I was taking a shower the other night, my five-year-old giggling next to me, drawing “naked bummies” on the fogged up glass door. It was adorable. But still, the thought occurred to me: wouldn’t it be great if I could be taking this shower alone?
Some days, I find myself having this thought a lot… in the grocery store, in the bathroom, sitting in my kitchen in the morning with a cold cup of coffee while the girls argue over who gets to wear the black headband with the flower and feathers (they think I should referee), the kitten screams to be fed and the puppy tries to jump in my lap.
Some days I just want them to leave me alone.
This is not how I’d imagined it would be…
Before she was born, when my older daughter was just the size of an apple seed tumbling around inside my body, I was overwhelmed with the idea of our beautiful connectedness. No matter where I went, I was never lonely; I was never alone. I always had a friend, a partner in crime. She and I were connected to each other in the most intimate way two people can be, closer than lovers. It was like nothing I’d ever felt before. It was magical.
In the hours after she was born I felt strangely empty. Physically, yes, but emotionally too. It seemed unnatural to have her so far away, outside my body. At the same time, though, I was happy to finally have my body back to myself. In the naive early moments of first-time motherhood, I planned how my life would soon go back to normal routine. This feeling lasted only until I snuggled my baby to my breast; she latched on and I realized: birth is only a beginning.
Fast forward nearly eight years later: I have my husband, two daughters, a puppy, a kitten, my friends, my work… I am surrounded by love on all sides and sometimes under the delicious weight of all that… I just want to get away. Alone.
It’s not really the privacy I crave. (Although expecting privacy in the bathroom is demanding precious little, if you ask me.) What I desperately want is time to just be me – whoever that happens to be these days, underneath all those layers and years of mommy-hood and taking-care-of-other-people-hood. The only way I can do that is to take time for myself, a mini vacation, if you will – even if “vacation” only means a quick run around the block or an hour alone to write down my thoughts.
That’s easier said than done. I have this idea in my head that a ‘good’ mom never wants (needs) a vacation from her children. A ‘good’ mom should have unlimited energy to devote to her kids, and failure to muster that energy is nothing short of selfish. But that’s just crazy.
I can’t do this mom job as well as I want to if I don’t ever get any downtime. And both my kids are old enough now that they don’t need my constant attention. In fact it’s healthy for them to see me set boundaries. I’m raising two strong women, future mothers perhaps, and for their sakes and mine I need to live that example.
So I make it a priority to spend time alone – just me. Time with my husband and friends is important too, but my alone time is different, and it’s sacred to me. It isn’t always easy. In fact, it usually requires major effort and schedule coordination, including the help of my husband and friends. But it’s more than worth it. My personal sanity is more than worth it.
As I’m finishing up my shower, my daughter shows up on the other side of the glass to have a casual conversation with her little sister and to laugh at the bummies. Right now, in this moment, I’m happy to include them in my personal time. Why not? We are all still beautifully connected, even as we each try to find our own way.
Do you ever need a need a “mommy vacation”? How do you make time for yourself?
© Jaime Greenberg and Sunflower Creative Arts, 2012