Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about filling cups in our family. I think of how I can fill Mi.Vida’s cup, how I can fill Osita’s cup, even how I can fill Monito’s cup. And of course, I’ve also been thinking of how I can fill my own cup.
I actually really like thinking of taking care of each other, and ourselves, this way. The whole “filling cup” metaphor allows me to conceptualize our emotional well-being in a productive way. It has really changed the way I think about giving my children, and my husband, what they need. It has also helped me make myself more of a priority. For the first time I really see that I need to take care of myself–and fill my own cup–in order to take care of the rest of my family. I know longer view that time as selfish, I see it as necessary.
Unfortunately, knowing I need to fill my own cup, and my husband’s, doesn’t help me much, because I’m realizing that there just isn’t enough time (or the right opportunities) to do either. And I find that during the scarce moments when we might be able to fill our cups, only one of us can do so. Before we had a second child there were way more opportunities for self-care, now there are almost none.
I feel like, since Monito was born, we’re always running on a deficit, as far as cup filling is concerned. There is just so little for either of us, and when there is a chance for self-care we have to decide who gets to take it. And this is where I’m having the issue, because I don’t know when I’m supposed to take time for myself and when I’m supposed to offer it to my husband.
I find that, more often than not, I give the time away. Or I don’t ask for it. Or I too willingly allow Mi.Vida to take it. I tell myself I do it to keep him happy, that I’m filling his cup so that he can support me. I tell myself that he needs it more, that his cup is bigger, or empties faster. I tell myself that I can handle an empty cup better then he can, or that filling his cup somehow fills my own. But I’m not sure if any of that is the case. I don’t know if really I’m playing the martyr or I really want to give him the time but I can’t actually handle not having it myself, or I just don’t know how to ask for it.
It’s all so complicated–so many things are wrapped up in this. There is the guilt of acknowledging that being a mother to these kids I wanted so bad does not, generally, fill my cup. In fact, it empties it, often times with alarming speed. Sometimes I feel like there is a giant, preschooler-shaped hole in my cup and out flows my energy, my patience, my general well-being. Her needs are so great, I just can’t keep up.
And then I start thinking about the fact that I always wanted kids and my husband didn’t, and I feel responsible for making this transition easier for him, because he probably would have been happy with one child but I really wanted another. And I know I need to let all of that go, I know he did want another baby, I know he does love our son and doesn’t hold me responsible for how hard all this is now, but it’s hard to move past it.
I don’t know. I feel like I’m not really saying what I want to say and now it’s late and I’m tired and I need to go to bed. I guess the thesis of my post is that there isn’t enough time to take care of ourselves and I’m not sure when to take it and when to give it and there are all sorts of complicated reasons why I’m not sure what’s mine to claim and what should be offered to him.
And sad truth of the matter is, there will never be enough. Even when I steal an entire night away, and go with friends to a dinner out, and have a few drinks, and see an awesome comedy show, even that doesn’t fill my cup for too long. Because the next morning I’m just extra tired, and even a little headachy from those few drinks I enjoyed and my cup doesn’t feel full at all, it feels empty, actually it feels bone dry, and I realize that I will never feel like I’ve had enough, at least not for a long, long time.
What I really need is a whole weekend away, maybe a whole week, to do nothing but watch trashy TV and read a dozen books and eat meals whenever I want to and see movies in the theater and not spend every moment away counting the moments until I have to go back. I need so many moments that are just for me, all in a row, so that they aren’t spend slowly unraveling the stress of before and then wasted inevitably anticipating the stress to come.
These early years, with little kids, they are hard. And there isn’t a lot of time to take care of yourself. And even if you manage to carve out that time, it’s never enough. It’s not until your kids are much older (maybe not until they are adults?!) that you can become a priority again. At least that is how it looks from where I sit, with a 3.5 year old and a three month old. From here it looks like empty cups for a lot of years.
So I guess the question is, do I try to learn how to fill my cup, however slightly, or do I try to learn how to live with a cup that forever needs to be filled?
Are you able to fill your cup? How?