
Cathy Cardona is a blogger, photographer and content creator that empowers women to be more creative and go after their goals. She offers colorful lifestyle content, time saving DIY’s, party ideas and expert educational resources on her blog, Party HarDIY. Her motto? “If it’s going to be there, it might as well be pretty!” She’s a stay-at-home mom to Hailey, a sweet and exuberant toddler who keeps her busy all day long. As a recovering perfectionist, she’s finding the balance between striving for greatness and living each day to its fullest with those she loves.
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