Last weekend my husband and I celebrated our 10-year anniversary with a weekend away from our kids. Two days and nights of solitude. Leading up to it, I took the day off work for a little me time. Work and life have been particularly stressful lately, and I needed a mental health day. I got an amazing specialty coffee, a pedicure, and spent time wandering the aisles of Home Goods. The whole weekend was bliss, start to finish.
When I returned to work Monday, a co-worker asked about my weekend. I told her about our getaway and the amazingness of my Friday alone time.
“Where were your kids?” She asked with a surprised tone.
“Grandma’s,” I said.
“You left them at Grandma’s for two nights?” she continued, this time with obvious judgment.
“Sure did, and it was fucking awesome!” I responded, staring her dead in the eye.
She didn’t inquire further, but there was no need — it was clear we didn’t see eye-to-eye when it came to time away from our kids. Obviously, she didn’t think it was appropriate to go off and enjoy life without my children. But guess what, self-care is a high priority in my life. It makes me a better person and mother, so I don’t really care about her wide-eyes and antiquated opinions.
Let’s start with the most obvious fact here: kids love going to Grandma’s. As far as my children were concerned, I was doing them a favor. Grandma lets them stay up late, eat their weight in sugar, and gives them her undivided attention at all times. I didn’t just put a bowl of water down and wander away for two days. C’mon.
Secondly, I’m no good to anyone if I don’t take care of myself, and I needed a minute. No, scratch that, I deserved a minute—all moms do. There is literally nothing wrong with taking time for yourself. Your mental health is so important, and if you need time to recharge away from your kids, take it whenever you can, and don’t let anyone make you feel undeserving of it.
Parenthood is not meant to be a form of servitude. We are not intended or expected to be there every moment of our kids’ lives. In fact, I want my kids to know how to function when I’m not by their side. I would never leave them anywhere they weren’t safe, and I know their needs are being met while I’m away. I’m a pretty amazing mother, but I’m not the only one who knows how to cut the crust off of their bread or build towers with building blocks.
I wasn’t always this way. In fact, the first few years of my kids’ lives, I struggled with severe postpartum anxiety. As much as I wanted some time alone, my mind told me something awful would happen if I wasn’t there. It was torturous, and it’s taken me a long time to get where I am today—where I feel comfortable leaving my kids and know that everything will be OK. If that speaks to you, please understand that what I’m about to say is not directed at you in any way.
But, for the mothers like my co-worker, who tether themselves to their children around the clock, because “that’s what mothers are supposed to do”—enough. Enough with the judgment. You aren’t earning any extra mom-points by staying with your children 24/7. The same co-worker who raised her eyebrow in judgment complains constantly about how taxing her own child is, how “unhelpful” her spouse is, and how she “can’t” do anything, because she’s a parent.
If you want to be that person, fine. It’s your life, and you’re free to live it as you see fit, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with the rest of us who value our mental health and understand the importance of self-care. We aren’t shit parents skirting responsibility, and you aren’t getting any extra mom-points because you never leave your child’s side.
Self-care is important to me, and so is my mental health. I will continue to make time for it whenever I can, and I would encourage other parents to do the same, if possible. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you are selfish when you’re making time for yourself, because the truth is, it’s a lot harder to take care of others when you aren’t taking care of yourself.