Tiny Rituals

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The faucet drips methodically… tink, tink, tink. Mama is in darkness—other than a still, steady flame within the blackened glass of a candle.  A blanket of bubbles—the dry, satiating scent of lavender.  Tink, tink, tink.  Beyond that, the muffled sound of cartoons.  Her children are settled.  Satisfied.  Safe.  She exhales and sinks into the warm water, could be 10 minutes, maybe 20 if she's lucky.

Just minutes later the door creaks fully open; a blonde haired, brown eyed boy pops his head in, already pulling at the sleeves of his shirt. “Mama, I come take bath you!”  

“Of course, baby.” And as he runs in, Mama’s Me Time runs out.

~

This idea of “Me Time” is actually a source of contention in my busy, maternal mind. 

I’m told that I need to take time to myself often; that I have to take care of myself too.  And its difficult to come up with a socially appropriate response for that.  I nod, agree, and then just as quickly, dismiss it to my emotional vault.  I don't have time to even consider this “Me Time” thing and frankly, it feels like just another chore to have to actively take care of myself.  Its so much easier to neglect myself.  My husband and children need me, and whether I like it or not, I thrive on feeling needed.

As a working mother, with an older son who has hit this magical age where soccer practice lasts until bedtime, I barely find time to satisfactorily my address household responsibilities.  And in our brief respite of a weekend, I do my best seek adventure and fun, as a family.  Taking time to take care of myself is taking time away from them.  Perhaps it can be argued my Me Time primarily consists of We Time. 

The truth is that when I do find myself in moments without my children, the initial sense of excitement and freedom is followed by a growing wave of discomfort.  I quickly realize that I don't know how to act without my children present.  I don't know how to carry myself without a child on my hip.  I don't know how to hold a conversation that isn’t quickly interrupted by the needs of a little one.  My entire identity has become that of a Mama.  I barely resemble my former self in a physical sense and in character—nor do I want to.  I resent the idea that there is life beyond my little bubble of a family.  Because my life is full and fantastic within this bubble.

But through the forced moments of solitude, I admittedly experience a very obvious and positive shift.  My body physically relaxes significantly in ways it simply can’t when doing 3rd grade homework or chasing a booger coated toddler around with a tissue. My mind becomes clear and my mood pleasant. I notice the lifting of resentment that I didn’t even was there to begin with.  And best of all, reuniting with family is an exciting circumstance, wether its a night away or grocery shopping alone.  

And so I regress. Me Time is beneficial and it is necessary.  I’ll admit that.

But how? I always come back to “How” do I add Me Time to the chaos of my big, beautiful life?

Me Time is so often represented in my mind as a grand event that involves mascara, kissing the kiddos on the forehead and driving off into the sunset while daddy stays home to feed them an unreasonable amount of Oreos.  These circumstances are a rarity and usually involve the solitary-induced awkwardness that I described above.  

So in attempting to secure space for myself, in pondering what satisfies my heart beyond my family, I have found that I already do things that involve this self-care that I am am seeking.  Finding time for myself comes naturally and without notice when I engage in the smallest of tasks, the Tiny Rituals I do for myself that are for me and only me.

~

I begin each day with the spark of a match.  A flame kissed upon the blacked wick of a scented candle.  It burns through the madness of the morning. 

 Such a graceful ceremony it is to select jewelry and adorn myself to my own liking.  Upon the necklaces and bracelets, the names of my husband and our children— those alive as well as those never born. A reverent process that takes 60 seconds but they glimmer throughout my day.  

No matter how late we are running, I make my bed. The loving placement of pillows and the smooth stretch of the blanket makes me feel accomplished and clean.  

After the kids are secured at school and I’m off to work, Mama’s music comes on. Loud. Joyful. Expletives. 

Freshly picked flowers arranged artfully throughout our home.  

A bath full of bubbles… not the tear free kind.  

Four, maybe five, olives in my dirty martini.  

Pre-motherhood, these are things that are just part of life.  But for a Mama, these are gems.  The glistening necessities of our existence.  The Tiny Rituals in which we save space in our time to secure a sense of Self.  

My Tiny Rituals are unique to me.  Some are shared and some are sacred.   Pre-motherhood, these are the things that exist as a part of life.  But for a Mama, these are gems, the glistening necessities to our soul.

When we surrender to complete sacrifice for our family, we are satisfied enough knowing that they need us and the undying truth that we can give them something no one else can.  At the same time, there are some things that only we can give toourselves… the happy times together as a family, the brief moments of solitude, the off into the sunsets, the little choices we make for ourselves, the space saved in our time and tasks in which we secure our sense of Self through our own individual Tiny Rituals.

Journalist: Kelly Estrella