I’m a Better Mom After I’ve Been All By Myself

As I write this, I am sitting in a hotel room by myself. You might think that sounds kind of lonely. But on the contrary: being alone in a hotel room is amazing. 

Every year my Mother’s Day gift from my husband and kids is a weekend away. A whole weekend. In a hotel. All by myself. I can do whatever I want! I eat, read and watch what I want to watch on TV and take uninterrupted showers. And I’m usually pretty productive as well. So far this weekend I’ve organized my online recipes, planned my son’s birthday party and purchased gifts, made a list of fun activities to do with the kids, purchased items for our bathroom remodel and started planning our DisneyWorld trip.

This year, my weekend away could not have come at a better time. My 2-year-old had his tonsils removed last week and I sat in the hospital with him for two days while he slept, cried, threw up and refused to eat or drink a single thing. Unfortunately, the doctor wasn’t going to let us leave until he ate something, so my son and I were imprisoned in that hospital room. By the second day, he was grumpy, mad, bored and literally standing at the door screaming, “I GO HOME!” Thankfully, I finally convinced him to eat three bites of pudding and then spent the next two days at home once again pleading with him to eat and drink, convinced that we were going to end up back in the hospital with dehydration. And then my husband left for a camping trip with my older son, so I was on my own with the remaining three kids, including tonsil boy.

By the time my husband returned, my son had finally agreed to a diet of yogurt and almond milk and had started to venture off the couch and interact with the world. So we were turning a corner…

When You Can’t Predict Your Mom Meltdown

And then it happened. That evening, I was attempting to get all the kids to bed. The 2-year-old was crying and the 6-year-old was trying to talk over him to ask me a question and then the 4-year-old started whining loudly about something… and that was all it took. I lost it. Totally, completely, crazy-mom lost it. I screamed, “I CAN’T DO THIS!”, fled from the room, encountered my husband rushing down the hall toward me, yelled at him “CAN YOU HELP ME PLEASE?!?” and then burst into tears. True story.

My husband kindly put the kids to bed (and poured me a glass of wine).

The stress of the last week had caught up with me. The days in the hospital, the sleepless nights, the worrying, the empathy for my hurting baby, the medication around the clock, the endless patience required to deal with a moody toddler, my husband being out of town. I was physically exhausted and emotionally drained.

But the problem was that I didn’t realize this until the moment I exploded. Obviously I knew it had been a rough week, but I also felt like I was handling it. Maybe not perfectly, but I was on top of things, right? Clearly, I was not.

I think I was oblivious to the impending meltdown because I hadn’t allowed myself any time to STOP and think for a minute. To have time to myself. Alone. As an introvert, I need this time alone to process things and reenergize.

Alone Time Isn’t Just for Introverts

I’m telling you- you do, too. Even if you are not an introvert, you still need time to yourself, Mom. Not only do you deserve it, but you need it. You extroverts may get your energy from spending time with others– something that you should make a priority in your life in order to remain energized for yourself and your family. But I still believe that time alone is equally important. While you may be energized by others, time alone with your thoughts helps you re-focus and quiet yourself.

If you don’t take that time to care for yourself, it will inevitably catch up with you. It may not present itself as explosively as it did for me, but you will experience the effects. Whether it’s irritability, anger, anxiety, depression, apathy or tiredness, however it decides to show itself, it is going to negatively impact your ability to parent effectively.

You may be telling yourself that you can’t stop because everything you are doing is for the good of your children. Know what? So is taking time for yourself. If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for your children.

I admit that it’s not feasible for everyone to spend an entire weekend on their own. Maybe you are able to take a whole day for yourself. Maybe just a few hours. But I would encourage you to look at your life and see where you might be able to fit in some time for yourself. If you need to turn on a movie for the kids so that you can make yourself a cup of tea and sit with a book for a little while in the afternoon, that works. Leave your husband in charge of the kids so that you can grab a corner table and a coffee at Starbucks and sit with your laptop for an hour. Or take advantage of the child care at your gym so that you can spend a couple of hours working out.

It’s not selfish. Taking time for yourself is how you are able to more effectively take care of the others in your life. Believe me, my kids are going to appreciate the mom who returns from this weekend a whole lot more than the one who tried to put them to bed the other night. We all know that moments like that are an inevitable part of life as a parent. But I believe that ultimately the great parenting moments will far outnumber the bad if we can each commit to taking some time for ourselves.

See Keri’s other articles on modern day motherhood:


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