The problem with writing these columns is, so often, I’m just not completely sure of the answers. But I looked way back when I wrote the first one in September, 2010: I told you then it would be a journey.
So I’m traveling this week to a question that, for various reasons and with varying interest, I sometimes consider: What about this idea that mothers need time alone, as in all by themselves, either to just be quiet, to get some work done or to pursue an extra-maternal hobby or interest?
You know what I mean. Most every kind of spiritual pursuit, for example, recommends some quiet time for prayer and meditation. Then there are the practical mommy advisers telling you, “You’ll have to set aside some time alone to accomplish these tasks.”
Lastly, and my least favorite, pop psychology tells you this from the covers of checkout-aisle magazines: “Studies Show Mothers Who Get ‘Me-Time’ are More Emotionally Fit!” (By the way, I looked, and I couldn’t find those studies. I did find, however, that people really like to say, “Studies show” without providing the studies themselves. I vow now to not do that ever again myself.)
It certainly makes some sense. If you’re a mother, you know what it’s like to barely make it to the bathroom, have a seat and — you know I’m not kidding — hear a knock on the door 10 seconds later. You try to not bark the words, “Can I just use the bathroom in peace?!” but you’re exasperated at how even the bathroom isn’t sacred space.
My alarm clock is often set for as early as 3:30 a.m., which was about the only time the house was quiet and I could get things done — “was” being an operative word there, as my 1-year-old recently decided 3:30 a.m. is also a good time to get up and play. I’m convinced some sort of pheromone connection alerts him I’m up and in another room, and he pops up with a squishy grin looking for me. Bleary-eyed, I look incredulously at the clock. His grin is hard to resist.
Thus arises one of the “alone-time” dilemmas: We mothers are, usually, glad that our children want to be with us. Frankly, sometimes I’m amazed my children still like me, but they do. Most times we want to be with them, too. It’s benefit 10,207 of homeschooling, by the way — you actually get to BE with your children.
And our children definitely need us. So many times I’ve heard it’s not our money, our gifts, our wisdom or our promises they want. They just want us. I get that — certainly what I wanted as a child — and I want to give myself to them.
But then there’s that annoying other hand. We’d like to use the bathroom in peace, have a few minutes in the day — at least I do — when someone’s not sucking on us, tugging on us or asking us what seem like incessant questions. If you’re stupid busy like me, you could get more done in an uninterrupted hour than in a whole day with four children. I also know I’ll feel better physically and otherwise if I can get a break, a brisk walk or a nap.