I don’t know about you, but I am terrible at this titular axiom, Just Find Time for Yourself.
Frankly, it’s because I DO NOT EVER have it. Ever since I first started growing a person inside my body over twelve years ago, I have been permanently attached to another soul.
“But, but… they cut the umbilical cord when the baby’s born…”
Yeah -that’s like one of those rituals with sacrificial bible blood or hands under thighs and whatnot. You have, and will always have, an unavoidable association with your offspring for the rest of your life. More sensitive types feel it. I liken it to phantom nerve sensations, similar to when an amputee feels an itch.
I’d wager that’s part of why many women have aftereffects from an abortion, or deep sadness over miscarriage. Before social media, mothers who opted for adoption could only wonder at whatever happened to that tiny person they can never fully forget.
I do not have personal experience with abortion or adoption. I do have experience with a disassociation, with a supposed disconnection.
When my second child was born, I DID NOT feel close to him. He was 9 weeks premature. Convincing my body that it had popped that baby out and needed to love him and produce milk for him was one of the biggest acts of imagination I’ve forced upon myself.
HOWEVER, I did have the mental association of a child. My body was simply confused, as that child should still have been inside me.
“What does all this have to do with time for yourself?”
Excellent question, Class! *AHEM* Our PHYSICAL INABILITY to be fully removed from a deep connection to our children makes it IMPOSSIBLE to enjoy free time.
Yep, go tell that to your husband.
Whenever’s he’s just “carved out” a little “me time” while you’ve sat and scratched your head; you can pull up your shirt, look at your stretch marks, and think, Oh, YEAH. If you’re an adoptive parent, you can look into your sweet little child’s eyes instead.
Creation forms the bond inside, and care forms the bond outside. I spent nearly two years struggling with that second sort of bond with my premature child, so I know. Given the way he treats me some days, I wonder why I bothered…
Getting back to the subject at hand: I hadn’t realized this permanent umbilical cord thingie was there until I had the chance to go back to school.
Unlike many mothers, I was able to stay home with my children while my husband went to work. Returning to college was the first time I employed a sitter while I went and did something besides visiting a NBICU or buying a swimsuit unmolested by a toddler.
As I walked around campus uninhibited, I felt odd. Something was missing. Was I wearing shoes? Did I forget underwear? I checked my breath, but I’d brushed that morning.
Then, it hit me: I was alone.
Besides the obvious physical absence of two children (back then), there existed a psychological absence in the form of how everyone treated me. At school I was only me. Everyone I spoke with saw only me, and not my two shadows. Those people didn’t even know I had children.
As I mentally tasted this odd sensation, I realized that my husband feels like this every day. Going to work was just like my going to school. It created the sensation of being cut out, paper doll-style, and put on a separate page from the children.
Since that time, we’ve added two more children to the mix. We even talk about adding more some days -usually when they’re all asleep. The bonus part is that they have gotten slightly easier as they’ve grown up. Most of that ease is due to potty-training and independent access to cold cereal. Also, I’ve realized the titillating freedom of Free Day Care (AKA Public School).
The husband and I have *GASP* had a vacation for longer than an evening, together. (Thanks, you wonderful, wonderful babysitters!) I’ve run to the store for milk and left the oldest in charge.
The connection is there. It always will be. If not, we would be a crummy species at procreating. So, then, how do we get that all-important “Time for Yourself” without the side effects?
When my little darlings are in the care of someone I trust, I’ve found my instinctive sensations of worry to be muted.
For example, we’re planning our FIRST EVER week-long vacation this summer. Without children. Someone volunteered, without blackmail, to watch ALL FOUR BOYS. We drove over to their place to get everyone acquainted with each other and ensure that there weren’t any large bogs or busy highways to wander into. It turned out that these lovely, lovely people own the perfect place for them to stay. We’ll be able to have a good time; and I can almost, mostly turn off the Mom Switch in my brain.
…After I leave them our health insurance card and 12 pages of typed instructions.