“Just don’t be one of those mothers who leaves her kids at the sitter’s so she can go to the gym or have some alone time.”
These were the parting words from a perspective babysitter for our two boys. She was an older woman who cared for many children over the years. She boasted kids and grandkids of her own as additional work experience. Her house was impeccably clean and smelled like roast beef dinner. I was going to hire her until she offered her unsolicited advice.
Like most new parents, I was blasted with how-tos, dos and don’ts, and ignorant input from the moment I announced I was expecting. I avoided most comments with a simple smile, nod, or “thanks, I hadn’t thought of that.” But I won’t apologize for my philosophy on carving out time for me.
I’m the mother who sends my toddler to daycare part-time so I can be home alone with the baby. I’d like to say I send him because he loves it (he does), or because it’s good for his development (it is). The truth is I send him because I need a break.
I’m the mother who drops the kids off at Nanny’s house so I can take in a concert. If I said I only do this when it’s something I’m eager to see, I’d be a liar. Sometimes I go see a group or performer I’ve never even heard of just because I want to get out of the house. Alone.
I’m the mother who skips out on a Saturday afternoon so I can have coffee with my friends. Coffee usually turns into lunch and too much delicious conversation to head home at a reasonable time. I could justify it by saying the kids are getting bonding time with their dad, and they are. But truthfully, sometimes I just want to eat and drink with other adults.
I’m the mother who drops the kids off at the neighbors’ house so I can run a few errands. And by “errands” I mean a massage and an eyebrow wax. I know the baby might be bawling and the toddler could be tantruming, but these shoulders won’t rub themselves.
And I’m the mother who makes reservations at a far too expensive restaurant on a Friday night so I can go out with my husband. I know the kids are eating junk food and watching movies with the teenager we hire from down the road. I know they’ll stay up way past their bedtime. I could pretend I care, but I don’t.
So, to the babysitter who told me not to be one of “those” mothers, too late; I already am. I leave my kids at the sitter’s house so I can go for a run after work. Or even better, so I can stay and chat with my colleagues for a while. I am deliberate about making time for myself, because if I don’t do it, who will?
These moments away from my kids create breathing space. They remind me I’m connected to my kids, but we’re individuals who need time apart to nurture our independence (both them and me). It reminds me I have needs and they need to be met; I’m important, too.
And I won’t apologize for making myself a priority in my own life.