I was sitting in the waiting area at my daughter's dance class when I heard a mom share how excited she was to see her friends that weekend, when the mom martyrdom and conversation began:
"I never have time even for my friends."
"Do something for myself? Who can do that?"
"Something for myself? I couldn't even dream of it!"
Usually moms try to compete with each other on a variety of things like, whose kid can do what first and do it better than the other moms' kids. Or I've watched as moms try to "out-organic each other." "Well, I always make Jane's food." "Oh, we have a huge garden. And whatever we don't grow, we get from a co-op." But this was the first time I watched the martyrdom competition. One of the moms had mentioned going out to see friends, and I jovially commented on how getting tea with my friends (Jeez, I sound 80! Getting tea! Soon I will be wearing hot pink lipstick and a Snuggie as I scoot in my walker) was one of my ways to decompress. Well, you would have thought I had asked the whole bunch of moms to lift up our shirts and show each other our boobies, that's how intense and chaotic the room became. Mom after mom started to wrestle in the "Which mom has the worst social life" competition.
All of the moms jumped on the "I do nothing for myself bandwagon." It was a battle of who has it the worst.
I think all of us with the title of Mother can innately understand what it is like to have no time for yourself and to feel as if you're working against the clock. Something has to be done or someone has to be attended to almost every minute of the day. Many of us work, and for the moms who don't, they're often doing double duty since the spouse is off at work so often. Time to oneself sounds like a mirage or farce. But with that all said, what disturbed me wasn't that the women were complaining about their lack of me time, but that they all seemed obsessed with telling every other woman in the room that wanting time to themselves is bad — or worse, proof that you're a bad mom.
So here I am, trying to shatter the myth. Moms, wanting time to yourselves does not make you Mommy Dearest. It means you're a living, breathing human being. With the holidays here, you know as well as I do that you'll be busy planning parties, making meals, present-searching-buying-wrapping-giving, and more for the whole family, and not once will you get a moment to really think about yourself, much less step out on your own, unless it's to battle another mom for the last singing Elsa doll at your local toy store. Please, try to refrain from any fistfights this year. No mom looks good in orange. Besides, that's why there's Cyber Monday. But instead of signing up for more mom martyrdom this holiday season, take a moment to tell yourself:
"Self, I deserve some me time, and I'm still a damn good mom for wanting that!"
Before you tell me, "That's impossible, Laura. Me time. Humph," consider first how good it is for a mom to get a moment to herself. Holiday cheer = holiday stress for many of us. Getting a moment to walk away from all the noise and to-do lists helps you stay focused and sane. The more stressed you are, the worse you are as a parent, and all of us have reached the breaking point and thought, "Man, I wish I didn't lose my cool." Getting a divorce and adjusting to single parenthood has tested me the most in my time as a mom, and I've been trying to implement little strategies and quiet moments to try and keep me clear-headed and sane. Because hey, some days I feel like superwoman — Queen of Divorced Single Motherhood. And other days, I feel like the Biggest Loser (I'm not talking weight here) and Worst Mom on the Planet. Fact is, alone time, even if it's five minutes to scream and stomp your feet like a child can make you a better mom and a better person for letting off some steam. And dammit, it feels good to clear your head.
It is rare for dads to feel bad (not saying it doesn't happen) about doing something for themselves, so what makes you so awful for wanting to read Fifty Shades of Grey in a bathroom with the door locked and no kids to bug you? As a single mom who shares custody 60/40 with her ex, I can tell you that being alone — not having my child — makes me feel such guilt, I sometimes worry that my daughter forgets all about me when she's with her dad. I cry and long for the tiny little voice that speaks like Kermit the Frog to me. But no amount of mother's guilt should make you feel bad for wanting time alone. Remember, you're a mom, not creator of the universe, girlfriend.
In the spirit of gifting yourself something great this holiday season, try these quick tactics:
For the Moms Who Have No Help:
If you don't have a babysitter or a spouse who's able to give you a time-out, feel free to turn on a DVD, and go sit by yourself anywhere in the house. I don't care if it's on the potty. I mean, toilet. Oops. Grab a book, coffee, or a glass of wine, and sit by yourself while you let Mickey Mouse do the parenting. Five minutes of television won't hurt them. Or 50 more if you need it. Go for it. MTV raised me, and somehow, I still graduated college and pay my taxes and even recycle.
On the night shift? When the kid(s) are asleep, run a bubble bath, grab a glass of vino, and shut off your phone. Just sit with your thoughts and soak. The steam will be good for your skin, and the wine will be good for your sanity.
For the Mom Who Has a Sitter
Just. Go. Out! Grab some girlfriends, and tell your partner you'll be back when you feel like it. OK, so that's a bit harsh. You might want to return the next day. Do something you've always wanted to do. A spa day. A trip to the museum. Do something with your favorite friends, even if it's just going out to Starbucks to gossip for a little while. There's something magical about being with friends. It makes us feel good. Even if it's just for one hour, do it and don't you dare feel bad!
With a Bow
No matter how you do it, whether at home for 10 minutes or out on the town, gift yourself something great this year, momma. You've worked hard all year and you're certainly on Santa's good list. Take the time for you, and not for one minute should you think you're a bad mom. Just remember: you're mom of the year to your kids, every day of the year.