Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Alone time for Mom: get a hobby

Everybody says it, but I don't know many moms who are very good at it. I'm not.

You have to take time for yourself. You have to have interests outside of the kids and the family. You have to somehow find time to do your own thing, have quality time alone, have quality time with your husband, have quality time with your friends, and still be a perfect parent.

All the parenting articles, the mommy blogs, the books and magazines and TV shows and everything we read and hear about how to be a parent tells us we need to do this to be a better person, to be a better mom, to keep our individuality and our sanity and to teach our kids that their parents are people too.

But honestly, who has the time for that?

There simply aren't enough hours in the day.
Every single hour that the kids are awake they require one hundred percent of Mommy's attention. There isn't enough time to sit down and enjoy a quiet cup of coffee and a couple of minutes with a book - how could we possibly find any meaningful time to do something for ourselves?

There are some moms in my neighbourhood who do manage to do just that - I know a few women who will regularly drop their kids off at the sitter's so they can go to yoga class or volunteer at the school bake sale, or ship the kids off to the grandparents' every second weekend so they and their husbands can have a break. If that's what works for their family, then good for them. Personally, I've never been able to do that. My feeling is that if we've decided that I'll be a stay-at-home mom, then the point is for me to be at home with my boys, not to send them off to a babysitter.

I have such a sense of this time with my kids being finite and very limited. Baby will only be a baby for a very short time before he's off to school with his brothers five days a week. And the kids will all be kids for only a few short years before they're busy teenagers more interested in spending time with friends than family, then young adults off to university, then all grown up and starting their own lives. Of course our children will always be our children and we will always be a part of their lives. But we will never have this precious time back when they are in their growing-up years, when they're being kids and love me and need me and I get to watch them and help them learn and grow and become the people they're going to be, when they're saying and doing things that amaze me and make me laugh a hundred times a day, when they want to tell me every little thought and dream that goes through their heads and every little thing that happens to them during the day, when they're learning new things every day and I'm learning so much about the world from the way they see it, when every moment is a memory in the making and I feel like I just want to hold on to it all forever.

This time won't last forever, and I want to cherish every possible moment while it's still here.

There are only five hours between when I pick the kids up from school and when they go to bed.
We generally have sports at least two nights a week, and often once on the weekend.
There is only one weekend every week, one evening of which my two older boys visit their father.
The time with my children seems so limited to me - I want to spend every second enjoying it with them.

Losing any of that time to sending the kids to a sitter for the afternoon just so I can indulge in a couple of hours at the gym, or shipping them off to the grandparents for an entire weekend while my husband and I laze about - it just doesn't fit with my notion of how I should be should be shaping my children's childhood. This is not to say that those moms who manage to do this are wrong - it's just that I couldn't do it without a crippling sense of guilt. I wouldn't enjoy the time to myself, and it wouldn't relax me in any way. That simply isn't a part of my nature. I think it's a matter of knowing what your strengths and limitations are, as a parent and as a human being, and working within those limits.

But we come back to the issue of balance. How do you find time to still be an individual with interests and hobbies and skills outside your family? How do you find time to be that sexy, romantic, fun-loving couple you and your husband used to be? How do you find time for girl talk with your friends? Where is all this time supposed to come from?

Mommies need time too.

Because I know my limitations and I know I can't take time away from my kids during their waking hours, I take my time at night after they go to sleep. Over the years I've learned to function on less sleep in order to have a few hours every night to hang out with my husband. We try to have a couple of "date nights" a week - we don't go out anywhere, but the computers and phones are off, we make a little platter of snacky foods and pour a couple of glasses of wine and watch a movie or one of our favourite shows or play Wii sports. After the kids' bedtime is when I catch up with friends, too - once a week I have a girlfriend phone date to get all caught up with the real world.

But until recently I really didn't take any alone time just for me.

A bath with a book maybe two or three times a year - late at night, after putting the kids to bed, picking up the toys, loading the dishwasher, throwing in a load of laundry, doing a quick workout and catching up on any paperwork from the office - was the extent of my alone time.

But that all changed a couple of months ago. For the first time in eight years, I have a hobby.
This blog.

I can't even explain what a wonderful release it is to have a little something I do just for me. Something in the back of my head during the day other than what's going on with the children. Something to sit down to at night after everything that needs doing gets done that lets me use my brain, to be creative and do something I enjoy that's just for me and no-one else. For the first time in eight years I feel like a person again, too, instead of just a mom.

It's true. You do need to take time for yourself. You do need to have interests outside the family. Take that time in whatever way you can - whether it's waking up extra early to pop in the earbuds and go for a jog, or handing the kids over to the husband and having a coffee date with a girlfriend, or hiring a sitter and going out for a good old-fashioned date with your man - or, like me, waiting until the kids go to sleep and sitting down at the laptop to write.

Mommy needs alone time, too. Mommy needs a hobby.

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