As I frantically finish filing documents, paying bills and trying to finish my “to-do” list before the weekend starts, I hear the sound of the television change abruptly from my favorite show to my daughter’s favorite tween program. Fury. Like a wild panther who finds an intruder on her turf, I jump from my seat and fly to grab the remote control from her hand.
“No le cambies!” “Don’t change it!” I scream. My 9-year-old’s eyes go from bewilderment to tears. Yes, believe it or not. All, for a television show.
It wasn’t the television show. How was my child supposed to know that once I finished with my work, I planned to be a couch potato? Perhaps my anger came after what happened hours earlier after picking up fast food. Wait. Where are my son’s chicken nuggets? Missing. Shall we go back? Nah. Why bother? “Here mijo, comase mi hamburguesa.” “Here son, have my burger.” It’s the right thing to do. Women and children first. In this case, children first…while I stared and salivated.
It wasn’t the television show. It wasn’t the burger. I suspect it was and continues to be the product of mental and physical exhaustion brought by my cultural heritage. It is partly the result of being the “abnegada madre Mexicana,” “the selfless Mexican mother” who always leaves herself for last. It reminds me of “Mama Campanita,” the character of a famous Mexican soap opera in the seventies whose immense suffering had one goal and one goal only: to please and save everyone around her. If I remember correctly, Mama Campanita died alone in a dark alley.
Over my dead body will I end up like “Mama Campanita” who, after years of suffering, died alone in darkness. I’m a working professional with two school-age children trying to balance the eternal juggling act of work and life. It is a balancing discipline filled with work responsibilities, school activities, sporting events and play dates for the kids.
But why don’t I ever get a play date? I’m not talking necessarily time with friends, but time for myself.
How did “me time” become so hard to come by? I wish I knew. What I know is that it happened gradually. In fact, it almost went unnoticed – unnoticed until it dawns on me that it is totally irrational and downright wrong to have an emotional outburst over something as insignificant as a television show.
What’s next? Punching holes in the wall? Breaking furniture?
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would end up like this. After all, I was one of those women who, apparently, did it all according to plan. After my husband and I got married we decided to wait to have children. We agreed to wait one year. In reality, due to our complicated schedules and professional responsibilities, the one-year wait became five. We worked hard and played hard. Movies and dinners were a norm. As for me? Facials, manicures, pedicures and massages came pretty frequently. Vacations? Of course! Some years, twice in one year.
I would not change my choice to have children for any amount of frivolous, egocentric, self-serving pleasures. I would not change a moment I’ve had with my children – the smiles, the hugs and the indescribable feeling that comes with each small achievement.
But I’ve also realized that to be the best mother I can be, I can’t ignore all my own needs. I have to find a few moments here and there – a play date for me – lest I unleash the panther – all for a silly television show.
Former journalist, NBC Latino contributor and current CEO and President of Deschamps Communications, a public relations and media consulting firm in Texas, Claudia Deschamps is also the mother of two small children.