Sometimes being a parent is a weird dichotomy of feelings. And sometimes being apart from your kids is too.
I was sitting at a table in my local pub. This was back when my boys were spending weekends at their grandparents, so their father could spend time with them. I had Friday night to myself. This pub, within walking distance from my house, was a regular haunt for dinner on my own. At first I felt incredibly awkward, going there by myself. I felt like everyone was looking at me and pitying me for being alone, or worse. Gradually I got over it and quite enjoyed my trips there. For an introvert like me, it was a way of being around people without having to interact with them. I took a book and my iPod and enjoyed a nice meal that I didn’t have to cook myself.
I loved my adult time, but at the same time I felt like there was something missing. A child-shaped hole in the room. I loved being apart from my kids while missing them terribly at the same time. I felt guilty that I looked forward to time without my kids. But now that I no longer have that regular break, I realise how important it is to have that time. To be alone with my thoughts and feelings. To get a break from that constant feeling of being “on-duty” even during the night. To be reminded that there are other parts of me that aren’t defined by “mum”. To discover or develop other interests. Until those weekend breaks happened, I didn’t realise that I hadn’t picked up my guitar since my first child was born. I hadn’t written any stories. I hadn’t shown my children that there was anything to me apart from always being there to meet their needs.
Now not all of that is due to becoming a Mum (an abusive marriage tends to stifle creativity) but I found it all too easy to always put my children’s needs/wants first and never leave any time for myself. Even writing that sentence I struggled with the idea of appearing selfish. I think it is valuable to show children that their parent is a person, with their own interests and hobbies and feelings. My boys know that I love to read, write, play computer games and experiment with fashion. I try to have a balance of spending time doing these things without them, and engaging with them. I share my interests by playing computer games with them and reading stories to them. They think it’s pretty cool that their Mum plays computer games. It’s not a perfect balance of course, but I try.
They also (hopefully) see that their Mum values herself and respects herself. They see that she takes a nap when she needs to, that she dials back on activities when she’s feeling sick or tired. They see that she can set boundaries, that it is not expected that she be available to them 24 hrs a day. Sometimes it’s time for her to read while they play outside. And that is good. I hope that as they grow they will learn to listen to themselves and respect themselves too.
While sitting at the pub alone, I started writing again for the first time in a long time. I scribbled this in my notebook:
Sitting in the dinner time quiet. My legs are at rest, not poised for a leap to get a juice, a yoghurt, a paper towel to wipe up the spills. My ears are at rest, not ringing from a cacophony of pleading, whining, squealing, chattering voices. Instead, I hear the quiet clink of glasses, murmured adult voices engaged in light conversation. Soon my meal will arrive and I will consume it at my leisure. It will not grow cold while my attention is diverted elsewhere. I won’t have to hurry my mouthfuls. Tonight the night is my own. Yet I still miss those shrill voices, those sticky hands, those pudgy arms squeezing my neck in an excess of affection.
Do you take time out for yourself? Do you struggle with it? If you’re a parent, how has having children affected your interests and hobbies?
Image 1, Image 2 author’s own.