Why It's Okay to Not Want to Be Around Your Kids Every Minute
I Adore My Kids
When I'm not working, I spend most of my waking hours with my children. Certainly, they spend most of their time with me when they're not at school, and that's a normal part of life.
I want to make sure I'm a presence in my kids' lives‚—not a stifling blanket, and certainly not an overly strict dictatorial authority figure. I don't do well at finding a balance between the two some days, as my kids remind me at times, but I like to think that as a parent, I'm always in a state of flux and hopefully growth. I like spending time with my children most days, too, which is awesome; they are funny and clever, and they are genuinely good people, too. In all of that, I really can't complain, because they truly are good people.
They are also 12 and 7, and they are strongly independent and very definitely know their own minds. They seem to enjoy battling with each other regularly until I basically snap at them both to quit fighting. It's a rapid escalation of volume to see who can make their voices heard and ultimately, I'm the one who bellows.
I hate feeling like Mean Mom, and unless I bellow, there's no peace. As a result, I've slowly learned that if I put myself on time out, it ends up being a lot more helpful and healthy for both girls and for me. The first time, the kids looked at me like I was insane when I told them I was going on time out, but it was absolutely the best thing for everyone involved.
I spend my days teaching teenagers, and I enjoy kids, a lot. I especially enjoy my own kids, but there are moments when I'm basically at my wit's end and I know that unless I tuck myself away on my own for a short while, I won't be as effective as I should be as a parent.
It's Not Always That Easy
If you find yourself bogged down in "Mom's Taxi" schedule, or plagued by kids who are glued to your side even when they are claiming they want time to themselves, it seems impossible to get that time alone.
It's OK to want that time to yourself. You're a grown up and you don't always need to be around your kids 24/7, although that is your first instinct since you're a mom. Sometimes, though, mommas need a break from duty. There's a lot on our collective shoulders, from cleaning, to cooking, to homework duty and, of course, ensuring your kids get to where they need to be on a regular basis. If you balance that with your job - and some of you have full-time parenting as a job - you're generally running at all ends, and likely keeping yourself dosed with caffeine to ensure you keep yourself going.
I am by no means an expert parent or a therapist - but I know what I've needed from time to time, and I've had to convince myself to be OK with that over the years. It's taken quite some time for that to happen, and it's still a struggle. Unfortunately, my kids have had to deal with me being a little more terse than I'd like to be, but they have come to be incredibly understanding about the days when my anxiety might be high or I may have had a rough day at work.
They have come to realize that I need some time to myself in order to be able to have time for them. Is it always easy? How about never? It's always a matter of us working together to negotiate where we're at emotionally and me trying to be as open as I can (within reason, of course) to let them know that I do need a little bit of space, just as they do at times.
It's never come easy, but I've learned that on occasion, it's finally OK to not be around my girls constantly. Do I feel guilty? Yes - definitely, but in the long run, I feel like a better person for it.
Time To Yourself = Time To Be Better
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is, communication is key to everyone involved. You're human, and without telling anyone that you need some down time to yourself, how are you going to stay healthy?
How are you going to be effective as a parent if you don't tell your kids that you need some time for yourself?
OK - so you don't (and can't) tell your 2 and 3 year old to just hang in the living room while you go take a bath. You've got to be age appropriate for your kids, and that's important, because you want them to understand something of where you're at.You should be able to be human with your kids and not just be in the role of parent all of the time. They may not always get it, but that's OK - they will eventually come to see you as a real person who needs some time to yourself after a while.
After all, you're modelling the behavior that will set the stage for their later years, so why not start it now?