You finally get to go out for the night with the girls (and by “night” I of course mean a week-night dinner for a few hours, still getting home by 8 p.m. or so) and you get home, the kids are (almost) in bed. You finally get them to sleep, sit down to relax a little with hubby and thank him roughly 28 times for “letting you” go out (it was SOOOO needed).
Yes, motherhood has certainly changed a few things and the idea of “me time” or a “night out” is only the tip of the iceberg. While former me would undoubtedly scoff at what I now consider a great night out, current me is surviving off of those outings, but not in the ways you might expect.
Without fail my husband always rolls his eyes at me when I thank him for letting me go out and paint the town (beige) and reminds me that I am an adult who doesn’t have to ask for his permission.
Well… I mean technically somebody has to say 'Yes' and watch the kids for me to leave. So if it isn’t him it’s often one of our parents. My husband really is my biggest advocate (more so than myself most of the time) for making sure I take some time to get out and do fun things.
It is so important to take a break and do something for yourself. No, grocery shopping is not something for yourself. That guilty feeling of selfishness for abandoning your children and subjecting someone else to their relentless tantrums quickly overwhelms you the second you are out the door, no doubt. When this happens, I try to keep in mind the following:
- They are angels for everyone but me.
- I need a break sometimes; I WILL be a better mom if I’m taking care of myself.
- If I’m concerned they may be allowed to act like feral cave people for a few hours, they will survive. Hell, it’s maybe even a step up from around here some days.
- Stressing/worrying while I should be enjoying myself is defeating the purpose of going out in the first place. I often give clear instructions that no matter what is happening at home, the only acceptable response when I cave and check in is: “Everything is good."
- If it is a grandparent, friend, sitter, etc. who is watching them, just remember that when you get home, THEY CAN LEAVE. They can leave and not come back until they want to come back. They can leave and go rest and have a bath… alone even. They can leave and go to bed and sleep until a reasonable hour. They can leave and go eat something other than leftover floor grapes (just kidding, my kids always eat their grapes, leftover floor broccoli).
One thing that truly drives me crazy is the expectation that time away leaves you feeling completely “recharged."
I don’t know about you, but even after a whole weekend away, I am still one-plate-of-food-thrown-on-the-floor away from losing my cool. Or one “but you JUST had a break,” comment away from spiraling into a crying puddle on the kitchen floor sobbing, “I know, what is wrong with me?”
But actually, given my three-toddler-reality, I think I’m doing okay. I think this idea of being recharged is so contrived. Yes, I very much enjoy and appreciate having a break and doing fun things alone or with girlfriends or whatever, but once I’m back to reality, I’m back to reality.
For me, I know that having things on my calendar is what keeps me sane and gives me things to look forward to. Looking forward to things a week, two weeks, even a month down the road gives me much more lasting mental health benefits than the fleeting memory of my night out (even by the following day).
Honestly, when it comes to mom guilt I am not one to really feel overly bad. I’ve gotten a lot better at this. Anyone who has been around me much knows that when I laughingly say that, “I’m hanging on by a thread," that I am 100% serious. I have my “village" and I have my “mom tribe." I am well aware of how fortunate I am to have such awesome support, and yet this fact also drives this inner criticism that it shouldn't be this hard; I should not be struggling so much some days; that I just got to go out, or be away for the weekend; that some people have no help, and here I am with so many people lending a hand, how am I not doing better?
Parenting in general is tough, with any level of support.
So, while I’m in the trenches of raising toddlers, I’ll gladly keep my village, and for now try not to feel too bad when I go out… on a Monday… for three hours.