Should I ask for time to myself?

It was hard adjusting to all of life’s changes after having my children. These itty bitty people needed everything done for them. My husband had to work a full-time job and a part-time job to make ends meet. So, it was just me and the kiddos Monday through Saturday. But I knew that it was our lot and also a season.

On one hand, I felt a bit burned out and would have loved some time to myself. On the other hand, I felt guilty for desiring to do something other than care for my children while my husband was working so hard. Time was scarce but I was also afraid that I would use the term “Self-care” as an excuse to be selfish. I had read books about motherhood and how it is the most important job in the world EVER. God had given me a precious gift, two actually! So, I concluded with the idea that while I really would have liked to do something for me, I must be giving into my selfishness to desire time by myself.

I found out that other moms felt exactly how I did at one of my Postpartum Depression Support Group meetings. One lady was lamenting how all she wanted to do was just to go on a run by herself, but her unsupportive husband wouldn’t let her because he felt uncomfortable taking care of their baby. Another mom felt like she just didn’t have the time because the whole family had moved into a new house around the time she had her baby. She spoke of all the unpacking and settling in. I could go on and on with other people’s stories, but we all struggled with the similar notion that we were bad moms for wanting time to ourselves. The whole group of women would encourage the mom who was sharing to do something on her own that didn’t involve caring for the children. And every single mom equally argued back how she just couldn’t do it.

Where was this hesitation coming from? Why did we all feel like the only thing we could do was be a home-maker and baby-caretaker? It obviously wasn’t working because we were all struggling with feeling burned out. I remember saying to the mom who wanted to go on a run, “We are not robots. Your husband shouldn’t expect you to act like one.” And yet, I was putting that notion onto myself. Some would say that it is society’s unrealistic view of mothers to “do it all.” Others might say that it’s because the mom is overprotective of her children. Whatever the reasoning, it’s just not healthy. I was creating inside myself a pressure cooker of emotions. It took an outburst of frustration to get me to admit to myself that I did, indeed, need a break. This what my “eureka explosion” looked like…

I wanted to play my piano, something I had often done in the past to calm down or enjoy a moment to myself. Without communicating anything to my husband, I sat down at our Kawai spinet and began to play. Immediately, my daughter came up to me and started banging on the keys. Then, my husband came in, stood behind me, and attempted to play his trumpet “by ear” to a song he had never heard before. Oh, the cacophony! This was not how I wanted things to go! I just got up, nary a word, and promptly went on a long walk by myself. I didn’t even take my cellphone. Needless to say, my husband’s feelings were really hurt.

My walk did bring some clarity though. First, I knew I would need to apologize to my husband because I hadn’t relayed any of my inner monologue to him and treated him very poorly. Second, I realized that since I wasn’t teaching anymore, I really missed the creative expression I experienced every day in collaboration with my chorus students. It was like a part of who I was had been locked up and needed to be released. The realization of this brought me relief that I had figured out something that was bothering me. I returned home and asked him to forgive me (which he did) and we talked about what I had mulled over on my own. We knew this alone time wouldn’t look like it did prior to kids and playing the piano did not interest me at the time. It could not have anything to do with the internet since it was a trigger for anxiety and panic attacks. It would have to be on the cheap side, shorter in duration, and something that would refresh my soul.

So, my husband encouraged me to pick back up my hobby of sewing. It’s creative with infinite possibilities, practical, and progress can physically be seen. He reminded me that God is a creative god and delights to make things unique and beautiful. I didn’t need to look any further than Genesis 1 for proof of His amazing imagination and expert artistry. He created the sky, the heavens, the earth, the seas, the animals, and humans like me! This attribute for creativity was placed into my DNA when I was intricately woven and wonderfully and fearfully made inside my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13-14). The desire to create has always been part of who I am. So, I needn’t feel guilty about wanting to express myself in some type of outlet.

Matthew 22:37-39 further convinced me that sewing would be a good outlet. Jesus said “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” I could listen to sermons while I sewed and I could use the things I made as gifts to bless others. It was a twofer! It was time well-spent learning about God and sewing gifts for others was a tangible way I could love the people in my life.

Thankfully, my husband was supportive and through his exhaustion, found time to watch the kids so that I could have this special time to myself. I would emerge from this hour refreshed by the sermon I listened to and excited to see progress in whatever creation I was working on. This enabled me to resume parenting activities a bit more stable and sane.

It was during these times of momentarily getting away from being a mother and being refreshed in the word, that I realized how important they were. I realized that if I was spending all of my time and energy doing mom stuff every day, that I was getting my priorities out of order. I needed to stop running on empty, start filling up with the glorious truths of God, and allow His Spirit to work. John 15:5 says something similar: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” No wonder I felt so frazzled trying to take on the all the responsibilities of being a mom without a break! This verse tells me that if we don’t have time with the Lord, we are acting in self-sufficient ways that will only lead to burn out and will not bear fruit. Abiding in Him can only be done by spending alone time with Him, getting to know Him, and listening to Him.

Do you struggle to ask for some time to yourself? Do you feel guilty like I did? Where are those guilty feelings stemming from? Could you redeem that time by doing something to show the Lord that you love Him and get to know Him better?

Still thinking that you can’t implement this? What if you tried to go on a run and pray? Or bake and listen to a sermon? Brainstorm with a loved one if you’re at a loss for ideas and I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you’re navigating and/or you’ve navigated through these waters!

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