Julie Lyles Carr: Ask Octamom

Friday, December 10, 2010

Ask Octamom

ask octa1britt
Thought we'd take another question from the que in the AskOcta series. Great question, Miss Britt!

Taking personal time in any relationship is a good thing. I often say that I am an introvert masquerading as an extrovert (although I think I'm becoming more and more of an extro as my mommying journey continues...) and have always needed some space and quiet from time to time. But taking some time is also one of the issues with a fine edge~~by requiring too much, you miss the expanding and stretching opportunities that being a parent brings and by not taking any you risk having your identity too enmeshed with your kids and nobody wins in that scenario.

So let's break that down a bit more and see where balance can be found.

Too Much

I sometimes hear moms talk about wanting to keep their identities intact after they have children, that the kiddos will just have to come alongside and be scheduled and formed to the life the mom and dad are already leading. Certainly, it is a great thing for our whole lives to not be dictated by kids. But being a parent is part of our identities once we become parents. It is an essential part of who we are. And we should look for how parenting is changing us, where we are growing. To think of ourselves as static and to defend that hill against the encroachment of children robs us of an incredible opportunity for self-examination. When we say we won't change where our time is spent, just because there is now a kiddo involved, are we trafficking in a strong personal identity...or are we just selfish? When multiple 'girls night outs' and book clubs and hobby interests relegate our children to more and more time with the sitter, are we refueling our tanks...or just skipping around our parenting role?

There are times we are legitimately frazzled and wearied with our mothering work. And a commitment to personal time can be an essential aspect of emotional health. Absolutely.

But it's also important to remember that all strength comes through pressing through and heavy lifting. My body does not naturally want to run. But I run anyway. My body does not naturally want to put down the cookie. I put it down anyway. And sometimes our emotions do not want to wipe one more nose, find one more binkie, endure one more tantrum, play judge over one more sibling altercation.

But when we do it anyway and we don't succumb to retreating and calling it 'personal time', we gain strength. We gain endurance. We press through and become stronger.

Now, my sweet Britteny, all that said, here's my opinion on getting personal time in balance, making sure it's nurturing and not retreating from parenting...

Plan it. And do it.

If I tell myself that I will have the cookie, that it will come after healthy eating and exercise, and I have that cookie in moderation, there is tremendous benefit. And if I know I have a girls night out coming up, it can help me stay present and calm in the eye of a parenting tizzy.

When I don't have a plan about that proverbial cookie, I can get too hungry and find myself secreted in the pantry downing a bag of the evil things. And when I don't have an upcoming 'me' time, I can find myself spending too much time on the computer or the phone or losing the battle with my temper.

Which brings me to this; don't always make 'me' time about being with other friends, other adults. It's important to be with just yourself and to be comfortable with that.

When I was pregnant with my fifth child, my brother and his wife gave me a unique gift. They put me up at their home for two days and went to my house and took care of my kiddos and made Mike stay away from me.

I had two days all to myself.

And I literally did not know what to do.

It had been a long, long time since I had been alone.

I had a couple of adult times throughout the week. I was part of a book club and I also was singing with a band. I would head out for those activities, fulfilled in my love for reading and for music.

But I wasn't taking time with just Me.

And Me and I were fidgety.

I replaced the toilet seats at my brother's house. Though they had left their home spotless for me, I still found little chores to perform. I fluffed pillows, dabbed at invisible spots on the counter and generally fidgeted. By the end of the two days, I had reached a revelation. My book club time and band time were great~~but getting off every now and then by myself was important. To make myself be quiet and still was incredibly rejuvenating...even though it took me a while to decompress to that point.

So there is a difference in the way we choose to spend that recharging time away from our kids. And we have to recognize that depending on what we are spending that away time on, we can come back to our kids refreshed and renewed or more harried. Not all time away is beneficial and it is critical to become practiced pruners in our gardens of time.
Next week, I'll move on to the flip side of Me Time, the parents who don't take time away and often don't want to or say they can't...and the issues with that approach.

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