I had an article published on a parenting website this week. Nothing about autism is included, but being a mom in general and how we can be better. I'm so excited to share it!
It's hard for a mom to catch a break during any point in her life. In the early years of parenting, constant demands are heaped on us from babies and young children who rely on us for their every need. There are months, oftentimes years, when a mom's much needed sleep is interrupted by a child who wants something, even if it's just a sip of water or a kiss goodnight.
Then, as the children grow, and just when you think they are independent enough to take care of their own needs, a mom realizes that carpools, sporting events, scouts, and homework require just as much (if not more) attention from an already tired mother. And that's just middle school! Kids in high school have a whole new set of needs that only a loving mother can meet.
If you are crazy/brave/fertile enough to have children that span from babies to teens, well, forget about it. Consider yourself a lucky woman if you ever get to pee without company.
Considering this, it comes as no surprise that "Alone Time" is a common phrase among weary mothers-in-waiting. It's a matter of seconds that separate you from being an individual person to being a mommy. One moment you're just a lighthearted girl wearing maternity pants, and the next second you have an eternal responsibility that, for now (and seemingly forever), cries and poops. It takes some getting used to. Suddenly, you find yourself wishing you had that Alone Time back. As in "Mommy needs some alone time, please fend for yourself for five minutes!"
Just like every other mom out there, I am busy taking care of everyone but myself for nearly 24 hours a day. For so long, Alone Time was a distant fantasy, and if I got some, forever a beautiful memory. I craved it, looked forward to it. Like every other mom out there, I figured that I deserved it.
Oh, how my outlook has changed.
Currently, my three children are in school all day. I thought it would never come! But now that it has, the quiet seems so heavy in a home where children have always been. It seems like just yesterday they were crawling around my legs as I cleaned the kitchen, and acted as my restless companions on every errand.
Now that I have time in my day to think about myself and my interests, I am surprised at myself. I greatly miss the noise and activity. I miss the interruptions and constant neediness. Sometimes 8am-3pm is rather lonely. It's at these times, when I am by myself and have no one squealing, "Mommy!" that I rather miss being needed by little ones. Someone to kiss and love anytime, anywhere.
It went by too fast, those years of lullabies and kisses on boo-boos. Smack in the middle of those early years, time seems to be at a stand-still, with kids hanging on every appendage, and the parents-only bed crammed full of limbs poking you in the back, feet shoved in your face. But, believe me, it doesn't last forever, and you will miss it when those days are gone.
I still have time with my children - they aren't grownups yet. They come home from school everyday, and you're right if you guessed that they are still squealing, "Mom!" at least once an hour. And after a day of silent echoes through the hallways of my home, the sound of their voices is welcome. I smile when my family is all together again. When this happens, even amidst the noise and chaos, I am content.
It’s amazing to me that I looked forward to this Alone Time for so long, and now that it it’s here, all I want is to be with my babies again.
And so, I have a new philosophy, and it is directed especially at you younger mothers who crave some alone time. My philosophy comes from being in that "in-between place" where I'm both desperately needed as well as a nosy intruder in my kids' lives. It's an idea I call, "Together Time." Forget being alone, forget manicures and lunch dates - you'll have time aplenty for that when you get to where I am.
Remove the idea of needing time away from your family, and remember that time goes by too quickly to miss out on one minute of laughter and joy with the people you love the most. Sooner than you know, it will be hard to pin them down for a conversation, let alone a cuddle. They will want to live their own lives.
Together Time means really being there and experiencing your kids. Forget that your nails are scraggly and you haven't had a shower for two days - the most important people you will ever know don't care one bit. Enjoy the chubby legs and soft skin of your toddler. Those legs will slim down and start walking away before you know it. While your little ones are still little, give and receive more kisses and hugs than you did the day before, laugh and play louder and longer, revel in their “little world."
Slow down. Sing together and snuggle every chance you get. Focus on making your Together Time as valuable as the time you spend away from them. Focus on the beauty that you see as your children run and play in the sun, not the grass that needs mowing or the garden you’ve been meaning to weed. Count the kisses and the hugs, not the hours you've been awake. Look into their innocent eyes and see the love and adoration they have for their mother. It's there, I promise. Don’t spend some of the most precious time of your children’s lives wishing you could only get a minute to yourself. Treasure every second you still have to hold them.