This past weekend I spent all day Saturday home alone. A few weeks ago, I realized that my husband would be out of town for work and that my parents would be available for childcare. So, I put two and two together and realized that I could get a full 24 hours of alone time! What?!
In the days (weeks) leading up to my day off, I found myself eagerly anticipating the alone time. At first, I felt guilty that I was excited to be alone. But then, I realized how marvelous it was for me to want to spend time with myself, alone. Over the past two-and-a-half years of motherhood, I found myself increasingly avoiding being alone, becoming more and more accustomed to being around others. I began to feel that if I wasn’t watching my child or working then I was of no use. At one point, I was afraid of being alone for just two hours, so I made plans with friends to fill the void. This was a bit worrisome to me, as I acknowledged how unhealthy this thought process truly was.
Classically, I’m an introvert, so I was surprised to make it this long without needing time to be completely alone. I guess we could chalk it up to “mom power”, but even that power seemed to be dwindling as I found myself longing more and more for a break. I read and instantly identified with this quote: “It’s natural to their personality type [ENFJ] that they will tend to place other people’s needs above their own, but they need to stay aware of their own needs so that they don’t sacrifice themselves in their drive to help others.”
For me, I think this personality trait is especially challenged by the needs of caring for a small child. As mothers, we naturally place the child’s needs above our own. But when I myself, as a person, would do this anyway, how much further am I taking it? Too far, probably.
When I get tired I get anxious. I knew it was time for this break when I started to worry that I wasn’t being enough of a good mom, that I wasn’t providing the kind of magical childhood that I aimed to provide. When I’m well rested, I don’t think about those kinds of things because I have the fuel needed to be fun and magical. Ultimately, I needed to acknowledge who I am innately and honor that by giving myself permission to step away.
So with the desire to not sacrifice myself further, and the opportunity to model self care for my son, I decided to spend the day in bed. My plans went from doing everything with my free time to doing nothing at all. I would not go shopping or waste time on the computer. Maybe I would drink wine, or maybe I wouldn’t. Maybe I would spend all day reading, or all day watching movies. Or both! I just decided to do whatever I felt like doing in the moment with the top priority being to avoid other humans :).
In an additional effort to honor and maintain my sanity, I printed out a small yearly calendar to keep in my daily journal. On it I am marking off a few days that can be considered true days of intentional rest. And by that I mean: days in which someone else is taking care of my kid. Again, my first reaction was to feel guilty; should I be planning days away from my child? And then I realized, yes, I absolutely should be doing this! Vacation days are established within jobs in order to keep burnout at bay. “Parenting” as a “job” is an understatement, so vacation days should be built in there, too. Not a lot, but enough, and that’s the purpose my small calendar will serve: to help me manage myself as I work my most important job ever.