For the first time in more than a decade, both of my kids are in school all day. For six hours a day, I am at home — alone. Sure, I work from home, so it’s not like I’m sitting around eating bonbons all day, but other than my two ill-behaved dogs, I am completely alone, as in no other humans are in the house. And it is absolute heaven.
Don’t get me wrong: I love my family with all my heart. But sometimes a woman just needs to be in a quiet house without ESPN blaring in the background or a wrestling match playing out in the family room or World War III brewing over whose turn it is on the Xbox. I live in a male-dominated house — two sons and one husband — which means that things can get a little, shall we say, noisy. Oh, who are we kidding? It’s loud AF up in here, and there’s only so much screeching a person can reasonably be expected to endure.
My kids were recently home from school for an incredibly long holiday break, and while it was wonderful to trade homework and regular bedtimes for lazy mornings in our pajamas and movie matinees, after a few weeks of togetherness, I started to go a little bonkers. The morning they went back to school, I may or may not have done a little happy dance in my kitchen. Then I turned on my computer and got back to work like everyone else.
The simple truth is that, while I love my family as much as anyone and I love spending time with them, I need time alone too. Lots of it. When I’m alone, I can breathe. I can think. I can pee with the bathroom door firmly closed (or open for that matter) without worrying about little people busting in on me.
Alone time isn’t necessarily the same thing as “me time,” although they sometimes overlap. Me time implies a certain kind of indulgence or relaxation — a mani-pedi on the weekend, girls’ night out, a dinner date with your husband. These are all things we do to take care of ourselves, to tend to those parts of our spirit that can get lost in the daily grind of parenting while we wipe butts and supervise homework. Me time is just as important, but it isn’t the same as alone time.
Alone time means just that: being alone. Whether it’s fun or productive is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if I’m working, cleaning the closets, writing in my journal, or Amazon-Priming as long as I’m doing it alone sans interruptions and social interaction.
For many parents, especially stay-at-home parents, alone time can seem like an impossibility or an oxymoron. But alone time doesn’t necessarily mean long stretches of time or extravagant getaways. It doesn’t mean ditching my family or shirking my household obligations. Alone time can be as simple as a few extra minutes in the bathroom or a walk around the block after the kids are in bed.
There are trade-offs for alone time, of course, because everything comes with a price, whether it’s lost sleep, a skipped girls’ night out, or sitting in the car in the cold after everyone else has gone inside. A few mornings a week, I wake long before dawn so I can grab a few minutes of alone time. I exercise, check my email, and generally ease into the day with a a little bit of quiet. Even though I’m exhausted and can barely keep my eyes open, those minutes while the house is still and silent are precious. When all else fails, sometimes you have to get creative, and nothing sends a family running like announcing that you have PMS and plan to spend the afternoon rage cleaning.
This time alone, when there are no kids clamoring for a snack and no adults expecting my attention, isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity. Because it is in these quiet moments when I’m not a wife or mother that I find me again so I can be the best wife and mother I can be the rest of the time.