I had a child knowing I was going to be needed. Of course, I had no idea just how much I was going to be needed, but it didn’t take long to figure it all out. Keeping another human alive is tough on the body and the mind. Still, I went ahead and had another, then another, knowing just how much free time I wasn’t going to have. It’s what we do for our kids, for our family.
There are days when it doesn’t bother me at all. I know the needing is going to ebb and flow. It will always be here; no matter what they say, kids need their parents. But the definition will change, and the days of them craving and looking for other relationships and friends, and writing their own story, will take center stage. I know this. But it doesn’t keep me from not wanting to be so depended on some days.
The thought of indulging in a favorite hobby without being touched, asked to open a jar, digging in the cupboard for a Band-Aid for a tiny scratch, or leaning over the kids to help with homework while cooking dinner so we can rush off to practice seems foreign. Sometimes it feels so far away that I have a deep longing to lock myself in the car, or go to a nearby hotel so I can spread out on a comfortable bed and get to know me again. I don’t need to spend a lot of time with her, just the occasional check-in would be nice. I have been a mother for over 13 years now and have learned that spending time with myself is absolutely necessary no matter how tired I am or how busy my family is.
This is why, the other night when my whole family was soundly sleeping, I was up late chatting with a friend via Facebook messenger. And the night before I was trying to pry my eyes open while reading the most fantastic book. Sure, I could fall asleep, but it was so glorious to hear the sound of silence with my down comforter pooled around me, and glance out the window and up at the moon every few pages, and just be.
I have burned the midnight oil sewing a quilt. I have binge-watched HGTV until 1 a.m. I have painted a cabinet and cleaned out the Tupperware cupboard when I should have been in bed because I can do it much faster when no one else is around. Damn, it feels good to finish a project in one swoop.
And each Saturday and Sunday morning, I could continue to lie in bed, drift and doze as the sun comes up, or I can tiptoe outside and get my daily run in. I get to be alone with my thoughts while my children catch up on their sleep. I get to go wherever I want, at my own pace, and stop and stare at a field of cows or a family of turkeys and breathe fresh air into my lungs. And then, I can walk through the door a reinvigorated version of myself. I am a better person when I trade sleep for me time. I’ve opted for more sleep before, and I was still tired. I’m always going to be tired, so I opt for “refreshed” these days instead.
I know my kids need me. I love that my kids need me. It is part of the job, and I am damn good at delivering my whole self to them. I am happy to oblige. But there is someone else who needs me, and that’s me. I need to be with myself, in my element, without interruptions in order to be an engaging, loving mother.
Mothers go through their days half-connecting with themselves or not connecting with themselves at all. We were all someone else before we had kids. Our children have made us better versions of ourselves, yes, but it doesn’t mean we are supposed to forget about the person we were before we had them. She is still there; it is okay if she comes out every once in a while.
For me, that time comes at night after the kids are tucked in and sleeping, and I get the house to myself.