A while back, my husband let me know that he was going to take our kids to my parents’ beach house for the weekend so I could have a break. I can’t actually remember a time when I had the whole house to myself for an entire weekend, so of course I felt giddy at the idea of it.
It turns out my weekend alone was better than I could had even imagined. This surprised me. I knew it would be great because I love my alone time, but being in the quiet of my house without interruptions for a solid 48 hours felt like a rare gift I didn’t know I needed. Like, needed needed. The stark contrast between the usual pace of life and my slow weekend was not lost on me. I guess I didn’t realize my nervous system was shot until I experienced time alone without the usual messes, noises, and drama of raising three young children.
What Motherhood Demands
In the hustle and bustle of motherhood, it’s not unusual for me to fall into bed at night out of sheer exhaustion. But more often than not, accompanying me to bed are strong feelings of concern for a child or disappointment in myself for how I may have handled (or mishandled) something throughout my day. Raising three little humans is hard enough, but when you add some of the less-than-ideal personality traits of mine to the mix, motherhood can be downright torturous. When you think about it, moms take on countless jobs and often experience a full range of emotions on any given day. We are always at the mercy of our childrens’ behaviors and feelings (which can change on a whim), and we are usually only as happy as our saddest child.
Plus, most women I know do the majority of housework, even if they work outside of the home too. They are often the ones who regularly cook, do laundry, grocery shop, plan birthday parties, run children to activities and playdates, help with homework, schedule appointments and volunteer at the bake sales. These are just physical duties, to name a few.
There is also the emotional labor that motherhood entails, which includes the mental load that women carry with them throughout their days. I won’t speak for anyone else, but examples of this from my own parenting would be worrying about my daughter’s perfectionistic tendencies, thinking about how I can help cultivate my kids’ friendships with other kids (hard when I struggle to manage my own friendships), deciding which activities to sign my kids up for and which to forego (also hard when my daughter wants to do all. the. things.)
And every child is going through their own things. So not only are we dealing with multiple children, but we are dealing with multiple DIFFERENT children with very different personalities, struggles and needs.
Surviving The Ages & Stages
I think about how my three year-old challenges me with her typical toddler antics, constantly leaving me to wonder if I need to butter her up (bribery) so that she won’t be a jerk to me. Some days she dangles her sweetness like a carrot just to laugh in my face as soon as she decides she wants to have a meltdown. Always walking on eggshells with that one.
I think about my son and how his energy actually drains me. Fall weather could not come fast enough so that I could finally send him out to play in our neighborhood and give my couch pillows a rest from his daily mishandling of them. I think about how I probably give him too much screen time in the hotter months, but I usually just don’t have energy after work to entertain him.
I think about my oldest and her entrance into the tween years and how our dynamic is changing in some ways that are better and some that are worse. How sometimes her big feelings overwhelm her and despite every ounce of me wanting to go in and scream at her, I flip my frustration on its head and force myself to be calm and compassionate. I know that ten minutes of calmness is what her nervous system needs to relax and fall asleep. But damn do those moments take it out of me.
There are times when I feel so exhausted by the demands of motherhood that I have to literally excuse myself from the presence of my kids and lock myself in the bathroom. But I think about moms who do not have that luxury because they don’t have a supportive partner who can take on parenting responsibilities with them. How those moms literally are in survival mode all. the. time.
“Mother” Is Not My Identity
Being able to live life independent of my children for a couple days helped me remember that first and foremost, I am a person. Motherhood is an extremely sacred role and relationship that I value deeply, but it’s not my identity. It’s not my “divine purpose” or the “only role I’ll be truly fulfilled in.”
It’s a responsibility I took on when I made the choice to have children. And my children are not my whole world–they are a fantastic part of it–but they are not all of it.
I think it’s essential that moms remember that apart from the tasks we take on to fulfill our motherhood roles, and aside from the wonderful relationships we are forming with our beloved children, we are also people of our own, with passions and dreams and the God-given right to take time for ourselves and explore our beautiful minds and hearts.
There is so much beauty in the act of mothering. Those beautiful moments of connection are ones to cherish.
There is also beauty in solitude away from our children. In remembering who we are apart from them and also recognizing they are with us for a short season, which means we need to simultaneously enjoy them while staying true to the things that light us up so that when they leave us, we do not feel empty.
A Moment To Breathe
It’s easy to downplay our experiences as moms. A mother who struggles with anxiety might tell herself it’s not as bad as she’s making it out to be. She may compare herself to other moms and wonder how they make it look so easy. We tend to gaslight ourselves by suppressing the overwhelm of it all, masking our exhaustion, worshiping productivity. Why can’t I handle this? Why does it feel so hard?
We are also people of our own, with passions and dreams and the God-given right to take time for ourselves and explore our beautiful minds and hearts.
And then we have a moment of silence to breathe and it becomes very clear why it’s so damn hard. The constant messes, noise levels, apathy and disrespect, wasting of food, complaining, rambunctiousness, lack of gratitude, bickering, invading of space, touching, dirty clothes, rushing around.
It IS madness much of the time.
It IS Impossible to stay calm and collected in the thick of it all, especially for us anxious bunnies.
So, let’s allow ourselves some solitude away from it all, guilt-free. If you have the luxury of a partner or family member who is willing to gift you a weekend (or even a day or a few hours) to yourself, accept that gift. Be intentional about using that time to recharge. And by recharge, I mean binge watching a show and eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s while finally being able to hear your own thoughts. Or, do whatever gives you peace. Read. Write. Sleep. Take a walk. Go shopping alone. The point is, YOU get to choose.
Moms are people, too, and we deserve rest.
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This is what the world needs now. What the world, needs now, is Lindsay’s wisdom…!! Thank you for your vulnerability, honesty, and stellar advice☺️
Right now my husband is jobless (by choice as he figures out his next steps) and it’s funny that just the other day he realized he needed a break from our young boys. He even expressed feeling guilty for it since he said “but I’m their dad!” Needless to say, it was validating for me that constant exposure to the littles is tough. Thank you for bringing this topic to the forefront. I need to make more alone time.
Totally! I think we all can use more alone time. I love that you felt validated in that experience bc it’s true: parenting is no joke and it really can wreak havoc on our systems. Breaks are necessary and healthy 🙂