The OM Bottom Line: With children, independence seems to come sooner than we think. Our children won’t always need us like they do today and we will be faced with deciding what to do as we slowly gain back time for ourselves. Don’t wait until they are popping zits and filling out college applications to figure this out.
Let us use our child’s gradual transition into independence as our own.
Did you read my last post? About being “More than a Mom”? Are you having trouble deciding what your “more” is? If so, I have a couple of questions for you? Make this an exercise. Take 15 minutes whether it’s during nap time, when you first wake up in the morning, or when you have finally given up and locked yourself in the bathroom and stuffed the bath mat under the door to drown out the screaming.
- What’s your current schedule? Do you even have a schedule? If not, what are the things you make sure you at least accomplish before you crawl in bed, roll over and surf on your phone at night?
- If there is one thing you could add to your schedule and make room for what would it be? It’s okay if you answer a nap, a glass of wine or even cleaning (Bless you if this is your answer by the way!)
- If your kids aren’t school age, brainstorm what you imagine your day would be like once they do go to school. Half days? Full Days?
- What happens when they start driving and are independent?
- What are you going to wish you kept up with when you finally “have time” to do it?
Was this hard to do? It should be. Thinking about ourselves is difficult. Personally, I hate this kind of introspection, but I think it is worth it if it can produce forward momentum. But we have to be careful not to shift from self-examination into rumination. So what’s the difference between rumination and introspection? The main difference is that introspection is positive. Rumination tends to be negative, repetitive. You know when you are ruminating, you start asking yourself the same question over and over with no answers. Then you start getting anxious about why you can’t answer them and the next thing you know you are in the laundry room, knuckle deep in a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. We don’t want to go there. That’s not the point.
So what’s the point of the above exercise? Well, my purpose is two-fold:
First, for those that don’t quite yet know what your “more” is or how to accomplish it, taking 15-20 minutes out of your day to construct a few questions for yourself, about yourself, may be a good place to start. Maybe you will end up asking some really deep questions and coming up with some really great answers. But keep it structured and keep it positive. Remember, don’t ruminate, so if you aren’t coming up with any answers maybe ask some different questions. This is your time, each of us, our own exercise. Making this a daily or weekly practice can help you get used to thinking about yourself and working through that “mom-guilt”. Some may find that this in itself becomes their “more”.
Second, I asked these specific because they are important to think about. Our children are not going to need us forever and independence comes sooner than we think or want it to. Envision yourself never taking advantage of these opportunities and then all of a sudden it’s 9am, the kids are off to school, you have a laundry list of things to do but you know if you buckle down and get them done you will have at least an hour maybe two before they come home. How do you fill that time? With something spontaneous? That’s awesome. But answering the above questions may give you some insight into something you could be doing so that when the day comes when you are dropping them off at college or their first apartment, you aren’t heading home to that empty nest without a purpose and direction for yourself. Don’t forget you were that age once too; your children will appreciate the fact you have allowed yourself this so that they too can have some freedom. So for now, while you are silently glowing with pride at your daughter getting herself dressed for the umpteenth time wondering “Where did the time go?”, back up slowly out the door, turn around (don’t make eye contact!!!!!) and proceed into the next room to do something you need to do. Better yet, do something you want to do even if it’s something small like brushing your teeth before you pee instead of having to do both at the same time.
As mothers, It is not easy to think about ourselves, especially guilt-free. It’s even more difficult to imagine our lives without our kids around when they are currently at our heels begging to read a book on our laps while we poop. Yet thinking about who we want to be and what we want to do when we are once again on our own, can help guide us in the little things we can do for ourselves today. There are a ton of articles out there on “Coping” or “Avoiding” Empty Nest Syndrome focusing on the year or so before they don their High School Cap and Gown. That is all well and good but, I’m talking about taking preventative measures before they even walk down the aisle of their Kindergarten Graduation. Create “the foundation of you” now so that when they finally do leave the nest, the emptiness you will inevitably feel is filled with all that you have built upon.
The Overeducated Mother’s Introspection
We are all in this together, so if you are interested, here are the answers I came up with:
- Current Schedule? Not super structured because it depends on the day. Get the kid to daycare on days that she goes. Get to Crossfit by 0815 and stay till 0930 or so. The people I work out with are not only my friends but my family and they motivate me during workouts and after (so occasionally I have been known to stay longer) Thursdays I take my daughter to gymnastics. My daughter goes to daycare three days a week, so these days I try to knock out as much personal stuff as possible. They are my days I schedule some “me time”. Days she is in day care, I get to the gym, write some, get housework done and then I try to get in a run in the afternoons before picking her up and making sure dinner is either in the oven or prepped for when I get home with her.
- If I could make more room for anything, right now it would be my husband. (Believe me this will be a future topic of conversation)
- Once my kid is in school? I plan to lounge by the pool and drink Mimosas. Kidding of course, I don’t like Mimosas and I would have to hop my neighbor’s fence to see any pool action. Honestly, though, this is when I plan to write more. Maybe a little more formally. I also plan to prove to my husband that given just a few more hours in the day, that I might be able to get around to vacuuming more than my current bi-weekly schedule (don’t judge).
- What happens when they start driving and are independent? This is a tough one for me to think about. I am not what they would call a “Helicopter Mom” by any stretch of the imagination but I also won’t deny that my gut response is to follow them at a safe distance for the first year after they get their license.
- What are you going to wish you kept up with when you finally “have time” to do it? This one is the key for me. I already do this but I don’t ever want to stop and regret giving up my commitment to fitness and a healthy lifestyle. I have quit smoking, I am in better shape now than I was as a collegiate athlete, despite medical issues, and although I struggle daily balancing my energy levels, I don’t want to lose all the progress I have made in the last few years. If I can give myself that commitment and time to myself as a daily gift, I will not only be able to take advantage of my new-found freedom, but I will have the energy and strength to find new adventures without fear or trepidation.