You Can’t Pour From An Empty Cup
By: Dana Hall
Like millions of parents, amid virtual learning, working from home, and managing a household with two out of three kids still in diapers, I reached for my coffee mug. It was empty. I chuckled to myself because it felt like the epitome of the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was at that moment that I learned three essential truths that changed my life and my perspective.
You Are Enough.
There is a pressure we take on as moms to keep everyone above water and make it look easy. It reminds me of the image of a duck, cool and calm on top, but underneath the surface, its legs are in a wild fiery to keep it afloat. To add to that pressure are the snapshots on social media of families that look perfect. Instagram reality. We compare ourselves to others, feeding our insecurities and perpetuating the myth we have to ‘do it all’ to be good enough. Pre-global pandemic, I struggled to get our holiday cards out on time, and now I grapple with reality, trying to ascertain if it’s Tuesday or Thursday. But I love my children fiercely and unapologetically every single day, and that is what matters. It matters more than logging on precisely on time to work or school or making a perfectly balanced meal.
I learned: Acceptance does not mean we ‘like’ the way things are but it means we stop trying to act as if nothing has happened and adapt to what is. Accepting that my best is enough, allows me to make cherished memories even in these difficult times.
You Do Enough
As my 7-year-old drew his face on a piece of paper and taped it to the back of his chair to secure his attendance in his Zoom classroom, I remember thinking, “this feels like a lucid dream; when will we wake up?” Recent events have pushed us so hard out of our comfort zones that the facade of ‘everything is fine’ can not withstand the months of isolation. Staring into the bottom of the empty mug, a glimpse of my shadow staring back at me caught my attention. With my hair falling out of its high knot bun, I asked this visage, ‘When was the last time you change out of these yoga pants?’ Before home-stay, my yoga pants never made it to yoga; now, they never leave the house. All of our worlds have gotten so small. When our world shrinks and responsibilities stay the same or grow, it is impossible to think what we have done before could work in these new constructs. I struggled to shake that feeling I should be doing more.
I learned: Set just two or three things I want to achieve for the day and recognize that sometimes just getting through the day is enough. The bathroom may not be spotless, but sometimes you have to stop holding everything as priority number one.
You Deserve To Fill Your Cup Too
As I assured my 4-year-old, who busted into my office during a virtual therapy session with a client, that the Minecraft server not loading does not constitute an emergency, I remember thinking parenting during a pandemic feels like putting a band-aid on a bleeding head wound. I was getting frustrated with my children for being children. Yes, our adult world has changed dramatically, but their worlds have been turned upside-down. What we need now is to create stability and routine. However, we must also focus on our needs. Adjusting my expectations was vital to my sanity. Realizing that I didn’t need to pretend things were ‘normal’ or ‘ok’ was the most freeing moment I had in months. I recognized that attending to everyone else was leaving me feeling deprived.
I learned: I cannot provide that which I don’t have. I had to find ways to recharge, reflect, and relax if only but for moments within the day. I started a gratitude journal, and it has helped me put into perspective what matters most in my life.
Self-care is not selfish. It is vital to our ability to adapt and cope during these unprecedented times. If you are feeling overwhelmed honor those feelings and step back to reflect on these lessons learned. Be kind to yourself and take moments out of the day to express gratitude and connect mindfully. Take your inventory daily by asking yourself, “how full is my cup?”
About Dana Hall
Dana Hall is a clinical therapist and accomplished author with two new books released this year: Beyond Words: A Child’s Journey Through Apraxia and We All Belong: Musings on Inclusion, Acceptance Kindness. She has contributed chapters to Made to Overcome: Caregivers Edition, and I Quit: Letting Go Of What No Longer Serves You. In addition, she contributed an original poem featured in the book Be Kind: Heartwarming Tales of Kindness and Inspiration to Lift your Spirits. She has been featured in Chicago Parent Magazine, and written articles for Deep Soulful Love, A Chronic Voice, and Her View From Home. Her piece on managing chronic illness during the holidays has been published in the print magazine Spondylitis Plus.