I’ve been aware of something lately, but I haven’t really wanted to acknowledge it—kind of like that moment when you are driving and you see a pedestrian and you realize you’ve committed to not stopping and you don’t want to make eye contact because all things being equal, you’re making an asshole move. Maybe not exactly like that, but still, a shift I’ve been uncomfortable acknowledging.
It’s pretty simple. I want space. I really, really, really want to be able to pee and grab my glasses first thing in the morning. I want enough time to maybe even slip into a pair of socks so that I don’t freeze. I can’t. By the time I swing my feet out of bed two little people are already making their breakfast orders as they cling to my body. Then come the calls:
“You need to change my diaper.”
“You didn’t give me any pants again.”
“Can you button this?”
And of course this is all peppered with yips from the puppy. Rationally I know that I can tell them to wait, that I can set boundaries of when they are allowed to come in our room, guide them to understand how to be self-sufficient in rooting through the dryer for clothing. I have tried to do so at different times, but never with any great consistency. When I allow myself yo acknowledge why, it’s this, once they get it the cacophony will change. Like Santa or the tooth fairy, crawling into our bed will become something that isn’t real to them anymore.
Lanky girls are going to slam cabinets and rustle through drawers to find what they want. I’ll be seeking them out and not the other way around. Of course I know this is a bit of an exaggeration, at least for the next few years. It’s just that in the same way I want to preserve their childhood, I want to preserve my participation in it. I feel shame when I don’t want to be with them, when I just want a break.
It feels wrong to me that when I see a picture of a banged up, dark green Citroën on a cobble stone street I feel pangs of lust, wishing I could go with Sean. My wanderlust roams to times when packing for others wasn’t a requirement, when our biggest logistical detail was hiking boots or flip flops. I long to watch the morning news with my coffee in hand and not fear having the scalding liquid sloshed on my bare legs, not worry that someone is going to ask what rape or murder means.
Suppressing these feelings is often possible because I do delight in romping through the snow with the girls or sprawling out on the floor and building sweeping empires of blocks, complete with garishly styled Barbies holding court. The problem is that more and more I want there to be time in between the playing, tending, teaching and bathing. I am tormented by wanting to speak up, to explain to them that I need time, but feeling as if it is inappropriate. Is there a difference between creating a healthy future template for them as women and maybe moms and just being selfish?
I watch Briar going through the same thing. She wants privacy as she dresses, wants to be able to schedule her time, go at her own pace and assert her independence. She also wants bedtime cuddles, help tying her shoes and to have things done for her. Yesterday she stepped off the bus with a smile that could melt snow. She bounded toward me and gushed, “Do you want to know why I am smiling like this?” I smiled and nodded. The answer involved Valentine’s Day, a “kiss on the lips” and some other things I couldn’t process.
I wish there was a way to bypass this moment in time of being aware as I go through this natural progression of distancing myself from the role of sole source of food, comfort and entertainment. Their fledging, my mortality and the closing of a chapter, albeit with beautiful new pages to be written ahead, is killing me one, “Not right now” at a time.
I am RIGHT there with you. This beautifully expressed something I’ve often felt.
I asked Katie last night if she didn’t want me to just EAT her so she could be even closer to me.
I totally get it.
Girlfriend, I give you props. You have a massive work load [and do an incredible job at it] but if you didn’t want space every once in a while, I don’t think you’d qualify as human.
So thank goodness you are not a droid – keep on rocking it and writing marvelously! 🙂
You’re not alone in this at ALL. You just need to believe that taking time for you will make you better for them. You are an amazing mom, and there is nothing shameful about wanting a few minutes to yourself. I think it’s very healthy for them to realize that as a mom, as a person, we all need a little break. xo
You have some very smart friends. A little time for you can be just that – a moment. Start there. I always try to strengthen myself by saying that my girls need to know it is OK for them to need a moment too and our examples are the best thing we can give to show something is OK. (And cripes, if I need a moment and I live a very lazy life compared to you….) xo
Oh, I relate to every single word here … i don’t have anything to add other than to say YES, and wow is it bittersweet, and it’s killing me too.
Oh my dear Amanda, as I leave you this mesage my 3 yro interrupts me so I can turn the bathroom light on for him to use the potty. Moments, minutes and small opportunities of solace. As I was interrupted once again for he needed more help.
I feel the exact same way. I want so badly to get through just one shower without someone ripping open the curtain and demanding new pants or help with a button or assistance because their sister hit them over the head. But once we set those boundaries it becomes a new kind of parenthood and I think we all struggle to find the right timing and balance.
You are not alone, I feel this way on a daily basis. Well said my friend.
It’s where Mom-guilt comes from. It’s tough to find that balance and feel good about it. Wanting to always be everything to them – how wonderful would that be? On the other hand, letting your girls see you have needs of your own is healthy and really – probably helps with some of that separating it breaks your heart to do. We raise them to grow up and leave us which is counterintuitive to everything we feel as mothers. The confusion and guilt and push me pull you of being a mom makes your head spin sometimes.
Oh fuck. I’m crying at the coffee shop where I just emailed you about Owen’s clinging. I have code I have the safe resort of diving in to, something familiar and MINE. And I did so by saying, “Not right now.”
This: “..once they get it the cacophony will change. Like Santa or the tooth fairy, crawling into our bed will become something that isn’t real to them anymore.” THAT is why I justify letting him cling to me. Why I don’t care that it has to be ME that puts him to bed. Why I don’t get angry at him for things I used to dread with his sister. It’s because I see that his sister is already so independent, like Briar, wanting her own space and I’m thrusting myself in to this child’s life because now I realize how quickly it changes. Too quickly. Maybe another year and I will not be the sun of his universe.
Oh fuck I’m crying.
You know me better than I know myself, I think. … Or we just that alike that I forget where the line is between us.
Amanda! Want me to come up? I’ll come up.
The voices in this comment section literally bring me to my knees. It had been so terrifying to see these words staring back at me—an undeniable assertion that I cannot and no longer want to pursue perfect, sustaining it is simply an inhuman feat.
Thank you for not letting these words echo on their own in some chasm of shame.
And Heather, so help me, if I weren’t committed to go to the JDRF benefit tonight I would soooo take you up on that! Raincheck? Leslie is coming to our neck of the woods next month…
You know I’ve written about this time and again. The desire to be present, all the time, for my girls, and also the desire to pursue what I want. It’s not selfish to try to claim a space for you, I can assure you that. But how to create that balance that neither puts them off, or you…I wish I could tell you! I’m fairly certain, however, that whatever you figure out will be vastly better than what I do.
Hugs to you, lovely lady.
i am struggling more with the former – the need for space – right now than with the latter – the fear of losing their desire to be close. but when you point it out i see it, and get it. and i am grateful for you putting it into words.
because it is not that i want it to be ten years from now, or five. rather, i want ten minutes of that space NOW. and ten minutes of this crazy love and need, THEN.
“I’ll be seeking them out and not the other way around.”
I am feeling this a bit with my eldest son right now. And it’s a lonely time.
Hug them while they’ll let you. While they still want you to . . .
Not selfish to want your own time. But I completely understand that struggle between wanting to be there for your children at all times. And secretly wanting a minute. That minute is important, for one day they won’t be around all the time.
I say its ok for them to see you doing something for yourself, it gives them a bit of independence too.
So true. Thanks for sharing. Great post.
You taught me how to be productively selfish. And you helped me get my sanity back. I wish I could say something smart and helpful in return, so here’s my contribution: I hope you find a moment to get some pees and quiet.
I came over from a link on @MrsFlinger ‘s blog…and so glad I did. I relate to this so much. I have twin girls that just turned five and I am always longing for more time for myself. Selfishly. Even though I know this time will flash by in a minute…
Gorgeous piece. Thank you. I needed to read this today.