A mother’s quest for me time
Sarah Speed is clinging to sanity by publishing unsolicited rants much to the relief of her friends and family who are tired of listening to them. Sarah is a mother of two children: a daughter, McKenna, 3; and son, Caleb, 3 months. One is as sarcastic as she is and one is working hard to get there. She writes from Springettsbury Township where her husband is constantly mowing the lawn to stay out of the way of his wife’s latest crafting endeavor.
Ever since I got pregnant with my daughter, who is now 3, the shower has been my sanctuary.
It’s steam-induced clarity; the foggier the mirror, the less hazy the psyche.
My daughter was what Dr. Sears calls a “high-need” baby, meaning she was attached to me 24 hours a day until she could walk.
Showers took on a whole new dimension. They were literally the only time I was alone. Ever.
Suddenly all those old jokes about dad locking himself in the bathroom made sense.
When I thought I was going to flat out lose my mind and never have my body to myself ever again, McKenna started walking and parenting became a lot more fun. True, I chased her around constantly and never completed a sentence, but at least she was interested in what was going around her and not just what was in my shirt.
So, now that my baby had graduated to a new independence, where did I find the “me time” previously only offered by a shower?
The transition to toddlerhood is tough on new moms. Just after you get used to being on call 24/7 and have spent two years literally sharing your body with another human, you face another momentous shift. They start walking and talking and interacting with a whole new world outside of the one the two of you have created. It’s very tempting to try and hang onto babyhood by increasing your attentions rather than decreasing them, to be the first parent to address their needs, to cultivate routines and cling to the idea that “he will only go to bed for me.”
For every mom who is getting ready to go through this momentous shift, stop and realize this is just the first on a long road of steps away from you. And that’s OK. When babies are born, everything else in your world stops, but it is not supposed to be that way forever.
I’ve found the happiest parents are the ones who find a way to fold their babies into their lives, not force their lives to encapsulate baby. So much of parenting is about setting a good example. Of course your kids are going to see you stressed, but they should also see you doing what you love to do, and it gives other people in your life a chance to enjoy your kids – and prevents them from becoming clingy monsters (just sayin’).
A lot of my friends with kids wonder at how I do so much in addition to motherhood and a full time job. The truth is I had a great mentor who literally sat down with her husband one day when they both were feeling the stress of new parenthood on their personal, spiritual, and professional lives and, most importantly, on their marriage.
They decided that what they were both lacking was me time. So they came up with a schedule; every other weekend, for one day, they alternated a “me day.” That’s just two days a month. On her day, she stayed in bed and read the whole newspaper, got a haircut, ran whatever kid free errands needed running and connected with friends. On his day, he went rock climbing with friends, golfed or played video games all day. The arrangement not only gave each parent some sanity, but gave the kids time to connect with each parent as an individual.
My house is not nearly so regimented, but being a lawyer, I have a very strong sense of fair play. My husband loves to brew homemade beer, and I like to can and craft. We basically take turns giving each other an evening off. When James is out for an evening, I’ll hold the fort or schedule a playdate with my mommy friends. When I have my night off, James will make a huge mess in the kitchen.
For the stay at home parent, I recommend that the parent who stays home gets a 1-to-.5 ratio to make up for the extreme event of being a single parent all day and then all night. If the working parent wants an evening free, they are going to have to take a full day in exchange. It’s only fair.
For all of us still embroiled in Velcro-babyhood, when getting a few hours just isn’t in the cards for another couple of months, take a few minutes every day and remember the things you love to do. See yourself doing them again, plot how you are going to make it happen and then go get a long, hot shower.