Galen went back to work this week, and I got overwhelmed thinking about being with Ikenna by myself.
Here's what I learned after a week of being the sole caregiver:
I have to care for myself first, and this has implications far beyond my son. I'm seeing how this lesson is re-writing the way I work and the way I serve.
The first couple of days, my responsive parenting looked like this: every time Ikenna fussed I would hurry to meet his needs. I was consistently dehydrated and hungry because I would forget to set myself up with nourishment before I sat down to nurse. I would hold my bladder for too long and be rushing to the bathroom. The feeling of urgency was paramount.
The last couple of days, when Ikenna cries I take a minute to check in with myself. Do I need to use the bathroom? Am I thirsty? Am I hungry? What needs to get done in the next couple of hours? Is there something I can do while he's eating? Now I sing him songs and reassure him that mommy is caring for herself while I get myself set up. He's not happy about it, but you know what? He still eats, his diapers get changed, and the world doesn't end.
So much wisdom for other areas of my life.
In my career, I carried this same sense of urgency. Theoretically, I knew self care was key. Practically, I responded to community and immediate ecological crises in ways that superseded my mental, physical, and emotional health.
I didn't know how to care for myself without ignoring community needs, and I didn't know how to serve the community without ignoring myself. I still struggle with this.
I love my son with a tender, fierce passion. Of course I don't want him to suffer because I'm caring for myself. But 2-3 minutes of checking in on my basic needs while he's crying does not make me a bad mother.
Read: My love for people and the earth isn't negated by the destruction that occurs while I'm caring for myself. I can take a pause to ground so I can approach healing from a whole place, instead of unconsciously spreading a vibe of scarcity because I serve from depletion.
Of course there's complexity. If Ikenna was actually in danger, I would drop everything and stop it. But understanding the spectrum of need and its relationship to urgency is a lifelong journey for me. Daily lessons with him have given me a window into a new level of practice.