Family of Me

by Daphne
Updates Mondays and Fridays

Scene 132: Break Time

Twyla (The Parent): Daphne, are you around?

Mom (Me): Always, Twyla. What’s on your mind?

Twyla (worried): I just… I need a break.

Mom: A break from…?

Twyla: Reviewing memories. Parenthood is so much to slog through. There’s so many days where I just pushed through as best as I could, trying to find some way to get to the end of the day. Even though I’m only reviewing those days, not reliving them, it’s still exhausting.

Mom (puzzled): You know you don’t need my permission to take a break, right? Take a day or three off, go relive an energizing experience, or just explore some memories that feel interesting. Please take this entire process at your own pace.

Twyla (surprised): I don’t need your permission? I figured that since you needed my help, you’d want me to get up to speed as quickly as possible.

Mom (apologetic): No no, you don’t have to force yourself! I do want your help processing things, but I don’t want you to feel obligated. You’re family first, and you don’t have to push yourself to the point of exhaustion—to be honest, you’re not required to do anything at all.

Twyla (skeptical): I think you’d be pretty disappointed if I stayed in bed all day and decided not to engage with your plan at all.

Mom: Sure I’d be disappointed, but it’s still your prerogative, and I wouldn’t think of kicking you out. By extension, you’re free to spend your time however you’d like. You might want to hang around the house more anyways; I’m sure your sisters would be happy to spend time with you.

(Twyla lets out a big breath, her shoulders dropping with a release of pent up tension.)

Twyla: I’m glad to hear I don’t have to keep pushing myself. I know you didn’t say I had to review memories to the exclusion of everything else, but… I guess I just sort of assumed.

Mom (sheepish): I’m sorry I wasn’t more explicit about my expectations. Maybe I should have been; it’s not like your way of thinking is foreign to me.

Twyla: I take it that’s something you still struggle with?

Mom: Yeah. I’ve gotten somewhat better at checking in with the people around me, but acting on assumptions I haven’t shared with anyone is still a trap I fall into sometimes.

Twyla: That’s encouraging to hear. Well, not encouraging, exactly… But I don’t feel so bad for doing it. It felt so natural, you know?

Mom: Jumping to conclusions, you mean?

Twyla (pensive): No… I mean maybe, but that’s not quite what I’m getting at. I meant that back in my time, especially early on, I always felt like I had to be pushing myself to do more. Parents are always parents, after all.

Mom: Oh, yeah. Babies don’t really give you any time off.

Twyla: They don’t, and as kids grow, they still take every bit of time and attention that they can get from you. I just remember feeling drained all the time, since I had to fight for every break that I took.

Mom (sighing): I remember… And they typically weren’t very restful breaks either, since we often felt guilty for taking them.

Twyla (vindicated): Right? I felt like I couldn’t take breaks because any work I took a break from is work that I was leaving to our partner. So I felt like I had to keep pushing myself to stay engaged. I’m sure I pushed myself too hard sometimes, but what could I do?

Mom: I think some of that attitude can be forgiven. When you’re drained, you’re usually not making the best decisions… And you felt drained nearly all the time.

Twyla: Parenting is exhausting. It’s like you said earlier—it’s a very fulfilling experience, but so much of it is challenging, or draining, or exhausting, or all three and more besides. And there’s no relief in sight, you know? You’re stuck in it, because it’s not like there’s a backup parent to rely on, or someone else to pass the work to after you reach some milestone. Your kids are your responsibility for the rest of your life.

Mom (gentle): That’s not entirely fair… As they grow they start taking more responsibility for things, even if we as parents are ultimately responsible for their well being.

Twyla: Sure, but that takes years and years. Being under pressure that long changes a person… I had to find a new resting state, so to speak, since I couldn’t get back to the one I enjoyed before becoming a parent. My new resting state never felt all that restful by comparison.

Mom: Regardless, I hope you can catch up on rest now, Twyla. You don’t have to manage the day-to-day anymore, and things are better for me than they were for you.

Twyla (content): That’s a relief to hear, but what changed?

Mom: Our kid grew up, for one. They can look after themselves at times now; they don’t need our constant attention. We’ve also gotten better at finding time for ourselves, and making time for ourselves when we really need it.

Twyla: But don’t you feel like you’re making work for your partner when you do that?

Mom (hesitant): Well… That topic is a little more complicated. Maybe we can delve into it in more depth later?

Twyla (frowning): So it’s still a problem.

Mom: Trust me, it’s much better than it used to be. For now though, I want to be sure you feel empowered to take breaks and live your own life. You don’t have to be reliving our past every moment of every day.

Twyla: Oh, I’ll be sure to get some rest. I may stay in bed for an entire day.

Mom (teasing): Are you sure you can handle such opulent luxury?

Twyla (dry): Ha ha. You’d do it too if you could.

Mom (laughing): Hah, I’m sure I would. In any case, I want you to enjoy it! And be sure to catch up with your sisters when you get the chance. Like I said earlier, you don’t have to force yourself into anything, but they’ll be happy to talk to you.

Twyla: I’m sure they will be. I will be too, honestly… It’s kind of nice to look back at what I used to be. It gives me a sense of just how far I’ve come. I guess you feel that strongest of all, huh?

Mom (smiling): I do.

Twyla: I’m glad I took the time to come to you, but there’s a bedroom with my name on it.

Mom: Literally, if you like.

Twyla: No no, that’s fine… I don’t think I need to put a name sign on my door like a teenager. I am going to go rest though. See you later?

Mom: Of course, Twyla. Pleasant dreams.