Yesterday I happened upon a blog post that set me to thinking. The blog’s author, Alecia of Freak Show Minus Tent, wrote that she is disturbed by the notion that some parents look forward to time away from their children. Then, she requested feedback as to whether her readers were looking forward to having their children move away from home. Now, it’s not Alecia’s question that bothered me. I honestly think it’s a great place to start a real conversation. What bothered me about her post was the way I felt when I read it. I felt judged unfairly. I felt inadequate. You see, Alecia’s assertion is that it’s somehow wrong to want space from your children, and I’m a person who loves my kids yet sees nothing detrimental about needing time away from them. I’m not the world’s most patient person. I am a bit selfish. And, to top it off, I am an introvert who needs peace and quiet to recharge. Does my need to have a break from my noisy, non-stop children on occasion necessarily imply that I’m an unloving, careless parent? I suppose, to some people, it does.
I’ve never looked at my desire to have a break from my mischievous cherubs as a parenting flaw. For me, that downtime is a prerequisite to ensure that when I am with them (which I am the vast majority of the time because I am a stay-at-home parent) I am calm, cool, collected, and mostly emotionally stable. I have made sure that my sons know that I’m not simply their cook, maid, and chauffeur. Since the boys were 2 and 4, I’ve searched for ways to pursue things I enjoy, things that are separate from my life with them. It started with a 2-day, 40-mile Avon Walk that required hours of training. From there, I took classes, began practicing yoga, and started writing again. I never wanted my sons to think that they were my raison d’être. I wanted them to know that they improved my life, not began it. I wanted them to see me not just as Mom but also as a person. I hoped to set the example that a family exists because people care for each other and take turns making sacrifices for each other. And this is what I believe I have perpetuated by occasionally asking them take a back seat. I hope I’m teaching them that the world does not, despite what they believe, revolve around them.
As to the question of whether I will celebrate the occasion when our youngest heads off to college in 2022, my answer is yes. We have 18 years to bring our kids up the best we can with whatever skills, resources, and talents we can muster. We will pour our blood, sweat, and tears into their development. When they are ready to leave home, we need to acknowledge that this phase in our parenting experience is over. We’ve completed the task we were charged with. We’re graduating and, for that reason, we should celebrate….not because of what we’re jettisoning but because of what we’ve accomplished. So, yes. When our youngest is headed off to college, I imagine we will celebrate. Perhaps we’ll even throw ourselves a little party to mark the end of an amazing journey and to acknowledge the beginning of a new one. And, when the wine bottles have been emptied and our friends are gone, I will give myself a small pat on the back for doing the best I could in my own impatient, somewhat selfish, introverted, quiet-seeking sort of way. Then, make no mistake about it, I will go to bed and cry myself to sleep because my heart will ache over the loss of my precious little ones. And the next morning I will wake up, wipe the tears from my eyes, figure out what I want to be when I grow up, and look forward to someone showing up with their laundry.
I’m with you – I think breaks away are very important for everyone involved. Granted, I did not take them often when I worked 16 hours outside the home – we were apart enough. When I figured out how to get my life straightened up so that we had more time together, then we started working on alone time – for all of us – – – Kids need unstructured, “do what you want” time too…
I agree with you on the unstructured time. Our kids get as much of that as possible. Yesterday I found them with a blue blanket spread out on their bedroom floor and prehistoric sea creatures “swimming” there. Made my day. 🙂
AWESOME! So glad to hear your children will not be suffering from ulcers and performance issues when they are in 6th grade….:>)
I am with you, Jus! In reading that, I, too, feel a bit judged. I need time away from my little ones in order to BE a better mom. I am with them all day, everyday, and I think it’s not only good and maybe selfish for me, but I also think it’s good for the kids too. Actually, I think it’s important that they learn how to have some time away from mom and dad.
I certainly don’t look forward to them leaving home to go to college or whatnot….because right now, I am okay with them living with me forever, LOL! But I know that will change and I know that’s not reality. But I definitely look forward to a break now and then to re-charge.
You are a great parent! I enjoy reading your posts about parenting…I relate quite a bit and I can see how great your boys are, so I know, especially when I see something similar that I might do, that I am doing okay. 🙂
Awwww….thanks so much for saying that Colleen. It’s so difficult sometimes to see what positives I am adding to their already sweet personalities. Some days I definitely feel as if I hurt more than I help. Only time will tell. 🙂
I think your approach is healthy. I mean, I could add a bunch here, but the bottom line – it’s HEALTHY. Go with it and don’t feel guilty or allows others judgment to sway you from what feels right for you and your family 🙂
I think it’s on a case-to-case basis. I do agree with what you said. Besides, kids are also individuals. They need to learn to be independent or else they’ll have a hard time functioning properly in the adult world.
My parents gave us plenty of space and it helped us learn to problem solve. I’m glad they weren’t with us 24/7. It gave us room to learn independence.
It’s probably not the author’s intention to make others feel guilty, but well, it’s still her words so she’s responsible for what she says. She mentioned about other people probably calling her obsessive, but with how she described how she felt, I think she could be bordering on that. My problem is I might be same when or if I’ll have kids. So really, a parent must learn how to distance herself a bit, for her own children’s good, even if it hurts.
I think teenage is Nature’s way of ensuring children separate from their parents. By the time you get through an average teenage, everyone is looking forward to a little bit of time away from each other!
Please continue this awesome blog! Love it!