Doubt: Further Thoughts

I just want to step back in here and say: My dad is an awesome dad. He wasn’t a big hands-on guy when we were very little, although I’m sure he did his share of diaper changing and bath giving. It’s just that “his share” of that kind of stuff was small, and that was okay “back then” as they say. My dad — like many men of his generation — worked, and he worked hard and he worked long hours. And my mom stayed home when we were young, until my sister was going into first grade.

The golf trips that my friend N mentioned happened when we were teens. My mother had a golf night each Wednesday when we were teens, too — it was our night to eat at Rax’s (anyone else remember Rax’s?).

My dad has some thoughts too, in yesterday’s comments, and he makes some good points.

*****

As for me, I got married when I was 30 years old, and I didn’t start actively parenting until I was 33.

That’s a lot of years of “me time”. I got used to it.

When we become parents, we do sacrifice a lot for our children. It’s automatic, and it’s for the good of all — ourselves, our children, society. “Having a baby changes everything” is totally cliched, but oh so (and sometimes painfully) true.

Remember when “running to the store” meant putting on your shoes and walking out the door? You could stop along the way, listen to music as loud as you wanted — or, even better, listen to NPR. You could add on other errands or pick up other stuff as you thought of it. You could stop for a coffee or a beer if you wanted.

As a mother, there is no “running out the door”. Instead, there is “loading up” to run errands. Or, an errand, because trying to do too many errands with children is just asking for trouble. Diapers, snacks, toys and/or books, any tool in your arsenal to occupy a bored toddler and prevent a meltdown. Plus you have to time it just right — too close to nap time, and you are begging for an explosion in the check-out line.

And then there is couple time. In order to have a date, there are babysitters to find and hire; there are logistics to leaving the house. DearDR and I do not have this down yet. We have not committed to a date night, either in or out of the house, weekly or monthly; we have gone through about five babysitters since moving out to the suburbs. We treat it like a big pain instead of an opportunity to spend time with each other. It’s hurting us.

I’m not going to turn this into a “think twice before you have kids” conversation, or a whine about having kids. I love my children. They are the greatest thing I will ever do in my life. I do not for one second regret having them.

But having children and responsible parenting are not small little changes. They are upheavals. I’m four-and-a-half years in, and I’m still feeling them. I’ll be feeling them to some extent for the rest of my life — the parenting gig doesn’t end when they leave the house, as my parents would sagely point out.

Accepting these sacrifices and changes doesn’t mean that I don’t miss just “running to the store”. It doesn’t mean that I don’t miss just being able to go see a movie or lay around in bed all day Sunday with my husband. I do miss those things. I miss being able to recharge at night, by myself. But I signed up for this, and I have to find a way to survive on less, much less, “me time”.

I’m not doing that great. (See also “Lack” where I address this in another way.)

12 thoughts on “Doubt: Further Thoughts

  1. I have been reading your posts, the comments, and thinking about this too. It hit home for me recently when my husband shut the door on my getting a new show dog. Before kids I spent many weekends at dog shows, the ultimate in “me time” for me. It was impractical while nursing, and my show dog got older (she’s 11 now). Now that my kids are 4 and 2, and my husband more than capable of caring for them on a weekend, I thought it was time to get that little piece of my life back. Apparently there’s a communication/expectation breakdown. Silly me.

    I was even older when I got married (37) and older still when I had my first child (39). I lived essentially alone until I was nearly 35. You’re right….that’s an awful lot of me time.

    I cling to the hope that as my children get older this will get easier. They will not need my attention every.single.waking.second and the “mummy mummy mummy” will also stop. (I have started to hallucinate them calling for me when they are not. Such are the effects of sleep deprivation.) Like you, I don’t regret having children for a second, but I look forward to the years ahead when their need for me is a little less intense.

    • I have the same idea, that as they get older and more independent, our interactions will be less about caretaking, and more about interacting. And maybe I can have a cup of coffee in peace on Saturday morning.

      I thought I would have some “former life” activities in my current life, too, for example poetry or running. But that hasn’t happened yet, and I’m not sure when it will again. To some extent having an online, social (media) life has subbed for that, but it’s not nearly as satifying as poetry class at the Pgh Center for the Arts.

      I would have a breakdown if I were hallucinating my children calling for me. At least if you do, you could get some rest. Hang in there, sister.

      It’s also a good thing we have adorable children!

      ciao,
      rpm

      • If you find a way to get running back, let me know. I’m trying to. Figure that running stroller we got as a gift 2 years ago should actually do a bit of running…

  2. Well put.

    Additionally, I think our expectations about “me time” need to evolve a bit. For example, I now consider my shower to be part of my “me time.”

    • Yes, that does happen in new mommy-hood! I sometimes consider my commute to be me time — although I wish my CD player worked and I could really blast some music, especially in the afternoons. NPR makes me a bit dozy.

      thanks for the comments.

      ciao,
      rpm

  3. I am catching up on yesterday’s blogs today (it could be worse…) and had several thoughts on this.

    I struggle with this just as everyone has said they do. I have my parents’ example to battle and/or strive for. I also have my in-laws example to battle. They were/are rather different from my parents and I see their influence on my husband diverging sharply from my parents’ influences on me.

    I would probably say that my *me* time has become limited to my hour commute to and from work and my lunch hour. Usually that isn’t mine but is hijacked by errands I can’t do during other hours. Once I get home I am owned by dinner, dishes, laundry, playing with Peanut, cleaning up after Peanut… but this isn’t entirely correct. Once the little one goes to bed, my laptop opens. Blogs, Twitter and access to friends and socialization. This was mentioned yesterday as a substitute we have resorted to, and I agree.

    I feel guilty often about *stashing* Peanut with a sitter so we can go out. I don’t feel the need to go out very often. I grew up without it, saw my parents go out maybe 3 times a year (not including Steeler games). My mother only got her alone time when she had enough of us and shreaked “GO OUTSIDE!!” My husband, on the other hand, likes his time away, his TV time, his guy time, and darn it he’s going to get it. Once I stepped back and realized his parents built this dynamic, I stopped fighting it and tried instead to sway it.

    Generations before us didn’t have a lot of the things we have now (cell phones, cable, 2 cars, 2+ bedroom houses), this is true. But they also didn’t have a lot of the freedoms we have now (equal rights *scoff* to receive the education and job of our choosing). I don’t know if I would trade back.

    This reply had a logical flow in my head. I definitely lost it…

    What will our children say of us when they want *me* time from their kids…

  4. Mine are ages 5 and 3 and I feel like it is only just now that I am able to carve out a bit of “me” time regularly. And by “now” I mean within the last 4 months or so. Something about both children being able to get their own snacks, wipe their own butts, and press the right buttons on the TiVo means that I can steal away to another part of the house for an hour or so.

  5. Yes, as they get older, they need less from us. I’ve actually had weekend afternoons where I’m *bored* because they’re out playing with friends and I can’t remember what I did before them to fill my time.

    I think, ladies, that it’s time for a BurghMoms get-together. Just us girls. Someplace quiet and semi-private, where we can turn off the electronics and let it all out.

  6. Your dad is an awesome dad…and you are a great mom, too. Maybe you and DearDr can talk about helping you carve out an hour or two each week…even if it is just to drink your coffee in peace one weekend morning!

    my hubby and I have not figured out date night yet either…but we keep trying! we are shooting for once a month…we’ll see how that goes!

  7. The “me time” I miss most is running. My training (and therefore my weight/health) has suffered due to lack of time. Interestingly (at least to me), though, what cuts most into my running time isn’t drudge-heavy responsibilities but my desire to spend time with my son. I see him for about an hour each morning before daycare and no more than three hours (usually less) from when I get home from work and when he goes to bed. When feeding, diaper changes, and tantrums are taken into account, I don’t get a whole lot of play time. Running usually cuts into that time. 😦

    • I know. I miss exercise so much. If my husband were home most evenings, I would definitely schedule a workout a couple of times a week. But as he is only home two or three evenings of the week, something like that would cut into *our* time. I am lucky to get a lot of quality time with my children even working. There’s a lot of chores, too, but the time together is definitely getting better. Heck, we just got back from getting ice cream!

      ciao,
      rpm

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