Monday, September 25, 2006

The Irony of Alone Time

I just read this article from Ladies' Home Journal - it impacted me so much, I felt the need to share the majority of it. Thank you Jeanne Marie Laskas for putting words to so many thoughts I often have! Hope you enjoy it as well.


A hammock, some shade, a novel, and maybe a nap. I am not asking for much. I am asking only for an hour or two to return to who I used to be, B.K.: Before Kids. Seems to me I used to have a lot of hammock time. I used to travel to distant lands with little more than a passport and a dream - I used to run marathons, play the piano and wander through the woods with my watercolors and paint pictures of leaves.

The old days. B.K. What ever happened to the me I used to know? I used to have interests! Now it seems that if I want to pursue any of them, I have to steal away from my kids and hide.

So, I'm dangling here under theses trees and a perfectly cloudless sky. The book is a page turner muder mystery, nothing too taxing. For a moment I'm free, nothing holding me up but a net of cotton rope, and nothing holding me down. I'm free to lie here and marvel at the fact that so much of the person I used to be is this: a fragmented collection of stolen chunks of time.

[The essay then describes how her 7 year old comes out and invites herself to join Mommy - bringing book, stuffed animal, etc - then asking for help onto the hammock]

I hoist her in, assist her with all her gear. Of couse I do. Because I'm her mom and this is what moms do. You take care of your kid first, then you. Kid first, then you. Kid first, then you.


Your needs fall further and further down the list, until the "you" you used to be seems at times to no longer exist. This is a simple fact of parenthood every mom knows and struggles to forget.

[More description of daughter seeking to read aloud with mom]

"Right," I say, "not out loud. This is quiet time. This is alone time."

Alone time. The fact that my daughter has basically robbed me of my own alone time, my B.K. time, my tiny return to the Who I Used to Be, has not even registered yet. I don't mean for her, which it obviously hasn't and probably never will, but for me. I love my girls. I love spending time with them and their father more than anything else on earth. I love being here, touching Anna's toes under this cloudless sky and sharing a blanket with her and hearing her sweet invitations for conversation. The nagging urge to return to my former self, my childless self, is never about the children, never wanting them to go away - At least not really.

[Now little sister gets involved, is asked to push the hammock, but instead wants to be on too]

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. The truth of this experience if finally starting to register: It's over. Forget about it. This is giggle-with-the-girls-in-the-hammock time, not a chance to become reacquainted with some tiny portion of my former self.

That's the irony, of course. So much of my time running marathons, and reading, and travelling was spent dreaming of a future that always included kids. And, now here I am in that very future, with the two most delightful children. Who knew motherhood could so fully contain two opposite sensibilities? As I lay here agonizing for a visit to Who I Used to Be, I am at the same time loving who I get to be: a mom.

Maybe it's best to forget about the self altogether once you become a mom. Maybe it's easier that way. Or maybe that's the only way to really get to know the new self you've become.


So, what do you think? I find myself seeking the alone time not to return to my former self so much as just to have "me time" - and yet, to embrace the kids the way the author has done vs. losing myself to anger for not getting that time is the trick. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that what I will look back on and wish I had more of is "giggle with the kids in the hammock time" - NOT, alone time reading a good book...... So, note to self - buck it up, Mom - and embrace the kiddos!


LiteraryGirl said...

I like myself and my life so much more now than I did B.K. that I certainly do not seek alone time to return to that former "me". I do it to recharge, to pursue interests that I have outside of cleaning and disciplining and everything that goes into parenting. I really want my children to see me not just as their mom but as a person and a woman and a wife and friend...etc. I think it is very important that they see us taking time for ourselves. That said, I do fight some feelings of guilt over it, and I often am frustrated that in order to get some time to myself I have to secure childcare, check in on the kids, think about their well-being, and pray no one gets sick and ruins it all. Good parenting leaves little room for selfishness. But that is parenting, and I wouldn't trade that for all the alone time in the world.

HollieHobbie said...

......and then the husband comes out and still thinks of it as alone time because he has been inside taking care of the baby! haha