Here’s something I think most moms will agree on: raising kids is rewarding but hard. And if you’re a homeschool mom, we can probably also agree that homeschooling is amazing but also difficult (at times). Life never quite turns out the way we planned.
Here’s something moms have trouble agreeing on: what does “Mom time” or “Me Time” mean? And is it selfish? Or shouldn’t life be easier than this, happier than this if we’re doing rewarding but hard work?
Here’s what I think the real problem with the concept of “me time” is: we compare ourselves to other moms. (Often to only what we see, not their actual reality.)
- She got to go on a weekend getaway with just her girlfriends.
- They have a date night every week.
- She has a nanny to help.
- She only had two kids and they’re practically self-sufficient now.
Comparison is the thief of joy. (That quote is often attributed to Theodore Roosevelt but I don’t know if that’s its actual origin.)
What if, instead of looking at what others have that we don’t, we look at what we can have? And what if we stop feeling guilty about the moments we take to renew ourselves?
I have more than once advised a young mom with a fussy baby to put that baby in the crib, close the door, and take a shower. Then go back to the baby. Why? Because the new mom didn’t feel like she could ever put Baby down.
Now, please understand my heart here: I’m all for baby wearing. (My Moby Wraphas saved my sanity a few times with my last few children.) I’m all for nursing on demand and co-sleeping (if that works for the family) and all that good attachment parenting stuff.
But I’m also for Mom feeling clean and recharged. A baby will survive 15 or 30 minutes while mom refreshes herself.
The problem with making too many rules for ourselves is we will inevitably feel guilty when we break these self-imposed restrictions. Moms need to beware of words like never, always, and absolutely in parenting. You may just give birth to the child who embodies the exception to the rule.
If you’re a Christian, let me set your mind at ease: there’s nothing in the Bible about sleep training an infant or when to wean or whether sleepovers with friends are a good idea or how often a child must be bathed.
Parenting is a matter of constructing various strategies for dealing with life, and then altering those strategies when they’re not working, or when we throw a new kid into the mix, or someone is sick, or…whatever.
Be flexible, is what I’m saying, and you’ll save yourself some guilt and grief.
So, instead of feeling selfish or guilty, let’s take the opportunity to renew ourselves whenever those moments of renewal come along. Moments like:
- Drinking a hot cup of tea – alone
- Eating a fabulous piece of chocolate – without sharing
- Taking a shower – whenever it fits in the day, even if it’s afternoon
- Taking a walk while the children run ahead
- Reading for 30 minutes while the children do something else
- Ignoring the housework for an hour to pursue a craft (knitting? scrapbooking?)
- Shutting the door when you go to the bathroom – because, yes, some moms are going to have to start this small
- Running errands with only one child – perfect chance to have a deeper one on one talk
- Reading a book while at the playground – newsflash: your kids do not need you to rescue them. If they do, they’ll let you know.
- Calling or texting with a long-distance friend
- Sharing a quick text message exchange with your husband
- Watching a favorite show after the kids go to bed (Cooking shows or mysteries for us, thanks)
- Sitting on a deck or front porch to watch the stars come out
- Sitting down to finish breakfast or lunch (I’m guilty of forgetting this one. I run around helping the kids get their lunches and then realize that it’s 12:45 and I haven’t eaten yet.)
What if we became truly thankful for these moments instead of always wishing for something else?
Sure, a weekend away would be amazing. But 15 minutes with a hot cup of coffee is far more achievable in our day to day lives. (This recent post from Emily Wierenga might help put things in perspective: Why I No Longer Need Mommy Time.) A perspective change will help us move past the comparison trap with other moms.
We have to remember that life is seasonal. Life with a newborn is different from life with a three year old which is different from life with a nine year old. Cuddling a sleeping baby isn’t wasted time – that’s soul renewing time for mom, too! Introducing a beloved picture book to a toddler can be refreshing. Going on a walk with a ten year old who needs to talk, can be a renewal.
The good news is: children grow. Eventually that toddler who was dogging your every step is a teenager well on her way to being able to handle some toddlers herself (for an hour or two). I know, because we are finally to that stage, and yes, it is wonderful.
By all means, if the opportunity for a Date Night (with a real dinner and real movie) or a weekend away while grandparents take care of the kiddos or a marriage retreat comes along, seize those chances too. They’ll give you some happy memories for those moments when you’re taking a quick five minute break to finish your cup of tea (and that cookie your 10 year old baked).