Must. Have. Tea. These are the only 3 words my sleep-deprived, mommy-fied brain can process in the morning. For the record, it's decaf, and it's also in my genes. Because if there's one thing Egyptians know really well, it's the importance a good cup of tea. It's a culture where tea begins and ends the day. Tea is the only civilized way to greet a guest, begin a friendship or end a meal. I'm pretty sure there are hieroglyphs that depict our pyramid-building ancestors taking daily tea breaks around 10am. Stomachache? Try tea with mint. Rough day at work? Tea with milk. Really rough day at work? Tea with whatever you have in the liquor cabinet.
It's the one beverage that's thicker than blood or water. Just ask my completely non-Egyptian husband who knew he'd been granted the green light to propose when my dad, after a long silent pause, finally turned toward him and popped the ultimate question:
"Mark, would you like a cup of tea?"
So it's only fitting I got a major wake up call from my morning tea. Or my tea kettle, to be exact.
Electric tea kettle #1 was a wedding shower gift and after nearly 7 years of speedily brewing my morning, afternoon and evening delight it one day died a peaceful death. So I invested in a new shiny stainless steel number. So shiny you can see yourself in it. And that's exactly what happened.
I came downstairs that first morning of the New Kettle Era and began my usual routine, which mainly involves impatiently watching water boil. But somewhere between the Lipton bag and the Splenda packet I caught a glimpse of myself in the side of the kettle and here's what I saw: an angry face. A tense face. A face that looked defeated. It wasn't so much the dark circles under the eyes but the sadness inside them that took me most by surprise. Was that really me? Was that the face that greeted my family each morning?
It's been nearly 10 months since I left my job to stay home with my kids. It was the decision so many women before me have faced: the emotional and financial cost of putting two kids in daycare was just too much to pay. And don't get me wrong, I adore my children. I love the sight, love the sound, want to inhale the sweet smell of their skin. But there is a loneliness and isolation to daily life with little ones that can at times feel suffocating. The constant doing and undoing of laundry, the making and unmaking of messes. By the time my husband comes home the best I have to offer is a brief State of the Household address: an exciting summary of who did and did not poop.
"Just make friends with other moms," I've been told. Well here's a newsflash- not every mom out there wants to be your friend, by mere virtue of the fact that you both have children. Sometimes the mean girls from middle school grow up and grow out of it, and sometimes they just grow up and host Bunco night. So (partly by choice) most days the only adult I interact with is the Target cashier, and even she seems a little bored with me. I miss my old life, I miss my old self.
It's enough to make a person angry, even if that person doesn't realize it until she sees it reflected back in a tea kettle. But it's slowly become clear: I've been fighting the Mommy Wars with myself, and I'm losing the battle.
So it's time to lay down my weapons; I am officially giving up the internal fight. It's high time I accept where I am, accept that this is who I am right now. It is often difficult, it is frequently lonely, but it's also what I know deep down to be right. These are my current circumstances, and I can't change them until I fully acknowledge what they are. My family doesn't deserve angry eyes, and neither do I.
So please join me and my morning tea for a toast: Here's to drinking in what life offers us in the here and now. Here's to sipping on what we've been given, and savoring what it is instead of wishing it were something else. Let's stop worrying about whether the tea cup is half-empty or half-full and just taste what's inside.
Cheers to now.