After having spent three days with the kids up near Valentine, NE with no other adult and no electronics of any sort, I felt comfortable enough (guilt-free enough) to leave them Saturday morning to attend a yoga class and sit alone in a café for an hour, which hands-down is my favorite thing to do. It is also something I have not done one single time since school got out.
Why haven’t I done this all summer?
I got stuck in a rut. I dug myself into this rut with the desire to play stay-at-home-mom and not having the right set of rules for the game nor the right mindset. (This is the first time I have been unemployed since becoming a mom, and I’m not quite sure how to do it.) With the insight gained from the teensiest bit of alone time today, I can see how detrimental sacrificing all my sacred alone time this summer has been.
The wheels have all but fallen off my meditation practice.
Time with girlfriends can be added up on two fingers.
My tendency toward introversion has become crippling.
I have become dependent solely upon my husband for adult conversation and emotional support.
My creativity has been stifled.
Sitting in the café this morning I asked myself how in the world I got to this place of zero alone time. First of all, there is the scheduling. My kids are in a ton of activities, most of which require driving, and my husband’s job is demanding, so when he’s able to have family time, I want to be present. Then there is the comparing/judging mind that told me that the rules of being a stay-at-home-mom require the utmost self-sacrifice and incessantly being at my children’s beck and call, not having a babysitter do some of the driving nor allowing myself to skip a game or two to simply to be alone. But also, there is this pressure of knowing that time is fleeting and I don’t have that much more time with my kiddos at home, so I must squeeze out of life all the time with them that I can.
While searching through old e-mails this afternoon, the paragraph below showed up in a message I sent to myself just after school started last Fall. This reflection is helping me understand with more compassion how I came to be so self-denying this summer. The truth is that I am sad for them to be growing up, and I mistakenly thought that being crazily physically present was part of the answer to my sadness.
August 17, 2015
I am sure I’m not the first woman to have sent her youngest off to kindergarten and then felt an incredible urge to have a baby. I can’t be. The emotions I am experiencing now feel way too universal. I am mourning the loss of my children. I feel like the mama cow whose calf has been taken away for castration and branding. I feel like society has taken away my 5 year old to institutionalize him, to transform him into an upstanding part of the 21st century societal and economic machinery. Oh, and I should mention too that it has also taken my 11 year old off to MIDDLE SCHOOL, halfway across town, to a place filled with teenagers, none of whom I know. These events feel like theft. They feel cruel and unusual. I feel left alone to figure out what is next. I feel like I’m at a point like I was in college when I had to figure out what I was going to be when I “grew up.” I know having a baby and starting over probably isn’t the answer. But this would guarantee me five more years of being truly needed to grow and sustain life, to teach the basic skills and to feel needed and loved. I am scared of not being needed and loved. Of course I know that I will be needed for transportation, clean clothes and meals, but I want to be needed like a baby needs me to stay alive, or a 3 year old needs me when he’s fallen and injured himself. I want to be needed as a safe lap for thumb sucking and cuddles. I am sad because I see my children growing up, and for the middle schooler especially, pushing me away. His independence coupled with my kindergartener’s is threatening to me. I have heard my 5 year old say multiple times just this week, “I can do it myself. I’m a big boy.” Of course I want my children to be independent and strong. I want them to be able to make their meals and shower themselves. That’s not all of it. I fear is that my children are going to come to a point when they feel they need to hide their needs, stuff their feelings and not approach me for love and cuddles and a safe harbor. I did this to my parents. I thought, “How could they possibly understand? Do they really want to hear what I have to say?” I mourn the loss of their childhood for their sake too. Growing up is painful. I want to guard them (and me) from their future pain. My nine year old still believes in Santa. I want him to believe in magic forever. I feel I’m at a big juncture in my life, like there was motherhood pre having all my kids in school and there is motherhood post this point. I believe that motherhood now is going to require more creativity, openness and mindfulness than before. I am going to have to learn to create space for emotions to felt, pre-teen angst to be communicated and post-the-acceptable-age-limit lap-sits and thumb sucks. I’m also going to have to grow myself a bit in the process. I need to nurture me so that I can nurture them in creative, not so physical ways. What really nurtures me? That is the question…
Maybe had I stumbled upon this e-mail at the end of the school year and answered the question, “what nurtures me?” I wouldn’t have gotten to this depleted space. I am thankful to have found the message, and I am thankful to realize again just how important it is for me to nurture myself with serious solitude and contemplative time, not simply a few minutes while the kids have their screen time.
As the school year approaches I will worry less about not getting to spend as much time with my kids, and I will instead look forward to the space and time that will naturally open up for me to be a more mindful mama and a more mindful and independent human being.