In front of me in line, stood a mother and her toddler, who was doing all the things young children do when waiting in line—opening the cooler door, asking for the perfectly placed eye-level candy, and wanting to help place items on the counter. Her mom replied with the standard parental responses of, “Please close the door,” “No, we don’t need that,” and “Be careful, it’s heavy” all while talking to the cashier, finding her wallet, and making sure she purchased everything they came in for.
Toward the end of the transaction, she looked back at me and apologized for the craziness. I just smiled, said there was nothing to apologize for, and mentioned I had a toddler as well.
She sighed and said, “They are a handful,” she paused and continued, “but I miss her every minute I am not with her.”
I nodded but internally I was shouting, “Why do so many mothers say that?!”
As I mulled over the interaction, a series of questions kept running through my mind.
Do other parents truly miss their children every minute they are apart?
If they don’t, why do we, especially as mothers, feel compelled to say we do?
If they do, am I the odd one out for not sharing this sentiment?
My 3-year-old is in preschool three days a week for four hours a day—a total of 12 hours per week. During that time, I can honestly say I do not miss him. I have 156 hours to be with him. I crave those 12 hours that are mine when I can catch up on work, write, or just get errands done in a timely fashion.
I can’t be the only one who feels this way, but at times it seems like I am.
As a society, we’re inundated with the idea that it is normal for women to completely lose themselves in motherhood. Articles that champion embracing, or at least accepting, that this season of life is about putting others before yourself, greeting cards that celebrate the martyrdom of motherhood, and well-intentioned family, friends, and even strangers encouraging us to be self-sacrificial for the good of our families.
It all makes me want to yell, “It’s OK to not live solely for your kids!”
It’s not only OK but, in my opinion, it’s healthier. At least it has been for me.
The first year of my son’s life, I fully bought into what a mother should be, or at least what was portrayed by social media, movies, and others’ opinions, as the gold standard. I gave of myself until I had nothing more to give. I hated it.
I finally had to admit that giving pieces of myself until I’d lost myself completely was not sustainable or even desirable. I could not reconcile how putting aside my passions until the fire inside of me barely flickered could be beneficial for myself, my son, or my family as a whole.
After much formalized planning, communication with my husband, and learning the value of early morning alarms, I have finally found the balance that allows me time to strive after my personal pursuits in addition to working remotely and staying at home with my son.
There will always be sacrifices as a parent.
Gone are the days of impromptu romantic weekend getaways, binge-worthy shows now include more Bluey than Ozark, and sleeping in is something only dreamt of. Yet those sacrifices are temporary, and one day our time will be ours again.
Too often though, I hear of well-intentioned temporary sacrifices that somehow permanently fade into the background. Hobbies, career goals, and more end up on the back burner, never to return.
Instead, life is taken over by parenthood, with the refrain of “I’ll get to it when the kids are older” or “My focus is on the kids right now, I don’t have time for myself.” Then years pass with our children watching as we neglect our aspirations, and they come to believe that’s just a normal part of being a parent.
By continuing to pursue my personal goals, I’m setting an example for my son to see that others have needs, wants, and passions that are equally as important as his.
And this doesn’t make me a bad mother, a less loving mother, or a selfish mother.
It makes me human. A person with ideas, dreams, and interests of my own. The person I want my son to know.