I was so grateful to hear from moms who said they were encouraged and appreciated the perspective that some crazy standard of "perfection" is not the goal of motherhood.
But along the way, I also heard from several moms who said they still feel guilty about loving their alone time.
I don't think their guilt is so much about taking time alone: I think most moms understand they need to do it, for their own sake and the sake of their families.
I don't think the guilt comes from doing it; I think the guilt comes from enjoying it. I suspect some moms think their time alone should be viewed like a trip to the dentist: necessary maintenance for the greater good but not something to be anticipated or savored.
Admittedly, as one of the most introverted introverts ever to draw a breath of air, I crave solitude more than, well, anyone else I've ever met. But I'm convinced all moms need time on their own to recharge, refill, and regroup.
For the as-yet unconvinced, here are five reasons moms should take time for themselves, by themselves--and why they should feel absolutely free to love it while they're doing it.
1. Good stuff in, good stuff out. There are plenty of analogies I could use here: a rechargeable battery, a gas tank on a car, etc. Maybe you're thinking, "I already get the point. I don't need an analogy." Well, I'll give you one just in case it's been a long day (or a long night) and your abstract thinking is a little fuzzy. Picture a pitcher of water. It gets poured out into glass after glass until eventually, it has to be refilled. You, mama, are that pitcher. I know: obviously...but stay with me. You pour out love and attention and wisdom and creativity and energy and sympathy and discernment and enthusiasm over and over again into the little glasses who live in your house. Eventually, you're empty. Usually, this happens right about the time someone in your house wails that they're thirsty. You've got to get it to give it. Spending time on your own is for your family, not against them.
2. The Master example. No one ever loved better or deeper or more passionately than Jesus. He spent a lot of His time on earth in the middle of crowds so thick, He could barely move through them. What did He do for a counterpoint to this? "He left and went to a place where He could be alone" (Matthew 14:13). Following Jesus' example in anything is a good idea, and this is no exception. If the Master Teacher did it, we've got a lesson to learn from it. (And if you find that your people follow you to your alone-place, take heart: Jesus had the same problem. Check out the link at the Matthew address above.)
3. You don't have to unlike everything you liked before you were a mom.
Before you had kids, what did you enjoy doing? Did you suddenly develop an aversion to all those things just because your title officially became "mom"? Motherhood changes you for the better in so many ways, but it doesn't completely wipe out everything you were before. Doing some of what you loved, pre-motherhood, while you're in--IN--motherhood fills you up. Which is necessary and good. See #1 on this list.
4. Loving alone time doesn't mean you don't love your kids, too. These are not mutually exclusive interests. Both things can be true. You love other people and other pursuits at the same time you love your kids, don't you? This is not an either-or-deal; it's and-and.
5. Taking time for yourself does not make you a bad mother. You are not abandoning or neglecting your children. You are not ignoring or brushing them off. And if taking time to be by yourself makes you a better mom (and it probably does), then doing it is actually an act of love for your kids. And actively loving your children makes you a good mom! You are not taking some time for yourself because you don't love your kids, but because you do love them and want to give them your best. So get out of the house or into a bubble bath or wherever and be blessed.
We moms have plenty we can feel guilty about. (See "With Apologies to My First-Born: 5 Things I Feel Really Badly About" for one of my mea culpa collections. It's down a ways on the "Lists & Laughs page of this blog.)
But enjoying--yes! ENJOYING!--time alone shouldn't be on the list. So how about making a new list instead? "5 Things I'm Looking Forward To Doing the Next Time I'm By Myself," maybe?
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If you're still not sold on this subject, click over to "The Importance of Alone Time for Moms" at Go Forth and Mother.
And by the way, that dentist's visit does not count as "alone time" even if your kids aren't with you. That's all I'm saying.
How do you like to spend your alone-time, mama?
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