I was well rested, my mind was clear, and I felt more upbeat than I have in months. I was so incredibly happy to have that time away from my kid, and I didn’t feel guilty about it. I embraced it and appreciated it for what it was: a much needed break. A chance to feel human again after so much time spent being a mama.
Here was my biggest takeaway from my kid-free time: life, for me, is so much easier without having to parent. When I’m not parenting, I don’t feel overwhelmed or scattered or frazzled. I don’t feel overstimulated by near constant chatter. Without a kid, a day off unfolds slowly and languorously. A day off holds endless potential for anything or nothing at all.
Does that sound hyperbolic to you? If so, you probably don’t have young kids. The truth is that having small children can be brutal. It’s relentless. It’s all consuming. It’s monotonous. We deserve lots of grace, but we also deserve breaks to remind ourselves that we are other things besides someone’s parent.
We’re yogis and writers and bakers and runners and friends and hikers and crafters. We have interests and passions and thoughts and feelings that have nothing to do with our children.
I didn’t feel guilty for enjoying my kid-free time because I know I needed it to feel balanced. I’d earned that time, and I deserved to honor a part of my identity so rarely experienced in this stage of life.
That isn’t to say I didn’t miss my son, I did...eventually. And it isn’t to say I long to be childless or am eager for my kid to grow up. I adore him, and I love him being four years old.
Parenting can be such a contradiction: I can delight in my son’s mind even as his stories bore me to tears. I can be eager for him to start preschool and grieve that our time at home together is drawing to a close. And I can feel fully satisfied with my life while yearning for more opportunities to connect with my own inner world.
After my time off, it didn’t take long for my frazzled state of being to return. By 8:00 Tuesday night my exhausted husband headed to bed and my four year old was begging me to stop working to cuddle him to sleep. Once again, I was faced with the working mama dilemma: do I devote myself to my calling, or do I give myself wholly to my child?
In that moment, I chose my child. But I did so knowing that sometimes I will instead choose me, and I won’t apologize for it.