Can I confess something?
Before I became a mother, I was a terrible judge of others’ mothering. I mean that in both ways it could be read:
1)I was bad about judging how mothers did things with their kids.
2)I was not a very good judge of what I saw.
I cringe to look back now and remember the things I thought and even said about the moms I saw in my life. I didn’t know. I had no grasp of what they were going through. I had no right to even HAVE an opinion, much less one so ill-informed…and I certainly didn’t have a right to give that opinion a voice.
I should have just turned around and kept quiet.
There is one issue, in particular, that brought on much negative thinking. I saw moms around me spending what I thought was an awful lot of time away from their children, and I thought it was just that: AWFUL. “Why would a mother want to be away from her child so much? Why would a couple choose to take a vacation away from their kids? Why would a working mom voluntarily be away from her kids on a weekend, when she’s already been away from them during the week?”
Yes. Honestly, painfully, truthfully….those were my thoughts.
I could just cry now at the memory. I feel like a multitude of apologies would never cover the wrong I did by thinking that way and – so much worse – by sharing those thoughts with others. I did no one any good by doing that. In fact, I contributed to the problem and was a voice in the crowd chanting against the solution.
Moms need time away.
We do. It is not a want. It is a need. A deep need engraved into our hearts and our souls and our very existence as women first and mothers second. We need to be away from our children sometimes.
This is in no way a reflection of our feelings about our kids. Or perhaps I should say it this way…..sometimes, it is a reflection of how we feel about our kids, and about how we see ourselves and our roles as moms to those precious little people.
When we are tugged on and called for and sometimes yelled at (and yet simultaneously ignored completely) for hours a day, it is easy to lose our grasp of who we are and what we are doing. Taking care of our children becomes just one more thing on the unending list of things we have to do. Rather than experiencing it as the God-given calling that we embrace and enjoy, we often become so empty that we resent the little people we prayed that God would entrust to us. Their sweet faces become too familiar when theirs are the only ones we see in a day, and their little voices become grating when the only conversations we have had today have been about Mickey Mouse, gummy fruit snacks, and whether or not this coloring book is really as good as that one. We need more. We embrace and cherish our roles as mothers…but that is not all we are.
Before we were mothers, we were women. Before we were Mommy, we were wives….friends….sisters……employees…..daughters.
Before I was a mommy, I was Jessica, and I understand now the need to reconnect with that person. I get it now in a way that I never could have gotten it before. I need time to myself, and that time spent recharging myself is good for my family. When I reunite with my daughter, I am more enthusiastic about being her mama and am more eager to engage in her antics. (In other words, I’m a lot more willing to engage in a marathon of Mickey Mouse’s Hot Dog Dance when I’ve had some time in adult conversation first.) When I have had some time away, I have had the opportunity to miss her and to appreciate her more, which makes me a better mama when I get back to her.
There is a balance that must be struck, yes, and sometimes that balance is challenging and elusive and expensive……but yes, mothers need time away. It is far more costly to ignore our need to take care of ourselves.
Can I challenge you, if you are a mother, to find a way to make this possible? Yes, it may require getting a babysitter or spending money you don’t feel like you can afford. I ask you this, though….can you afford to let yourself get lost? Can you really afford to be anything less than the best mom you can be to your kids?
Take some time to work in the yard. Go shopping, by yourself and without a diaper bag on your shoulder or a child constantly begging for a snack. Sit in a favorite restaurant, by yourself, with a good book and a journal. Take a walk, plugged into your iPod playlist of music other than toddler tunes. (Or better yet, don’t listen to music, and allow yourself to enjoy the sounds of silence!)
It’s about quality over quantity. The important thing is that it happens, and that when you are finished you feel a little more like yourself and less like the harried, frazzled, worn-out, banana-smeared mama you were before. The important thing, really, is that you get a chance to find yourself. That is a gift to yourself and to your families.
Take that time for yourself, and encourage the moms around you to do the same. Help each other to make it happen, and hold each other accountable. You’ll be glad you did. Even though your husbands and children will miss you for a time….ultimately, they’ll be glad you took time to find yourself. It’s you they love, after all. The real, healthy, happy, balanced you.