Dear New Momma, Don't Feel Guilty for Needing Time Away
Dear New Momma,
It’s hard right now, isn’t it? Whether this is your first baby, second, or even third. Adding a new human to the mix can really mess some stuff up. It’s joyful too, of course, we all know that. But holy smokes- it’s just really hard. My kids are now 6 and 4, but some days I still feel like we’re in the thick of it. We don’t have any more sleepless nights or diapers or panic attacks over runny noses, thank the Lord, but emotions and tempers and disrespectful attitudes are at an all-time high in my house, with no end in sight. But hang in there, New Momma. Soon you will exchange this exhausting, holding-yourself-together-by-a-thread phase and enter a new one; one with a little more breathing room, a little more peace, and a lot more sleep.
But while you’re in the thick of it with babies (and I don’t mean only newborns- I’m talking babies up to about 2 years), please don’t make the same mistake I did. When I was a new mom, I carried around tons of guilt for sometimes needing time away from my babies, even for necessary things like doctor or dentist appointments. I’d rush to the dentist and back home as quickly as possible, even though I knew my sitter could stay all afternoon. I prided myself on being back home in less than two hours. Why? What was that even about? I had it in my head that I should be - needed to be - present for every single moment of my babies’ infancies and toodlerhoods, otherwise I’d be labeled a terrible mother, a hack who couldn’t cut this motherhood gig. My inner monologue went something like this: What kind of mom wants time away from her children? Something must be wrong with me. Why don’t they fulfill me 24/7?
But now, with some hindsight and experience, I realize I was buying into a lie. I was making myself miserable by insisting on carting an infant and a 2-year-old to IKEA or the grocery store or a crammed fitting room when I didn’t really need to. Sure, most days are just like that- your kids go where you go. But what about the days when I easily could have found a sitter and gotten away for some much-needed alone time, where no one was drooling or blowing their nose on me? What was I proving - and who was I proving it to - by wearing some worn-out, over-touched, under-stimulated “#1 Mom” badge that no one asked me to wear in the first place? I was allowing this guilt to steal my joy by handcuffing myself to my babies in the name of being a good mom.
So New Momma, listen to an Old Momma. If you need some time away- THAT IS NORMAL AND IT IS OKAY. Do you feel like you’re reaching a breaking point? Do you feel like crying when your partner leaves for work in the morning, knowing you’re home alone with the babies again? Do you just need to shower and wash your hair? If so, here’s what you do. You find a babysitter. You stop listening to that voice in your head that lies to you by whispering, I should be able to handle this. I’m strong. I can do it all myself. That may well be true- I don’t doubt your mothering abilities because even on days when we don’t feel like it, we somehow get it done. But also, you don’t have to do it all by yourself.
So find a babysitter. Ask around at the childcare area at your church or your gym. Call in a favor or two with your mother-in-law. Ask your neighbor who she trusts to watch her babies and get those digits. They’re out there, you just have to start looking. And when you find those one or two special someones you trust to care for your babes, it’ll be incredible. Welcome to a whole new world. Go get your hair done! Go shopping, grocery or otherwise, by yourself. Go read more than three sentences of a book in silence. Go to your gym and take a gosh darn shower. (I have been known to take my kids to my gym’s childcare solely for the purpose of taking a hot shower, getting dressed in peace, and hanging out in the locker room. It’s the best. Do it!)
I’m sure not every mom feels this way, and that’s a-okay too. Does spending copious amounts of time with your children just give you life and wind beneath your wings? Fantastic! I’m happy for that mom, and I even envy her. But does it make that mom a better mom than me? Not a bit. We’re all individuals with different preferences, different triggers, and different limits. I’m certainly not a perfect mom- a lot of days I’m not even a very good mom- but a little time away from my babies every now and then makes me a better mom, a better wife, and a better human. So my babysitters, who are part of my tribe, are never more than a text away. So New Momma, I encourage you to increase your tribe by a babysitter or two and go get you some of that sweet, sweet alone time. I’ll meet you at the nail salon.