Originally I thought it would be prudent to begin this post with a statement about how much I love my children, my husband, my life. But upon further consideration, I decided that was not needed. Of course I do. This doesn’t change, however, how much I’d like to tell them all to go the fuck away and leave me alone in peace for five fucking minutes. Is that so much to ask? Apparently, yes.
I first started tinkering with blogging way back in 2006 when I was pregnant with offspring #1. And even though I was more or less on my own to do as I pleased whenever I pleased, I still had interruptions in my daily existence: cats puking or crying to be fed, waking up to pee three times a night, having to puke myself at my body’s whim, being too large and unwieldy to sleep properly. The list goes on from there.
I started blogging occasionally about my pregnancy and life at the time, even asking Santa to let me sleep in, peacefully, with no interruptions for one day. Even then my request was denied. Of course it was all in jest. I still had my whole day to take a nap, or waste three straight hours reading, or spend countless hours researching baby-related topics online. No one really needed me for anything.
Now it seems that there isn’t a time when someone isn’t asking me for something, or yelling at me because of an argument. As I type, my annoying-ass cat is scratching at the closed door and crying to be let in. And just prior to sitting down to type, I attempted my first yoga practice in two months. But how can one really be in the present and focus on breathing when three different people come to the door, the cat continues to cry and scratch, and I can hear the sounds of My Little Pony coming from below.
It’s enough to make me want to get up and leave. Forever. Damn, that’d feel so good.
For an hour or two. Then, I’m sure I’d make my way back home again. I love these people more than I hate them. And even though my kids can definitely be assholes sometimes, they can’t help themselves. Kids, I think, are naturally designed to be assholes. Can’t blame them for nature.
But because of all of these irritating aspects to my life, I don’t feel any shame in telling my kids “no” sometimes. “No, I will not play with you right now.” “No, you can read yourself that book.” “No, get your own snack if you’re hungry enough.” “No, I will not watch you do the same thing for the 10th time.” “No, I will not indulge your every whim.” Mommy is trying to preserve some sense of self.
Is it selfish to tell my kids to go away because I want to read my book instead of cheer them on for doing the most menial thing? Maybe. But I don’t give a shit. 99% of the times when they ask to play or read or “watch me be a puppy” for the umpteenth time, I put a smile on my face and agree. They need that attention and reinforcement more than I need to read sometimes. But sometimes it’s all I can do not to scream at them to leave me the fuck alone. And it’s these times when I simply tell them that we all need private time to ourselves, and that I’m in the middle of my private time. They’ll have to come back later.
And they do. They leave peacefully–no harm, no foul. And I get ten more minutes of reading time. Or ten more minutes of reclining in bed, staring the the ceiling, and breathing. Or ten more minutes of chugging vodka. Just kidding on that last part…maybe.
I have a handful of vivid memories of my parents playing or reading with me as a child. A handful. Partly due to the distance in time since these events. But much more likely due to the fact that my parents thought what was best for my brothers and me was for us to entertain ourselves. Go play. Use your imagination. They were not there for our amusement, and we knew that. And surprisingly, I turned out just fine.
I don’t know when the shift in parenting began that parents suddenly became playthings for their kids. When we were required to set up playdates and tag along for the benefit of other parents. When we became their chauffeurs. These kids have become our dungeon masters, calling the shots.
I say fuck that. Yes, I will continue to tuck them into bed ten times a night, and give them another drink of water, help them zip up their jammies after going to the bathroom for the third time in one night, cut their sandwiches “just so”, and watch them jump around on one foot like it’s some sort of impossible feat conquered. But I will not give up any more of my self. My “self”. What makes me me. What brings me individual joy.What makes me happy apart from them. What sustains my soul.
I look around at so many childless friends of mine and am secretly jealous sometimes. They go out for drinks after work with no advance notice. They can wake up at whatever time they please. They don’t need to worry about being home from a dinner at a respectable time for whomever is watching the kids. They can do whatever they want whenever they want. Or simply do nothing at all.
And I can’t. But I chose this life. I chose to have children. I planned all of this. There weren’t accidents or unexpected circumstances. I made my life this way of my own free will. And I don’t ever regret it. Honestly. I can’t even remember my life before kids, and I think that must reflect something about what it was like. And so I’d never choose to give all of this beautiful madness up.
What I am giving up is the selflessness I’ve been operating under for the last eight years. In this season of giving, I’m giving to myself. I’m giving myself the freedom to take time for myself. To do what makes me happy apart from my family.To release myself of the unending guilt that comes with parenting. To believe that my needs are equally important.
Because, ultimately, I can come home miserable from work and be Mean Mommy for 4 hours. Or, I can sometimes leave work miserable (as is always the case), go to yoga for and hour and a half, or read for an hour, or write for an hour, and be Nice Mommy for 2 hours. I believe those couple fewer hours being home is a worthwhile sacrifice that my children and husband should be more than happy to support.
It’s not an easy thing to do. I will likely continue to harbor some guilt at attending to my needs first. But a miserable mommy equals hell for everyone else. So, this is an enterprise worth working toward building, though it can’t be done alone. I will need the support of my husband, children, and also friends and strangers alike. I will need others to understand that I need this time alone. That I am not a shitty mother for thinking of myself first every now and then. All parents need to start moving back toward a time when having children didn’t mean giving up your identity.
And so, I encourage other parents–moms and dads alike–to rise up with me, throw your fist in the air, and tell your children to leave you the fuck alone. Trust me, it feels awesome. And I think your kids will thank you.