As I sat at my computer desk in December of 2017, I remember an overwhelming feeling of tiredness come over me. No, not tiredness: sheer exhaustion. I felt physically spent and mentally drained. I couldn’t think straight, and it was hard to muster the energy to complete the one of the mounting tasks on my to do list. As I sat, I briefly opened my Facebook app and wrote a quick status update: “Have you ever felt so tired that you just sat down and cry?”
I received 33 comments that day. Many of my Facebook friends stated that they completely understood. Others offered prayer. Some scolded me that I needed to rest. That post marked the last time I was on Facebook in over 6 months. I realized that I needed to step away. I don’t drink, smoke, or do drugs. I have been attempting to eat right and lose weight, so I was no longer using food to numb my pain. I realized at that time that social media had become my drug of choice.
Instead of prayer; instead of picking up the phone and calling my husband; instead of reaching out to a friend; instead of journaling or writing it down; heck, instead of actually just sitting down and crying, I chose Facebook as my outlet when I was feeling despair and anguish. Grieving the loss of my mom, feeling overwhelmed with the day-to-day tasks, and not having a system in place to tackle them, and feeling like I needed to have it all together was an enormous mental and emotional toll.
I remember talking to my husband shortly after, and I mentioned to him that I think it is time to try out therapy. I had been contemplating the idea of therapy for a few years, but never pulled the trigger. Even though I am a physician, the stigma was not lost on me. I, Dr. Kimberly Reynolds, a board-certified pediatrician who has referred hundreds of patients for therapy over the course of my career, had serious second thoughts about attending therapy.
If you’re shaking your head right now, I understand. I’m SMHing myself right now, also. However, I recognized that I was reaching a breaking point and that I needed to get help ASAP. I will do a separate blog post on how I found my therapist, and how to know that the therapist you find is the right fit, so look out for that. For now, let’s just say that I was VERY nervous about my first visit! I walked in with extreme trepidation and dread. There was a bit of excitement that I was finally prioritizing my mental health.
Why in the world did I wait so long to see a therapist?! She got my entire life on the first visit. She just GETS me. She focused in on my lack of prioritizing self-care on the first visit, and now we are focusing on why and how to overcome it. We have also been touching on the grief associated with the death of my mother.
The what of our sessions is probably less important than the how. The best part of meeting with a therapist is that I am able to be vulnerable with her and not feel that her perception of me has any impact on my life. She is a neutral 3rd party. Her entire existence (as far as I am concerned) is to help me be a better version of myself. That probably sounded VERY selfish. It is! And that, my fellow working professional, is the beauty of therapy. It is truly the only time that I get to be selfish. For that entire hour, the agenda is ME. If we are talking about my husband or my kids, it is about them in relation to me, the way I deal with them, etc.
This has been a game changer. The biggest thing my therapist has taught me so far in my time with her is that you cannot pour from an empty cup. If I think about it, almost my entire life is spent pouring into others. Not only my husband and children, but all of the children and parents that I treat at work, as well as the medical students and residents. In fact, I would often feel very guilty about taking time for myself to get my hair done, get a massage, or even to go to the gym! I am still working on this as part of my goals for self-care, but just the concept has been a huge blessing for me. And you know what? My family is better off for it as well.
If you are a working parent like I am, you likely also spend your days pouring into others. Your significant other, your children, your clients, your boss. Everyone demands a piece of you and you happily give it, but find yourself left at the end of the day with an empty cup. Some people then try unhealthy habits to refill their cup. I mentioned my choice refill options were carbohydrates and social media. Now, I utilize healthier options such as exercising and journaling. (I still occasionally eat a donut! But now it is a treat as opposed to a treatment.)
I have no doubt that there is a subset of you who are now thinking something along the lines of “ Only the love of Christ can fill our cup!” I agree 100%. However, my guilt and discomfort with prioritizing myself was hindering me from reading my bible, journaling, and even praying. It felt self-indulgent and wrong to pray to the Almighty about my needs. My therapist has helped to reroute that faulty thinking, and in my prayers I am able to pray for myself and others, including my family. Besides, God gives us people and professionals to help us, so I have decided to use them.
Are you a working mom or dad who is feeling that your cup is running dry? Have you ever considered therapy? Would you like a post on how to select a therapist? If so, please leave a comment below! If this post inspires you to seek out a therapist, I would love to hear from you! Please email me at email@example.com.
Disclaimer: This post is not geared toward people with depression, anxiety, or any other mental health diagnosis. If that’s you, you SHOULD work with a therapist: There is no probably about it. You may or may not also be on medications. Speak with your physician and healthcare professional about your treatment plan. This post is not a substitute for consulting with your physician and should not be taken as medical advice.
Peace and Love,
I was so proud of myself! I managed to get the birthday present in time for the party. I had even wrapped it the night before. Success! As you will learn through this blog, I spend the majority of my time aboard the Hot Mess Express, so this was a huge deal for me.
I. Even. Had. A. Card.
Y’all. This was EPIC.
As it turns out, I still ended up being late to the party. At the time, I was still breastfeeding my daughter, and she demanded a feed right before we left, and it was raining and…the typical shenanigans that make moms and kids late to weekend events. As a result, the activities were already in full swing when we walked in the room. No biggie. I was actually used to this (hot mess, checking in for duty). I made my way into the party with my kiddo. My son, Israel, quickly found his “peeps”, started running around and having a ball. I spent a few moments watching him to make sure he was ok, and then looked around the room. My first order of business was finding the mother of the birthday boy who invited us to the party. She actually made her way over to me first and introduced herself. I was struck by how warm and inviting she was. She made a few statements that were initially confusing, but became more and more clear as the afternoon wore on. She seemed to be hinting that it was good to FINALLY meet me, and that I should try to come around more often.
Come around where? This was the first party we had been invited to, so how else would I be around more? Perhaps she was shading me for not volunteering at the school more? It didn’t seem like that was quite what she was saying. Her words lingered in my mind and I pondered the meaning as I made my way farther in to the party to talk to the other mothers.
It became very clear VERY fast that I was the odd woman out. There were about 3 groups of moms spread out around the venue. Upon overhearing their conversations, it became very clear to me that these moms knew each other. They knew each other WELL. These were not the conversations that new acquaintances held. These folks were FRIENDS—bona fide friends. They were a part of each other’s lives. I didn’t pick up on all of the conversations as some of them were in another language, but for the most part, I realized very quickly the meaning of the words spoken by the hostess. I overheard discussions of prior parties.
There was a rule in Kindergarten and first grade that if one child in the class was invited to the party, every child had to be invited. The teacher would not release the contact information of the children unless everyone was invited. My son attends a dual language program, so many of the children have been in the same class since Kindergarten. The words of the mom I met at the beginning of the party came back to me with much more clarity and meaning now. She was not only stating that she was glad to finally meet me, she was also saying that she was glad to finally see that I had made it to a party. The conversations then made so much more sense now. The moms were comparing this particular party to ones they had all attended in the past. So, we were being left out of party invites—likely not birthday parties. Not to brag, but Israel is the most popular boy in the class, and I can’t imagine that a birthday party would be had without him (or at least I will continue to tell myself that, to avoid thinking that my son was also being excluded). But I can imagine that there were many summer barbecues, house warming parties, Memorial Day cookouts, etc., that we were not privy to.
My heart sank as I watched my child run back and forth, screaming and having a great time with his friends. It doesn’t take much to trigger mommy guilt. WORKING MOMMY guilt has an even easier tipping point. I felt terrible. I certainly didn’t cry or anything (I make this disclaimer because, if you know me, you know I am nothing if not a cry baby!), but I stood in that one spot for a long time rethinking my choices in life.
Because I have a social circle and friends, I did not go out of my way to make friends with the other moms, but it wasn’t as if I was standoffish either. I made time in my schedule for field days and the like, but I wasn’t at every career day; it was hard to fit regular volunteering into my schedule as my schedule can be very unpredictable; I didn’t always get my class payments in on time; the schedule for reading to the class never coincided with mine….you get my drift.
I found out shortly after this party that all the moms in the class had a WhatsApp group. They would discuss projects, homework issues, vent to each other if a teacher wasn’t performing well, etc. I had been excluded from this elite and likely very useful group. I was devastated.
I take full responsibility for the role that I play in my seclusion. I could have reached out more, made more of an attempt to connect with the other moms. Even at this party, I doubt anyone would be super rude if I walked up to one of the groups and introduced myself. I did attempt this, kind of. I stood near one of the groups and tried to make eye contact with several moms. It was a no go.
But honestly…I feel guilty about not having enough time to connect with my own husband and kids! I now have to worry about connection with class moms? And what happens when Selah starts school? That’s TWO classes I have to manage. Should I be connecting with the daycare moms in Selah’s daycare now?
Do they have classes, webinars, or masterminds on how to socialize with parents?🤔
Based on a physician moms group I am in on Facebook, this seclusion and difficulty with juggling peripheral relationships is a very common occurrence. I will not speculate as to why, and I certainly will not lay all of the blame on the other mothers. I would like to have a conversation with one of them one day regarding why, for instance, I wasn’t asked to be a part of the WhatsApp group, and maybe I will. Also, I am sure many of the moms there were working moms as well, so I do not think this is a working mom vs. stay-at-home mom situation. I just think that the life of a full-time physician and the schedule that we keep is even less amenable to school participation. Also, that year I had a new baby and a sick mother that I was helping to care for. So, the reason for my seclusion was multifactorial.
It still stung, though.
I spent the remainder of the party chatting with the sister of the host, who was also awkwardly standing alone. She turned out to be a physician as well who was moving back to the area! We formed a connection, and still communicate to this day. (See? I can be social!)
Are you a professional mother? Have you ever felt secluded from other mommies in your neighborhood, or in your child’s class? Leave a comment and let me know if this has happened to you!