We've all been there: your friends invite you out for drinks and a movie, and no matter how you finagle it, the logistics just don't work, and there's no way you can make childcare happen. Or you want to go to Target by yourself. Or once -- JUST ONCE -- you want to go to the bathroom by yourself. It can feel a little bit suffocating being a mom, sometimes. We're expected to be so many places at once, to never be tired, to always have everything ready at the drop of a hat, but when are we allowed to take a little bit of time for ourselves?
Can someone please explain to me why we as a society have decided that when someone has a child, they are no longer allowed to have a life or be anything other than a mother? Let me talk to you guys about what I did a few weekends ago. I went out swing dancing for the first time since before my ex-husband left, and it was glorious. I didn’t just go swing dancing though, I went completely by myself — no friends or anything. For four brief hours, I was me. I wasn’t a wife or ex-wife or mom or hairdresser. I was me and how freeing to be yourself! I couldn’t hide behind the curtains of comfort my friends provide, but I had a choice to make, and I chose to step out in confidence, and how freeing that was. I got in my car, and I actually cried because I finally felt like me again for the first time in longer than I can remember.
Oh, but the backlash.
Between family, “friends", and the internet, I was immediately bombarded with messages of how I shouldn’t be out enjoying myself when I work so much and don’t see my little girl as much as I would like. I was mom shamed into believing that I wasn’t doing my best work as a mom by going out without my baby and I should be at home, and you know what?
For a brief moment, I believed them. I questioned what I had done. I started to mom shame and criticize myself because if I had made this one terrible decision and felt that it was okay, then what other mistakes have I made? Am I just all around screwing my child up? The mental and emotional frenzy I sent myself into was dizzying and my whole body buzzed with the most ridiculously frenetic energy because of it.
I remember after giving birth, sitting in my house by myself, trying to nurse a screaming child as my milk free flowed out of both nipples, and I was bawling. I felt like anything but myself, but I most definitely felt trapped, and I distinctly remember thinking, "am I ever going to feel like myself?" I wish I could've seen a year into the future, and I'd know that eventually, I was going to have a walking, talking child who already wants to be so independent at the ripe old age of 13 months.
I have a gentle reality check for you, this morning. You aren't selfish for taking time for yourself. You are doing Kingdom Work, Mama Bear, and even God took a day to rest after He created the universe we inhabit. Don't you think if the Creator of everything took a day to rest, we should too? I’m speaking as much to you as I am to myself today when I say that you aren’t a “bad mom” by going out without your baby every once in awhile. I would reach so far as to say that you are in fact being a good mom because time away from your baby is good! You didn't give birth to a jailer; the day you brought this tiny creature in the world was not an indication that you were no longer allowed to be a separate human being.
Here are a few ways you can get help and make an occasional night out by yourself happen:
Ask your husband.
I don't doubt that you love your spouse deeply, and I hope and pray he is an incredible husband and father, but our spouses don't know what we don't tell them. It isn't fair to husband's everywhere to be treated like they're mind readers, and we as women tend to do that.
Find a Mother's Day Out at your local church.
I know what childcare costs look like, and that's why I chose to put my Adelaide in a Mother's Day Out a couple of days a week. She gets some socialization in with other little nuggets her age, and I get childcare that doesn't eat my whole paycheck.
Find a parent's night out at your local church, gym, or child activity center
Places like The Little Gym, karate centers, mega churches, and other child-filled cesspools often have a free or inexpensive night every month or two where you can leave your child to burn all of their energy so you can go and remember what the humans do when they aren't parents.
Ask another mom friend
Swap nights with another mom friend! You get free childcare, she gets free childcare, and you know(hopefully) that you're leaving your precious little with someone else that knows what they're doing! Guilt free momming!
Sweet friend, if you feel any symptoms of overwhelming guilt, anxiety, anger, sadness, emptiness, or thoughts of running away or suicide, PLEASE SEEK HELP. You don't have to go through this alone. You don't need to feel ashamed. You've done nothing wrong. This motherhood gig is hard work, and we're all doing the best we can. I love you, beautiful. You've got this.