As part of my 200 hour yoga teacher training, we were assigned to complete 5 hours of a service project of our choosing. I had no shortage of ideas. I also had a demanding full-time job, 3 kids with my youngest being just one year old and was still nursing ’round the clock. In fact, one idea I had was to pump extra milk to donate. But when it came down to it, I had some resistance. After all, one of the big reasons I enrolled in YTT was to take a little bit of time back for myself. Here’s what I wrote instead…
YTT Service Project, 2019
As I thought about the logistics of several different service projects that I could have chosen, I realized a few things.
The more and more I thought about this project, the more I realized that objection of time kept coming up. I was noticing that I don’t really feel bad or guilty that I don’t feel like I can make time for 5 hours of service outside of what I already do each day, and instead had this thought during a meditation.
I don’t like the excuse of not having enough time. Everyone has the same amount of time in a day. It’s our choices that take up our time. We make time for things that are most important. And those things change as our life stages change. While, yes, I have a full load and am maxed out, it’s not time that was making me feel resistance to finding another service to provide someone. As I sat with that feeling, I realized that I feel like I have nothing left to give at the end of the day, or week. I’m maxed out, overloaded, and overwhelmed a lot. And then I realized that the reason for that is because I give my all to my family first and I fit everything else (work, exercise, self-care) in the nooks and crannies where I can. At this stage in my life – motherhood is my ultimate service.
No wonder I was feeling like getting a babysitter and making arrangements to provide service in some other capacity wasn’t really providing service. It would be checking a box. I would actually have to sacrifice and swap one service for another.
So I sat more with this thought and the more I thought about it, the more strongly I felt about it. Motherhood is completely a selfless act of service that is 24/7.
One of the reasons that I pushed to enroll in 200hr YTT is because I felt like I needed a little more time for me. Feeling overwhelmed so much of the time with 3 children and an 19 month old who still nurses through the night all the while also working a full time job has been wearing on me and I wasn’t feeling like I was showing up as best I could each day. It was becoming frustrating because so much (95%) of the family functions fall on my shoulders. A lot of it is just part of the territory – the kids naturally want their mom more than anyone else. And I do love being a mom. But I didn’t like how I was perceiving all of the things that were/are falling on me.
So, it’s funny that this service project has actually helped me look at all of this overwhelm and all that I do in a completely different light. It’s been really liberating to realize that while motherhood is tiring and a lot of work, it’s an incredible act of service.
For me, I always knew that I wanted to be there for my kids. I wanted to be the one to be home with them, to raise them, to hug them when they cry, to feed them healthy food, to nurse them, to teach them, to wake them up in the morning, and to put them to sleep at night. I wanted to be the one to influence them more than anyone else. It’s been my reason for changing my career course and it’s always at the root of my decisions in terms of how I spend my time.
If I need to get a babysitter to do something, I reconsider if it’s necessary or worth it. I’ve declined great job offers and opportunities because it simply wasn’t the right time or because it would take up too much of my time and place me away from my kids for too many hours. To say yes to those opportunities would mean saying no to something that really means a lot to me – to be there for my kids (more than not) during these highly impressionable years.
As the saying goes, “You become like the 5 people with whom you spend the most time.” And I want them to be more like me than a babysitter or nanny.
Having been a mom for almost 9 years, I know the pressure I put on myself is heavy. Sure, there are other moms who spend half as much time with their kids and they have more time to themselves. There are moms who don’t work and still send their kids to daycare; there are moms who have live-in nannies, and moms who leave their children for vacations often — and I don’t blame them; I totally get it. Being a mom is a 24/7 job and it’s tiring and difficult.
But I’ve come to realize that for now, this is my service. It’s not the ultimate sacrifice.
It’s the ultimate service.
And this thought about my kind of motherhood as service has completely re-framed my ideas about my choice to be there for them as much as I am. When there have been times that I feel like my patience has run thin and I could really use some time off, this thought has helped.