Whenever I hear someone speak of needing “me-time” I find myself bristling. I was analyzing this reaction yesterday as I read yet another article advising me about my needs as a mother. Why do I immediately suppress an eye-roll when I hear this term? I’m not opposed to having time in which I choose what I do. I have “me-time” when I work out at 5:15am. I have “me-time” when I brew the first cup of coffee & curl up in my rocking chair with my Bible and journal. I have “me-time” when I have a hot date with my dream-man. I have boundaries. I believe it’s essential to be healthy regardless of my role in life: to eat healthy and consistently, to exercise, to spend time at the Lord’s feet, & to have a growing marriage. So in this sense I suppose I’m an advocate for “me-time”.
Then it struck me. It’s the way I have heard “me-time” used, not the actual time of me being by myself. This is best illustrated by a moment this summer in which I noticed the contrast. To celebrate my birthday (& celebrate for the first time in over 5 years none of us was nursing a newborn) my sister Jasmine, my cousin Sommer, and I had a weekend at my Dad’s timeshare in Desert Canyon, WA. We were lying by the pool with our coffees when a group of people our age showed up. My sister knew one of the women so we started talking with them. The woman said, “So cool you get a girl weekend! Isn’t it so great to escape the kids? Oh-my-gosh I just so need these breaks or I go crazy!” They then proceeded to haul out their cooler of beers, stack of trashy magazines, and sat at the pool making fun of their husbands.
We looked at each other and my sister said, “I don’t feel that way at all. I’m not escaping anything.” It was an A-ha! Moment for me. We weren’t at Desert Canyon because we felt like “I need to get away so I can do what I need, want, etc.” or “I want to be ‘myself’ & I need to go somewhere else for that”. We’ve never thought, “I need to remember who I was before kids” (side note: seriously, if raising children makes you forget ‘who you are’, you had a pretty shaky identity to begin with.)
We had a ‘girl’s weekend’ to share our lives and have companionship. We went to expose the deep parts of our lives, and to pray boldly in faith over each other’s needs. A big part of why being together is edifying and challenging is opportunity talk about what God is calling us to; in marriage, in raising children, in our own surrendering to Him. We also happened to go out to dinner, get some tanning accomplished, and laugh hysterically during our not-actually-slumbering party.
The bottom line for me is the goal. The goal isn’t that I escape- the goal is to equip. If I have time for myself I don’t want to waste it on frivolous things that make me come home resenting my responsibility instead of embracing it. I want new tools in the way I relate to S., the way I love my kids and pursue Christ. My gauge in getting away is the way I return. Do I come back wanting more “me-time”, feeling entitled and unsatisfied in my role at home or do I come back ready to delve into my calling?
Our self-indulgent American culture is not where I look to be a good parent. I am bombarded by messages: “you owe it to yourself” “you should be happy…you deserve this.” “Have you had your break today?” Advertisers love these kinds of lies that get us to spend time seeking superficial happiness. We get this bloated sense of self that makes us completely delusional about what parenting should look like. We get confused about what our legitimate needs are because we are clouded by what we think is owed to us. I'm not opposed to spa days, working outside the home, to having other interests aside from parenting. I am opposed to using these things as a way to escape, a way to indulge narcissistic whims.
I am thankful for my mom because among the valuable things she has taught me about parenting, she showed me that sometimes when I think “I need time for myself!” it’s actually a different problem entirely. Sometimes my problem is that I’ve been going too hard, too fast and what I really need is to turn off my phone, shut down the computer, and play cars with my boys on the floor. Sometimes I want to head out to sit at Starbucks when I need to address my daughter’s whining instead of escaping it. Maybe for “me-time” I don’t need a glass of wine….I need to sit down with a seasoned mom for some perspective. Often I start to feel a need to escape when S. has been for many consecutive nights. What I’m really craving is quality family time; we need to pop some popcorn and laugh at our kid’s antics.
I’m grieved by how many moms I see living for the next night out. My desire is to be fully present, fully engaged in each season of life. When it’s time to send our kids out of our home I want to know that I was intentional in the time I spent with them: sacrificing myself and my agenda to train them up in the way they should go. That doesn’t happen by default! It’s not automatic that my kids run to the Lord first, that they scrub a toilet meticulously, that they serve others before themselves. I have few years to impart a lot of life skills & I refuse to look in hindsight, wondering why I spent all that time thinking about pleasing myself. May I never neglect the severity, the seriousness of what God entrusted to me when He made me a mom!
Today my early morning "me-time" was interrupted by a snuggly 3 year old wanting to tell me about his adventurous dreams. My getting-ready-for the-day time was combined with all three kids in the bath. Instead of listening to music I listened to; “Hudson’s splashing!” “Argh! Everett wants every toy I have- HELP!” “The bath is getting cold!” “Get Everett out first, Mom!”
My attempts to help S. with a message he is giving this week were thwarted by puzzle piece emergencies. Finally Hudson took my advice to “solve it yourself first”… but solving it involved knocking his little bro on his butt when they couldn’t come to an agreement.
Our grocery store trip was a quick one because Everett has this problem with confinement in a cart. If we’re there too long he arches his back, turns his face red, and soon the whole store knows that he wants down. My attempt at "me-time" during naps turned into Darla emerging every 10 minutes for potty breaks, water breaks, and “Mom, has it been 30 minutes yet?”
My day has not been wasted. In fact, it hasn’t even been that frustrating. My 3 year old is so big that I’m daily reminded our moments of snuggling won’t last long enough. All 3 kids got clean and I am wearing makeup. Hudson is a puzzle-pro and I’m excited that he has an interest that can be done semi-quietly. Hudson is also learning to work things out. Sometimes it lands Everett on his rear, but honestly sometimes Everett needs that anyway. Our fridge is full of groceries and these kids had a chance to work on manners by thanking the clerk, got to help fill bags with produce, and did a great job declaring items “healthy” and “not healthy.” Darla didn’t nap…but that means the house will be quiet by 8pm. Some day down the road our house will be empty of these noises and I just might be left with me-time that suddenly doesn’t sound so appealing. So instead of staying on this computer with my thoughts, I’m popping some kettle corn, warming some milks, and enjoying the wake-up from nap time with 3 little Taylors.