away from the kids

The minivan was running, I sat in the driveway, forced to leave but with nowhere to go. This was my time, my “sanity time”, but I felt anything but sane. Couldn’t I just go back inside? Busy myself with the barrage of required constant care for the two children who carry my genes. Getting out of the house had been hard enough. There were tears, from little people, and from my own eyes, as I unwound myself from the clutches of their needs, as I followed through on the commitment to meet my own. And yet leaving the driveway felt harder.

Put on your own oxygen mask first, “they” tell you. You can’t care for someone else unless you care for yourself first, “they” declare. But HOW do I do that? How do I make time for me? And when I miraculously have the time, what the heck do I do? Sit in the driveway paralyzed didn’t make the list of how to spend these sacred minutes but my brain wasn’t working and so I sat, frozen, grateful for the time and terrified of wasting the minutes I knew I needed. Minutes I’d declared “sanity time”.

Sometime after my second kid was born and my husband started traveling for work, I decided I needed some scheduled alone time. Time where I could take off all the hats — wife, mom, homemaker — and just be me, Virginia, the woman, the human. When Tabby was a baby, mornings were my time. We were blessed with a rockstar sleeper and homegirl would snooze until 7:30/8 every day. That was a reasonable timeframe. I’d get up an hour or so beforehand, catch my breath and then we’d dive into the day.

When James came along, so did the early mornings. 6 am, 5am, sometimes even 4am, the kid would wake up ready to party. With his early morning needs came my loss of sanity time, and the reality I had to find it somewhere else. Because if the time to get sane is removed, the sanity is removed with it.

When my “sanity” is gone, I’m grouchy, short tempered, annoyed at everything my core family is doing, I cry a lot more, I yell a lot more, my energy is zapped, little things feel impossible, all I want to do is sleep or watch tv. My grace is few, my patience is thin, my kindness wanes.

My knowledge of scripture and Christian culture reminds me “His grace is sufficient for you!” All the scriptures about how much God is enough for me come to mind and I get in a worse mood. Why am I not relying on Him enough? I haven’t read my Bible in 3 days, is He punishing me? I’m failing as a Christian…and a mom…and a wife…and a writer…and a homemaker…and a human.

Lukas would take the kids some mornings but then he started traveling with his new job and that meant the consistency of having him around to help wasn’t reality. I had to find it somewhere else.

Sunday afternoons were dubbed “sanity time”. Two hours, from 2pm-4pm, I would do something, go somewhere, anywhere, where I could just be me.

It was always this weird feeling — I’m free!! There’s so much I want to do!! But I’m so damn tired!! — what do I do? Week after week I’d consider going home early because home, being with the kids, felt easier, than navigating this world on my own. As a human, as a woman, not a mom or wife.

I still have days like that now, when I get time to myself I feel disoriented, unfocused and anything but clear headed, like I’m “out” of the kid fog but not really, as my mind is still consumed with their needs and turning that off isn’t just a flip the switch situation. Some days I walk away from the time alone feeling fully recharged and strong, other days, I finish alone time only desperate for more.

I try to remind myself that this isn’t the only time I will have, and fight to let go of the pressure instigated with the belief “I have to return after this time fully charged up and whole” because that’s just not reality.

When those empty feelings appear after alone time, I used to beat myself up for that “why didn’t I fill my tank more!!!” but what I’ve now learned is that my tank was WAYYYY empty at the start. Actually, sometimes I leave those sanity times less sane and even more empty because it was finally a pause from pouring myself out to others and I realize — WOW, I’m pretty empty, myself.

Instead of beating myself up for not getting full in that sacred two hours, I use that emptiness as a red flag to elicit future action. I recognize I need more self-care to fill me up. That might be time for myself, time with my husband, time with a friend — time to “let go” of things weighing me down (usually in the form of journaling and prayer) — more time charging and filling. It’s not an instantaneous process. It won’t happen immediately but I will get there. I WILL feel like myself, I will be productive and confident and on top of the world, again. That will happen. But I can’t force it to happen. All I can do is to keep investing in myself, keep filling my tank one drop at a time.

I’m taking my own advice this week as I’m at my parents house. Usually I hit the ground running with all the stuff I want to get done because my parents are here to help with the kids. This time I did it differently. I planned nothing, I didn’t bring chores or a to do list and instead have just let myself be.

I’ve watched a lot of tv, taken a lot of walks, and just spent time with mom and dad. I got a small bit of writing in today but that was it. It’s been so much better. I’ve mentally and physically rested for 24 hours and tomorrow I actually feel like I might get something accomplished. I wish I could be more productive and fill more in the time but I just can’t, I’m a human, not a robot, so I will focus on letting it be what it is and staying as present as possible with it all.

My guess is that you’re doing the same. It may be messy, it may be awesome, it may be all of it at the same time. You may feel so depleted you feel like you’ll never be filled up again or you might feel like you’re on top of the world. Whatever it is, my guess is that you’re sitting in all of it and being present with what yourself has to offer this moment. That’s all we can ask of ourselves, right?

To all my mamas (and grandmamas!) out there with small kids or big kids, this is my message to you —

You deserve this time away, mama. Not because you earned it by how hard you work or how much you’ve poured out in your year(s) of motherhood (although that is true!!) but because you are a beautiful human who is worthy of care!!! ❤️❤️❤️

You have plenty of adorable pics of your kids because they are awesome — let me scream from the mountain tops — YOU ARE TOO!!

xoxo, va

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