There are many things that are difficult about being a parent. There are so many changes and adjustments that you need to make seemingly on an ongoing basis. Nothing is ever constant, except for change. It would be hard to pick the hardest thing about parenting. There are simply too many challenges to choose just one!
However, one of the things that I think has to be right up there somewhere at the top of the list is that you never get any time alone. Barely a minute goes by without an interruption. If I go to the bathroom, someone follows me. If I’m in the shower, inevitably someone is pulling the shower curtain back with some question, complaint or need that simply can’t wait for me to be done with my shower. When I’m changing, I get walked in on, usually multiple times. When I yell at them to wait because I’m changing, they walk in, sit on my bed and proceed with whatever it is that they needed right at that very moment. Nothing is off limits for a mother!
The constant interruptions, bickering, referring, and urgent needs leave me feeling frazzled and make it difficult for my brain to function like a normal person’s. I never felt like I had ADD until I had kids. It’s as if they have changed my very biology! Now, even on the rare occasions that I am child free, I find that my brain simply can’t function, it can’t focus. It’s jumping around in the pattern that has become its normal since these three little blessings showed up on the scene.
I am by nature a quiet person. I have always loved time alone. I was just as likely to stay in and read all day when I had a free Saturday as I was to go hang out with my friends. I am stuck somewhere in the middle between an introvert and extrovert. The only problem is, being a mother doesn’t really allow you to be an introvert. Unlike when I was younger, I cannot just choose not to be around people for a day or two when I’m feeling that introvert inside of me fighting for the surface.
As a result, every day I find myself looking forward to the couple of hours a day I get to myself when my little Lily goes down for her nap. And every day I struggle with how I should spend that time.
I very rarely waste those precious minutes on a nap. As heavenly as a nap would be, I don’t want to squander that precious time. There is just not enough of it to waste it on a nap!
I usually wrestle between three options, cleaning (the most boring one, but I can get three times as much done in the same amount of time without constant interruptions), doing my work out (a strange option I suppose, but I am so sick of the kids sitting there and watching me while I work out. It’s like I’m a monkey at the zoo or something. You’d think that the novelty would wear off at some time, but so far . . . not so much!) or writing. It is such a treat to be able to write without the sound of PBS in the background (for example, right now I get to hear the rundown of dinosaur train) and without the constant stream of needs and complaints (suspiciously absent right now . . . I’d better go and check what the little imp has snuck off to! Sure enough, she’d gotten into her brother’s box of markers. Sigh . . .)!
Some of my mom friends have the opposite problem. It’s not the alone time they are so desperately craving, but instead the active social life they need. Whichever end you land on, the point is that being a parent means a whole lot less time to spend on doing the things that we need, the things that make us tick and a whole lot more time going to parks, play areas and zoos.
As great as it is to spend time with our children, I believe that we need to fight for a balance. The truth is, when I am not getting the “me time” I need, I get cranky, dissatisfied and I enter a general funk where I cannot enjoy my children in the way I want to. When I find ways (sometimes with much effort and creativity) to carve out some time for me, I am not only a better person, but also a better mother.
Finding that balance is a daily effort. I am an artist and musician as well as a writer, yet I can’t tell you the last time I picked up my charcoals or sat down to play on the piano. I certainly have not figured this all out. But I am trying, and I will keep trying.
Every few months I find that I need to pull away for a few days. I ignore the house and the list of petty tasks that I always need to do and instead I retreat to a “me” place. I get my balance back. The housework will always be there. A few days won’t hurt anybody. And I get my equilibrium back.
It does not make me a bad mother. It does not make me a bad wife. It makes me a real life woman, admittedly like all the other struggling parents out there trying to find a place for self in the midst of all the clamoring needs around them.
Being a mother is the best thing I have ever done, but I don’t want to lose myself in the process. That wouldn’t be the best for anyone.
Remember that when you feel guilty for leaving that sink full of dishes to make a little time for yourself! Everyone will be happier with a happier mom or dad! They really could care less about the dishes! 😉