Drum roll please….
“Making Time for you is not selfish.”- Dr. Phil
Now I know you have heard this, and you have even preached it to other parents repeatedly I bet. But do you really, really let yourself buy into it? Without guilt? If you are one of the lucky few – congratulations! If you are like the rest of us – including me, just try to remember the times after you had ‘you’ time: how relaxed you were with your family, how you could laugh when your son did flips off the couch, how focused you were at work, or how rested you were before a big presentation. It’s plain and simple, we need recharging. And how we do that is as individual to us as our taste buds.
About 6 months ago, I was in the office on a Sunday afternoon. The executive woman/mom who ran our group happened to be there as well. When she saw me, she exclaimed “What are you doing here? You have three kids – why aren’t you with them?”. I then listed to her all the things I did with the kids beginning Friday evening up until Sunday afternoon, and as I was sighing – she said “I KNOW! – sometimes you just need that time alone.” Oh how right she is.
It has been a long process for me, being ok with time for myself. At first I would urge my husband to go golfing on the weekends, once I even bought him a ticket to go to the annual fantasy football draft with his college buddies, I tried getting those same buddies to plan a golf trip (they all claimed their wives wouldn’t allow it), I would tell him to go watch football at a bar… he didn’t do any of those things. Eventually I did them myself, the picture above was taken in Vegas last spring where I met my girlfriends to celebrate one of their 40th birthdays. It was fabulous and guilt free!
About 5 years ago, after my youngest was born and work was very intense, I began using Saturday to all my errands – this is before I became savvy at off loading them! I went to the grocery store, shopped for kids clothing, house things, my clothes, got a pedicure, kids birthday parties – you know all those things we must do to maintain our lives. And every time I left the house, I would bring at least one child with me, Gabriella soon became known as Grabby-ella because she continually pulled things off shelves everywhere we went. By the time I got home I was fried, if I had to utter the phrase “please put that down” one more time I would have imploded. Then my husband began to snap – he thought I was taking advantage of him, leaving him all day with all the kids, apparently he forgot he had three kids instead of two. And I know it’s crazy – but I felt guilty. I saw women in the grocery store on Saturday mornings – and not just with one child like I had, but 2, 3 and sometimes 4! Then I would think about my husband at home watching football, and guilt turned to anger.
But I wasn’t really angry with him, I was mad at myself. Here I was trying to do everything in one day, my neck in pain because of work stress, and I realized I was doing it to myself. There are grocery services that can do my shopping, our au pair could buy the kids’ things, there are laundry services, and I could actually ask my husband to do some of it too. OK – half of you are laughing at that last one – but in this house, I have learned that if I ask him to pick up a regular chore and he agrees, then after a few weeks shrugs the task off – I just hire it out. He made the choice – not I. And he’ll complain about the cost, but he never starts doing whatever it is on his own again. Give it a try – let me know how it goes.
I have come to realize that I was trying to do everything my mother did. Yes, it’s true, we turn into our mothers. She would have never thought of having someone buy her groceries, or gifts for the kids’ parties they were invited to, to eat dinner with them or handle play dates. It was just a different world back then and she was a stay at home mom. Somewhere in my very warped mind, I think I felt if I am going to leave my kids all day in someone else’s care – then I must have to fulfill all the other things my mother did. This must be my penance to enjoy my time at the office. None of this was conscious – but I needed some reason to justify to myself the craziness I put myself through.
I have heard friends / colleagues state reasons just the opposite of mine, they felt their mothers didn’t give them everything – so they need to make up for it with their own kids. Whatever the reason is, and I am sure there are plenty of therapists that can help us figure it out, the end result is that when we try to do it all, we simply fizzle out. And what good are we to our husbands, our children, our colleagues then? Life is a series of choices, and just like nutrition, we need to make good ones for our internal batteries. Maybe it’s exercise, girls night out, reading a book in peace, spa treatments… but you need to do it regularly and without guilt.
My husband hasn’t complained about me off loading the kids to him lately, but now he is involved in those choices too. I don’t ask him to watch the kids when I have to head out, I offer to get a babysitter first – now its his choice. And with quite a bit of organization – when I do ask, I might now be going to get a facial, or meeting a friend for dinner…I am not using my hall passes to go grocery shopping. Geesh – what was I thinking?
And it’s not just that we mothers need time to recharge – our relationships with our spouses/partners need recharging too. The family started with two of us and we are the root our kids grow from. We need to keep it nourished and strong. Certainly some days are better than others – honestly, some years are better than others. But just like the choices we make for our personal recharging, we need to make careful choices for our adult relationships too. And it’s not just for couples. One of my best friends is a single mother of three girls, and she fosters her closest relationships with amazing care and thoughtfulness, these are the relationships her daughters will build from.
I wish there was a simple formula to free us all from the guilt we feel when we want ‘me’ time. But it’s a process that can take some of us quite a while. But I do think there is a starting point – ask yourself why you don’t do it more often, then talk it over with your partner and work together to make it happen.
I hope you get your Vegas trip soon! I am sure you deserve it.