I remember well the first time I left my son; it was only for a short time. But in that short time I went from feeling euphoric joy to terrible anguish. I was gone all of ten minutes. I knew he was safe in the arms of my mother and yet I found myself weeping before I made it home. I held him and kissed his precious forehead vowing I would never leave him again. In the early stages of parenting I felt terrible guilt if I even considered leaving my children, it was unfounded and unnecessary, but you couldn’t have convinced me of it then.
Fast forward and three more precious babes later, and you’ve got a mom who doesn’t mind hopping into the car for a few trips alone to the store. Ironically, when I do get out for the occasional shopping day I usually end up looking at things I know they would love. When in the company of others, the topic of conversation inevitably steers toward all things children. I must admit I miss them when I am gone. I like being with them . . . most of the time. I can now say without the weight of unfounded guilt, it’s okay to take some time for myself when I need it.
Everyone needs a little respite now and again. Sometimes we need it from our kids and sometimes they need it from us. Truthfully, there are times I think they need it more than we do. There is nothing wrong with breathing a sigh of relief as you listen to the silence surrounding you when the kids are away from the house.
As a stay at home mother of four fabulous kids who are now no longer little, I can say without hesitation or guilt, I look forward to those fleeting moments of solace. I can’t take it for too long though . . . I need to hear the life and laughter they bring, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t nice every now and then to have the house all to myself. For most parents at this stage, their nest is emptying. My little birdies have yet to all take flight, they are still learning to spread their wings.
As mothers we need time to ourselves, many of us won’t admit it though. I know from experience if I am tired or overwhelmed I am not going to be the most patient or nurturing mother I could be. It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact it was okay to be away from them for a short while. Once I did it though, and all of the awful things I had imagined happening didn’t happen, I realized it felt good, a different kind of good, a need to get used to, kind of good, but good nonetheless.
Once we become mothers we tend to forget we are so much more than mothers still. We are women. We are wives and friends and daughters. We need to keep those parts of us alive and well if we are to be whole. The day is going to come when our children become people and begin to spread the wings we’ve watched grow, we have to know who we are so when they take flight we know we still have purpose and relevance in life.
I think I would be doing my kids a terrible injustice if I never took a bit of time for myself . . . If I don’t know who I am then they will never really know me either. The older they get, the more I realize they are watching me, learning from me. I want them to learn how to be everything they can be. Long ago I put so many pieces of who I was up on a shelf so high I could no longer reach them. Ironically, my children are the ones who pulled them down for me; they are the ones who reminded me I was more than I thought I was.
I remembered I was a wife, I remembered I was a writer and an artist, I remembered I was an individual, and in the beginning these things terrified me, but as time passed I began to cherish these parts of who I once was and began incorporating them into my life. I will always, always be a mother, no one ever told me it wasn’t all I could be, if they did, I certainly didn’t heed their words. When my children are out and about or when the night has come and they lay safe in their beds I treasure the time I have to get to know myself again.
It took me a long time to reach the realization that it is not only okay for us to steal away now and again, it is vital. Spiritual and emotional healing is found in moments of solitude, we have to tend to the woman within, the one which will remain once the children have grown. She needs to be nurtured just as our children do.
Stealing a few moments in time to sit in quiet reflection, read a book, nurture a talent or simply take a nice long shower can only make you a better you, and in turn, a better mother . . .
Crystal R. Cook