Let me just warn you: I am about to be honest.
I spent two weeks away from my children, and though at times I could hardly breathe for missing them, there were other times I wondered if I didn’t miss them enough. The days were busy and filled, and at night I was tired. There wasn’t much time to worry over them or wonder what they were doing (or what they were eating). I was surprisingly okay while I was away.
Now, some of you might not be at all surprised by that fact. Others of you might want to heap guilt all over me for actually enjoying my time away. Don’t bother. I’ve already heaped enough to last a lifetime….but it gets worse.
After about 24 hours here at home, I realized something. I can’t go anywhere (not even the bathroom) by myself. And I haven’t been able to do so for a long time now. Oh, I’ve wanted to have help with the kids, but other than my already too busy older sister, I haven’t had anyone to ask. Our town doesn’t have a mother’s morning out program so that wasn’t an option. The times I tried taking my daughter to daycare as a “drop in” didn’t work out very well. So, I’d almost given up on ever getting time to myself (for work, play or grocery shopping).
Then a light when off. And, after months of trying to think of someone who could help, I remembered a teenager that my kids love….and I called her.
She came for the first time yesterday, and let me tell you, having a few hours away to do things I needed to do was like taking a hot shower after a long, dusty day driving through the African bush. It was refreshing, restoring, energizing and oh so necessary.
Now, I realize that many of you want to say “Well, duh.” But, I suspect there are some others among you who fight the following feelings (like I do):
- I don’t “work”…therefore I can’t spend money on childcare.
- I don’t “need” a babysitter…it’s selfish to want some time away.
- There is no one to ask for help. (This can be very true and is what kept me from getting a babysitter for months and months. Teenagers are really only available during the summer, you know.)
- How will my children feel if I get a sitter every time I turn around?
Here’s the deal though:
- I do work. Pretty hard. Even if all I do is chase a toddler from sunup to sundown and find a way to make dinner in the meantime.
- It’s not all about you. Time away can refresh you, allow you to see things more clearly, change your perspective, help you be more joyful….in other words, it can help you be a better mom.
- Sometimes, it certainly seems like there is no where to turn for help. But there is always somewhere to turn….Our heavenly father knows what we need before we ask him. Pray about it. Ask God to send help your way. Ask him to show you a solution you hadn’t seen before.
- And, the most terrible truth so far? Your kids will probably enjoy spending time with someone else, too. (And, be honest with yourself. Two or three times a week for a few hours is not “every time you turn around.” )
So, if you’re like me and feeling overwhelmed and all alone in your never-alone-ness, I encourage you to seek out some alternatives. Here are a few that come to mind:
- Camps…they abound this time of year, and some can be really affordable. My daughter is wanting to go to a camp our church is having, and it’s only $35 for a whole week. Yes, I’ll sign you up, darling.
- Sitters….this is the time of year when teens are free and might be needing a little spending money. If you don’t know any, ask your youth pastor or teacher friends you might have. They’ll know who is responsible and trustworthy.
- Daycare Centers: some have great options for drop ins. And, the kids get to play with other kids, which they’ll love.
- Mother’s Morning Out: check your local churches. This can be a perfect, and often cost-effective, way to get your errands done.
- Friends: Swap sitting with your friends. Your kids will get to play with their buddies and everyone gets a little time away. You could keep the kids on Tuesday, and your friend could keep them on Thursday. And, you might be able to get your hair done. Life is good.
- Grandparents. You know how they’re always hinting that they don’t see the kids enough? Make them wish they’d never mentioned it. (Okay, I’m really just joking here, but truly, take them up on offers to let the kids visit…it will be good for everyone!)
And most importantly: Stop feeling guilty for needing a little time to yourself. Go have coffee with a friend and actually be able to listen to what she’s saying for a change. And, when you get home, chances are the encouragement and the caffeine will both go a long way toward helping you be the mom you’re meant to be.