I don’t know a whole lot about Louisiana. The pieces of her life that I do know come from stories passed down to me by my husband’s uncle, her youngest child. What I do know is that she was a mother to 15 children, strong and stern (as one would need to be when they have to care for 15 children). Every day, at 2 in the afternoon, she put the kettle on the stove, sat at the kitchen table, and had tea. Every day, at 2 in the afternoon, the children knew to stay away.
When my children were little I couldn't imagine how Louisiana could do this; it seemed selfish to me in the early years, but now that my children are older I see the value. Wherever my children were, so was I. At the time, my heart couldn’t bear to be separated and so I had to make tough decisions, often turning down opportunities that would take me away from them for too long.
But our lives are transforming. There is a third child who is no longer a baby. Everyone is growing and evolving and as they are changing, so are their needs. They no longer need me to be there at every moment. And it was about a year ago, when I finally did take a job that took me away, that the story of Louisiana and her afternoon tea shifted something inside of me.
After the initial sadness of separation passed, I found myself in this place, far from home yet closer to my self than I had been in years. The time away gave me space to meditate and practice without interruption. I reconnected with my creativity and all of these other aspects of me that had been pushed aside when I became a mother. For so long I had thought she was selfish. I understand now that what she was doing was not selfish but very clearly setting a loving boundary for herself. Louisiana didn’t have afternoons at the spa or weekend trips away. There was no time for coffee shops and lunch dates. But there was her kitchen, her table, her tea, and even if only briefly, some solitude. She had 15 children. She needed it. She deserved it. What I love about this story, and about this woman, is that she figured out how to honor her needs in the midst of it all.
I don’t have 15 children, but I do know the stress that comes with raising a family. (You only need to have 1 child to understand.) Eventually we come to a place where we realize that we’re off, disconnected, not feeling like our truest selves. We get to that place because over time, we’ve become so encompassed in the work of mothering our children that we forget to mother ourselves. We lose some of the pieces that once made us a whole person, not just a mother and a partner.
I don’t feel the need to (nor do I want to) leave my home and my family in order to care of myself. I’m finding ways to do it without hiding away. I take long baths. I use a favorite cup for my morning tea. I’ll dab rose oil all over me and inhale deeply. I can find time to connect with a good friend or read something inspiring. Sometimes I’ll do a set of exercises or a short meditation and chant wherever I can find the time and space. I just fit it in, with or without children. I believe that we can all find ways to cultivate rituals of care for ourselves within our normal and everyday lives. We need to if we want maintain a loving and present spirit for our family.