Mother's Work · Motherhood · Parenting · Self-Care · Toddlers

If Pavlov had experimented with mothers

As a result of a combination of my personality and my childhood, I have an overly developed sense of responsibility. This is both a curse and a blessing as a mother. I’m pretty sure I’m not a “helicopter mom”, but I do err on the side of caution when it comes to my kids. Over time, however, the conditional and unconditional stimuli in my life have successfully blended together. Conditional stimuli include any activities I am doing without the kids, like showering, taking time for myself, grocery shopping, etc. Unconditional stimuli include anything I do with the kids – basically the rest of my life. Pavlov would be so proud to discover that my responses to these stimuli have become one: I always feel in a hurry. I always feel like I need to return to my default place, with my kids, as soon as possible. This morning I entered the bathroom, ready to take a shower, and closed the door. I instantly felt some anxiety around having to finish my shower as soon as possible, to get back to the kids. This thought was actually silly, irrational even, because all three kids were playing peacefully in the basement with Daddy. I had to sit there and mentally talk myself through that fact – yes, that’s right, they’re taken care of, there is no need for me to hurry (other than my deadline to be ready to take our daughter to ballet). Oh, while we’re on the topic of showers, I’ve experienced another added-bonus stimulus: While in the shower I constantly think I’m hearing kids screaming. I’m convinced that all hell is breaking loose while I’m confined, out of reach, in the shower. I sometimes turn off the water only to discover that everything is silent. In some cases, in fact, the children aren’t even home at the time. Insanity.

So I wonder when the time will come when I don’t feel that sense of responsibility to spring back into place, by my children’s side, as quickly as possible. Oh, to just linger, loiter, sit around, while away the time. When they’re in college, maybe?

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