Once you’re a mom, people will give you a lot of advice about making sure you still make time for yourself. Take care of yourself. Don’t lose yourself. Pamper yourself. Take care of your needs.
But still, though I know that on a basic level this is true (if I’m exhausted, grumpy, sick and dejected it is hard to give back to my family), on most other levels it reminds me too much of the individualism of Western culture and the lack of integration of children into our society. First, that you need to absolutely prioritize your needs. That this means time away from your children. That it needs to be something totally separate from your children.
Something about this, to me, doesn’t honour the mother-child connection. It doesn’t acknowledge how motherhood changes you. It doesn’t create a world where care for your needs can be integrated into care for your child. And sometimes, this model just doesn’t work.
Let’s take tonight. The second Tuesday of yoga. With the support of my husband and mom I agreed to go to yoga again after work. And I did have a wonderful few minutes before class started, reading my spy novel (Dead Spy Running – so fun! One of the main characters had a Baha’i mom). Class was okay – a bit too much of the “you’re going to love this move!” yoga-is-suffering mentality but kind of rejuvenating at the end of the hour. Went to my parents’ where husband was watching baby. It’s now after 6. Baby wants to play. I want to nurse. We all want to eat and visit. It’s after 7 by the time we leave. And the car ride home is long. Crying baby. Me singing most of the journey, losing my voice. One long stop. Stressful.
Then home. Change crying baby into PJs & diaper. Nurse, cry. Bottle, cry. Walk, cry. Cry, cry. Finally sleep. Sweet sleeping baby. Wiped out mom.
I’m not sure it was worth the moderate relaxation of that one-hour yoga class to go through a stressful almost 2 hours of transporting baby and getting her to bed.
Other nights, we’re all home together. We take her for a walk. Bathe her. I get exercise; I get happy baby time; she gets relaxed mom time.
I acknowledge that this is a highly specific example. I also know there are ways we could arrange our schedule, transportation, etc. to make evenings like this work better. And sometimes I do need time to myself to take care of personal work or to rejuvenate. But I do want to question the culture’s emphasis on mom time and reflect on the costs of increased time away from baby.
And I also know this sounds so anti-mom. Moms already do SOOO much. Is it fair to suggest that they do even more and get even less time to themselves? No. And I want time to myself too, and I want to pursue things I”m passionate about, and for my daughter to see her mom as a complete, fulfilled person. Yet I’m still uneasy with putting me-time over baby. It might be my own issues. It might be the young age of my daughter. I guess time will tell.