We sat around the dining table after dinner, in the midst of our current family read-aloud, when I reached a description of the dementors. They're creatures who feed off the positive emotions of others and literally suck the goodness right out of them:
"Dementors are supposed to drain a wizard of his powers if he is left with them too long."
Afterwards, the kids cleaned up and started their evening routine. Steve and I headed upstairs to prep for the next day, and debrief the current one, in our room.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
"Yeah, I'm fine, just drained," I replied. "It's like the kids can suck the life right out of me. OH MY GOODNESS, like the dementors!!"
We both laughed at the fresh-in-our-minds analogy.
Now for the record, I'm not really comparing these incredible, gifts-from-heaven that have been left in my care to the foul dementors.
And yet it does seem that sometimes they "drain me of my powers, if I am left with them too long."
We're not supposed to admit to things like this, are we? Not supposed to suggest that there might be a part of motherhood we don't especially enjoy...or that we have to protect our energy from our precious children.
But I've been a mama now for 11 years. That's not nearly long enough to know it all, and yet long enough to have given it a LOT of thought. And the longer I parent, the more firmly I believe that we have to speak about the hard parts of our journey.
Doing so is not negative. Instead it's about vulnerability and humility, the willingness to admit that we don't have it all together and that we, too, struggle.
It's about taking charge of our own mental health--because we are the only ones who can.
I've learned that my kids will take as much as I'll offer, and still demand more. Not because they're bad, just because they are developing, needy people finding their way.
It's not their job to guard Mommy's life energy and joy.
That's my job.
I have to set boundaries to keep myself sane, let them know what they are, and stick with them (even when tempted to give in).
I have to know myself and operate within my nature (even if I sometimes don't care for what that nature is). I have to work with my strengths and weaknesses, which change from year to year (and even from moment to moment).
Otherwise I'll end up completely drained, with nothing good left to offer those I care about most. This is a lose-lose place for all of us, one I've visited from time to time. I don't recommend it. When I go there, I turn into quite the dementor myself, sucking the life out of everyone around me.
Can you see that Mama is the only one who can keep herself out of this diminishing cycle? You're the only one who knows when you start to enter it.
So guard your life force, without shame or guilt. Own your hard parts and share them with those you trust.
Get the help you need to stay at your best mentally and emotionally, even if that means taking a different path than what "everyone" seems to be doing.
No one else knows what it's like to walk in your shoes, and no one else can take your place. You're the only one cut out for the job of mothering your unique little ones, so do whatever it takes to stay in the game as a healthy you.
"We must each be what God and nature makes us. We can't change it much--
only help to develop the good and control the bad elements in us."
~ Louisa May Alcott, Jo's Boys