When the youngest child goes off to kindergarten, many moms cry. They lament their baby growing up. They miss having a little one at home, and long for the company of their Mini-Me.
I was not one of these moms.
When my youngest started kindergarten, I held a parade. I uncorked champagne. I wore a sash reading “Queen of Freedom” and yelled “Bye Felicia!” from the highest mountain top I could find. I could not wait to send my kid off to school.
It’s not that I don’t love my kids, or enjoy spending time with them, I do. It’s just that I need time to myself to function. I need more time than I was getting as a work-at-home mom. And now, six months in, I can honestly say that both of us are better for having this time away from each other.
I recently read an article describing one couple’s choice to spend every weekend for a year kid-free. It attracted a lot of ire. Who would want to spend that much time away from their children? You can’t see it, but I have my hand raised high in the air. Me. I would. Sign me up.
Okay, maybe not every weekend, and not now that both kids are in school, but when I was home all day every day with one child, and most of the day with the other, hell yes, I would love to have weekends off.
In fact, I did get many weekends away from my kids. For several years, my parents took our oldest child, and our youngest when he was old enough, nearly every other weekend. It was blissful. They got quality time with their grandparents, my husband and I got some alone time together, and I got some time just to myself. Oh, and sleep. Glorious sleep! My kids were never, and are still not, good sleepers. To get a full night’s sleep once a week was life-affirming.
These days, I get six solid hours a day away from my children. I am able to get up with them in the morning and see them off for school, and then spend six hours working from home, napping, puttering around the house, and re-energizing myself to handle the chaos when they come home.
Before you judge me too harshly for relishing this time away from my children, let me explain. I am an extreme introvert. Spending time with people in any capacity is quite literally exhausting for me. My children, despite their animal-like tendencies, are people, and they absolutely count in the introvert conundrum. As much as I enjoy spending time with them, if I do not get a break from them – and everyone else – regularly, I burn out quickly and I’m no good to them or myself.
I also suffer from anxiety and depression, both of which manifest in me as exhaustion. I’m not generally nervous or sad, I am just worn out all the time. Having those hours to myself to be exhausted means that I can save all of my energy to be present when my kids are home. I spend less time with them, but the quality of that time is better. I am genuinely excited to see them and spend time when them when they walk through the door at the end of the day.
I also benefit from spending time away from my husband. And my friends. And everyone else in the world, for exactly the same reasons. I love to spend time with them, so I need to ensure that time is spent well, not with me stretched past my limits.
Spending time away from my kids inarguably makes me a better parent. There is no doubt in my mind that it is the best thing for all of us. They are my heart and soul, and I love them more than anything, including time to myself, and for that reason, I do everything I can to make sure I am there for them in my full capacity whenever they need me. Even if that means spending hours a day away from them when they don’t.
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