The ends of things – conversations, performances, lectures, films – tend to encourage reconciliation of events, consolidation of ideas, space for us to do some processing and enjoying of the thing that is ending. One of my favorite endings before I became a mother was the end of my exercise class. We would take 5 minutes to stretch, thank ourselves and our teacher, be together as a group after a tough workout. I had always noticed the women (the class is almost always women) who would leave before then end. Maybe seeing them do this over the years gave me the idea that this was a possibility. And so when I returned to class after Miss Pumpkin was born, I began to leave early as well. I was squeezing class between my morning with patients and my afternoon teaching responsibilities. To be honest, I was pretty proud of myself for making the time. I continued this way, doing the most intense parts of class and scurrying out before the cool down and stretch – those were not the most important parts of class anyway, I figured. I had decided they were luxuries that I would not have.
A full year into my new routine – I was still very proud of myself for going to class at all – I had a break from my teaching duties and I found myself with nothing to rush off to after class. That day, I stayed until the end. I remembered all of the wonderful parts of the end – the kindness I would send my own way, the exhausted smiles shared with the others in the class – and realized that if I needed these five minutes before Pumpkin, I definitely needed them now.
The trouble was that my five minute indulgence would translate to about a 30-minute delay in my arriving home at the end of my day. Small delays in the shower line-traffic pattern-elevator line-subway matrix would add up to about that much time.
You see, motherhood very often causes us to feel quite guilty about any time we are spending away. It’s an understandable and perfectly natural emotion. It serves to keep us close to our pumpkins and solidifies our bond to them. But it can also cause us to neglect the things that we need. Post-baby us can get carried away shifting more and more of the things that pre-baby us had felt were “needs” into the category of “wants” or the even more judgmental category of “luxury”. But pre-baby us was no fool. She might have even been our biggest advocate. Perhaps we could take a few of her suggestions more seriously.