When you think about your favorite part of the day, is it snuggling your kids at bedtime? Netflix and chilling with your SO? That first sip of coffee in the morning? For me, especially during the baby and toddler years, it was that first moment they were all finally down for the night (like really, really down—no more “Mommy, can you put my blanket back over my toes…” and “Mommy, I’m thirsty even though I’ve already had six drinks” and “Mommy, I can’t find the 18th stuffed bunny that usually sits right here…”) It was that moment I could take that first breath of relief, knowing that all of my sweet cherubs were actually blissfully asleep.
And in that glorious quiet, all I wanted to do was sit in my aloneness. No snuggles. No hands to hold or butts to wipe or tangles to brush or coats to zip or shoes to tie. No person on my lap, leaning against my lap, or in the vicinity of my lap. And sadly, that often meant no touching from my husband either. Because sometimes motherhood means being just. so. damn. touched. out.
It doesn’t mean we don’t love our kids and our spouses, because we love them something fierce. We would cut off our thumbs or donate a kidney or probably even an eyeball if any of them needed it—without question.
But sometimes we prefer to love them from a distance—like across the room, for example. Or maybe on the other side of a wall or two. Sometimes we need to love them from a distance or our heads might explode.
Because here’s the thing no one understands until you’ve mothered tiny feral humans all day long: There is no personal space. None. There is never a moment that’s truly yours. Even if you get the toddler to nap, the baby is gnawing on your boob. Or if by some miraculous fairy-dusted star alignment, they do sleep simultaneously, it’s for like 18 minutes, which isn’t nearly enough time to fill your “personal space and time” cup. You can’t even watch one entire episode of The Office in that time span.
So yeah, sometimes at the end of the day, we don’t want to hug or snuggle or kiss or to dance in the kitchen with our spouse. And we definitely don’t want to get frisky. We want to hand them a baby and go take an hour-long shower or sit on the toilet and play on IG or watch mindless reality TV alone.
We need it, or we won’t survive motherhood.
Now that my babies have grown older and are in school, I do get more personal time and space these days, so I’m able to give more of myself to my family, even at the end of the day. And I do enjoy nighttime snuggles more than I did years ago. But not always. Especially not during winter or spring break or by mid-July when I’ve had all my kids up my ass-crack for weeks, asking for popsicles and begging to go to so-and-so’s because “they have a pool” when we only have a fucking garden hose. Even though I don’t have babies and toddlers anymore, the days can still be pretty damn long.
So yeah, even with older kids, I still need to be in my bubble sometimes, free of any personal touch. Because despite there being no more tiny humans sucking on my nipples or climbing into my lap, the “mommy needs” still never cease. My days are often still full of “Mommy can you…” and “Mommy can I…” and “MOOOOOOM!!!”
Therefore, at night, when I attempt to build an invisible, yet hopefully impenetrable wall around me, it’s because I need a break from being needed. I need to exist just as me, without everyone else somehow being an extension of me, for a few minutes. Sometimes for a few hours.
Unfortunately, it’s hard for our significant others to understand when we tense up or turn cold at their attempts to hold our hands or rub our shoulders. Why don’t we want their love and affection?
The thing is, we do. We just also need everyone to leave us the fuck alone. We can and will take all that love and affection after we’ve reclaimed ourselves. After we’ve recovered with some self-care.
Because until you’ve endured hundreds of consecutive days during which a small person pees on you while another small person sucks on you or milk leaks through your shirt or the doorbell wakes up the baby or the toddler writes on your laptop screen with a Sharpie or walks through dog vomit and tracks it across the rug, you won’t understand.
We just need to not be needed for a little bit. To sit in quiet aloneness. To take calm breaths, priding ourselves in getting through yet another day. To feel like we can just be. Not Mommy or wife or food source or butt wiper or referee or chauffeur or boo-boo kisser or chef or maid.
Just an exhausted person who needs a break. Who makes sure everyone else’s needs are met for 15 straight hours a day, and who, in this moment, has one need—to be left the hell alone.
And then, we can return to all of you, being what and who you need us to be. We can snuggle and kiss and hold hands. But sometimes you need to give us this, knowing it doesn’t mean we don’t love you. It means we love you so much that we need to fill our own cup so that we can show you how much we love you tomorrow.
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