Almost 2 years into my now somewhat new role as a Mom, I have learned that it is perfectly alright in fact, necessary on most days to make time for myself. For about the first 20 months of my daughters life, I didn't really grasp this fact and part of me would always feel somewhat guilty when I would go out with my girlfriends and leave her with her Father or my Husband and I would go out for dinner and leave her with her Grandparents. I now realize, how wrong I was...
Toddlers and children in general are exhausting during much of the day and whether you are a SAHM or one that works outside of the house doesn't matter...we still MUST take time for ourselves.
However, when I became a SAHM I took it upon myself to think that now as I was the parent and 1/2 of the marriage who was at home all of the time that it was up to me to always have the laundry done, house clean, dinner on the table and all errands run so that my husband could just come home and relax or we could just have fun together as a family on the weekends. Unfortunately, over the course of the 20 or so months having this sort of mindset was not the most positive thing for myself or my family and not only did it create tension but it made me somewhat bitter towards my husband.
How many times did I rattle off to him over the course of a week just what it is that I did around the house or with our daughter that he did not and then harp on him that he didn't understand where I was coming from as he got to "escape to work for 40 hours a week" while I was at home with a baby/toddler 24/7. It took me until our daughter was about 20 months old to realized that the only person doing this to me, was me. I was trying to so hard to try and be everything to everyone in my life that I forgot to take time for one other very important person...me.
What made me realize that this had to begin to change was remembering a friend who I had for many years. She had two children, not far apart in age from each other and I saw her try and juggle it all. Unfortunately for her, she did not have very much help in the day to day care of her children from her husband and she was therefore forced to do it all while he spent hours sitting on the couch doing God knows what apart from being a "lazy bastard" as she often described him. I watched her lose herself completely while trying to make sure it all got done and at the same time saw part of her die every time he belittled her for something not being done instead of stepping up to the plate and becoming a hands on Father and Husband so that she could have a break.
I thought of her, looked around my house, at my Husband and realized "my life is not like that, I have a Husband who will help if I just let him". I also realized that I did not want to become like that friend of mine and that if I wasn't going to, I had to give up some control and allow my Husband to participate in the raising of our child and taking care of things around the house that he actually wanted to.
So, we came up with a plan that when my Husband got home from work, he would take our daughter for at least an hour and they would do "Daddy/Daughter" stuff together while I did whatever I wanted to or needed to. Something as simple as being able to check my email in peace and quiet took on new meaning or going to the mall to get new shoes without having to push a stroller or lug a diaper bag felt freeing. Going to the bookstore and actually having the time to look at books and find one that I was really interested in was liberating or just getting out in the fresh air for a short walk was enough to put me back in the right frame of mind.
This hasn't always been easy and there are days when I don't get the time to myself that I necessarily want or crave due to one thing or another and while that might bother me on occasion, it is at those moments that I try to remember how lucky I am and remember that friend I once knew. See, not all relationships or friendships are actually meant to last a lifetime. Some have expiration dates that we don't necessarily see coming but that we can look back on and understand why that person was a part of our lives for the time that they were and continue to hope for the best for them.
As we all know, little girls are raised to become women who can have it all in life which is all well and good but at the same time we are raised to believe that spending too much time on ourselves is a sign of selfishness. This sort of warped mentality has a tendency to back fire on us when we become Wives and Mothers and have to then try and figure out how to incorporate these new roles that we have taken on into who we are and what, if anything, it is that we need to change about ourselves in order to become the best Wife and/or Mother and while it isn't always easy, one of the things we need to learn after we take on these roles is that we don't really have to change ourselves at all...we just have to add to ourselves and perhaps get in the habit of allowing ourselves to ask for help more often and to let someone else deal with the day to day messes for a bit.
These days, I find I do my best thinking while I am out for an afternoon run. Just me...not me with my daughter in the jogging stroller but...just me. I feel my head literally clear as my footsteps hit the pavement and whatever music I am in the mood for is cranked up on my MP3 player and it is at these moments that I smile behind my sunglasses and realize just how happy taking the time for a little bit of "selfishness" makes me... :-)