by Melanie Nicholas
My pastor told us a story, a fable about an ancient king coming to town. In the tale, all the families in this town are supposed to contribute a cup’s worth of their best wine to the welcome feast punch bowl, making a truly special and unique blend. But some villagers don’t bring their best wine, while others bring plain old water to dump in. Many of them say, “oh, no one will know,” or “I can’t afford it,” or “he has more, let him do it.” So instead of a vintage fit for a king, they make a bowlful of sour grapes. The moral of the story: bring your best cup forward for the king.
I have been thinking about the imagery all week, wondering what I give my “best cup” to. It should be my church, my husband and my kids. But man, sometimes, I feel like I am giving everyone around me Mad Dog 20/20 instead of Veuve Clicquot.
Do you ever feel that way, like a cold cup of coffee? Something that started the day off all warm and sweet, full of cream and potential, only to be left untouched too long. Or worse. Like the coffee cup with only the stain and the dregs left inside? That’s a low place to be. It’s a place a lot of women are accustomed to. It’s a dangerous place to be in, too, if you don’t try to change it.
And I mean change it. Not cover it up, ignore it or self-medicate the struggle away. This week, I read a blog post from a mom who was a marijuana smoker. Every day, after she put her kids to bed, she gets high. And she is tired of being judged for it, especially by all the wine swilling moms in her life. Now, some people are up in arms about it because pot is against the law. Breaking the law sets a bad example for kids. This perspective mystified me. And I knew it would stir up a hornet’s nest, but still, I had to ask … Is it ok to be drunk in front of your kids because you legally purchased alcohol? And don’t get me wrong – I am not taking up for Pot Mom. I wanted to make the point that being out of control in any way, unable to drive your children or care for them because of drugs or drinking, is crummy parenting. And the more I thought about the blog post, the number of responses it generated and the number of “mommy needs a drink” jokes I see (and post) each day, the more concerned I became.
Because what none of us is talking about is that there are so many moms out there that feel the need to escape from their lives. Escaping our lives is a rapidly growing market – wine sippy cups, at-home wine parties for mommies, Mom’s Night Out at bars. Big pharma is in on it, too. Prescription pill addiction is on the rise for women, especially for mothers. Chances are, you know someone sneaking their kid’s Ritalin to keep up with a crazy schedule, or regularly using Xanax to cope with stress.
And trust me, hear me: I am not judging. I know what this feels like. It is exhausting to feel like you need to be everything to everyone, so over-scheduled with things you don’t even like that you dread getting up in the mornings. It’s no secret that I struggle with depression and anxiety. And a ton of exhaustion. Parenting and working with a chronic immune disease like multiple sclerosis has been more than I could manage sometimes.
I believe in therapy, I believe in medicine. Prozac changed my life after I had Bodacious. It helped me manage my post-partum depression and anxiety, and I took it faithfully for three years. Heck, I even take an occasional Adderall, prescribed by my MS neurologist, when my debilitating MS-related fatigue kicks in. So yes, I believe in chemical intervention. But I also believe there are additional ways we can help ourselves!
I believe in rest. God commands us to keep the Sabbath, and we do. There is absolutely no work going on in the Nicholas household on Sundays. Even when the house is out of control and laundry has piled up and I have a full in-basket, Sundays are a day for church and family and rest for me. I know not everyone has that luxury, more women are working than ever before. But I urge you to look at your week and carve out some time for yourself, even if it’s only 20 minutes in the mornings to meditate, read, pray or just watch the sun come up.
I believe in saying no when you can. I talked about this with a colleague at work this week. Mom Guilt. It is a very real thing. I was feeling guilty because I came to work instead of going to volunteer at the kids’ jog-a-thon fundraiser at school. She was feeling guilty because she had gone to volunteer at school instead of coming to work the day before. “I feel like I don’t do anything well anymore,” she confessed. “I do a little here, a little there, a little at home. No one gets my best, I don’t have it to give.” Sister, I get it. In fact, I am thinking about bringing back Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” slogan. We have to start saying no to the extras that don’t bring joy or fulfillment, and we won’t feel bad about doing it. By saying no to the jog-a-thon, I feel like I created an opportunity for a mom who loves jogging to become a volunteer.
I believe in joy. Ladies, we have to find ours. Think about the things you do that bring you the most peace and satisfaction, the things that lift you and affirm you. We won’t all get to do those for a living. But we can find a way to do those things in other ways. Volunteer, go on a mission trip, start a collection drive. Baby steps add up to big feelings! Obviously, jogging does not bring me joy. But do you know what does? Writing, especially about my kids! So I said yes right away when asked to come speak about writing as a career choice. Embrace those opportunities that make you excited and insanely happy!
I believe in date nights and girl’s nights! Make the commitment to spend real time, quality time with the people you love with all your heart. Time with my Spice Girls is always the best time, the easiest way for me to heal my heart or get perspective. And yes, it will probably involve coffee or cocktails.
And I believe in you. Please know that I am not judging you, I am championing you! I want you to be the very best version of yourself that you can be. If you are struggling, especially if you are struggling in silence or in secret, please get help. There is no shame in needing a shoulder to lean on. Talk to your spouse or your friends or your pastor. You can even write to me at TheBathwaterBlogs@gmail.com if you want to! There are resources available to help you. You are worth fighting for, and I want you to know that you are not alone.
Make yourself a priority. To be the very best caregivers we can be, we have to keep our cups full. Decide today, what is the single most important thing in your life? Who are the people that depend on the nourishment in your cup? And what do you need to do for yourself so that your “best cup” overflows with goodness?