September 8, 2014

Ask Jen: On Motherhood, Caregiving and Time Off

Reader Question

Asked by Peggy, a fan of the Dancing in the Rain Facebook page: How do you deal with being mom, wife, caretaker, etc, with little to no time for yourself?

My Answer

I saw this on Facebook several months ago:

To which one person replied, "Not if you are a mom!"

It kind of annoyed me.

My first reactionary feelings were along the lines of:

I have been a mom for 14 years now. Of course I GET that our kids are WORK, that raising kids is one of the toughest jobs. yada, yada, yada....

But every time a mom says something like that it makes me feel like she's got a very narrow view of motherhood and family. It's glib. Trite. It makes me cringe a little because I don't see my family as work only. Having a family is also so many other things that make all the work that goes into it worth it.

That mom could indeed be a moody martyr. Upon further reflection, however, I realized that I had no idea who that mom was or what place in her motherhood path she was at. How can I judge what she said?

Maybe she's a single mom who truly doesn't have any help. Maybe she has little ones who require SO. MUCH. ATTENTION. Maybe her husband works weekends, so Friday is just another day. Maybe SHE works therefor all her "free" time is spent managing her household and family and she's overwhelmed. Perhaps she doesn't have any mom friends to support her. And maybe she hasn't had a break in a very long time.

Then I thought about how good I have it now.

My children are older and both in school. Although my son just this summer learned to spread peanut butter for himself, I don't have the overwhelming neediness that babies, toddlers and preschoolers are. Sometimes this is bittersweet, but mostly it's freeing and I can breathe.

Although the reasons for it aren't great, my husband is around a lot, and very helpful. He cooks, runs errands and fully co-parents. Yeah, the thought of maybe being left to finish raising the kids alone is ever-present in my mind. But I think that is why I am appreciative of what I have RIGHT NOW.

Because of all of that, I do get time to myself. I am not one of those moms who is still doing the dishes at 10 o'clock at night because she didn't have time right after dinner because she had little ones to bathe and get to bed. I'm not up until midnight doing laundry so my kids have something to wear the next day.

No, I get to grab a glass of wine and sit on my butt watching TV and crocheting if I want to because I had time, and help, during the day to get my responsibilities done. I can sit here at 9 o'clock in the morning typing this without interruption because my kids are both at school.

I'm not belittling my own efforts. I'm not saying that I've got it easy. None of us has it easy. I put in my dues with little ones. I dealt with sleep deprivation, feeling like a cow from constant nursing, not wanting one single person to touch me ever again because I never had my own space. All of it. Been there, done that.

Older kids bring new and different challenges. Yes, absolutely. But when it comes to finding time for yourself, they are easier.

I did feel over this summer, with not only my kids home, but my husband on leave from work as well, that it was difficult to carve out time to write without interruption....

However, I still have time for mothering, wife-ing, caregiving, blogging and taking time for myself because I don't also work for someone. To be perfectly honest, I am simply not as busy as working moms, even if there are difficult things going on. Again, not negating all that I do; it's absolutely not like I'm sitting on my ass all day. As if! I'm never bored, trust me.

I'm also not a perfectionist. Not by any stretch of the imagination. If something doesn't get ticked off my to-do list today, I add it to tomorrow's. I prioritize and re-prioritize as things happen. I adapt and adjust (and maybe procrastinate a little). Then sometimes, I throw my hands up and decide it's time for a snack and a cocktail and to hell with everything else!

Because I think the most important things in life are yourself, those you love and living in the moment.

That may sound overly simplified, but basically....yeah. That.

How do you find time for yourself?

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