By Eliane Sainte-Marie, founder Parenting For Wholeness
(NB: I’m not intimating that working moms don’t also need time alone, but the purpose of this article is to address the unique challenges of being ‘on’ and with children, 24/7.)
Now that I’m an empty-nester and have all the same and space I need to focus on myself, after 24 years of living with children, I have a whole new vantage point on what it’s like to be responsible for and with children 24/7, week after week, month after month, year after year.
And I have a huge amount of compassion for the young mom I was who was home with her 3 children, co-slept, homeschooled, lived in a different country from her family, and was therefore with her children 24/7, except for an occasional evening La Leche League meeting when I left the older children with their dad.
The young mom who didn’t realize that she mattered too.
I work with many stay-at-home and homeschooling moms, and I see now how vital it is for them, in order to function as humans, to have time to themselves.
Not honoring their own needs is one of the biggest mistakes I observe in peaceful, attachment, Continuum Concept parenting and homescholing moms.
Though they’re acutely aware of how important it is for their children’s needs to be met and single-mindedly focused on making sure that they are, they ignore the fact that they are humans too and therefore also have needs.
And that it’s critical for themselves, in order to be the best possible mom to their beloved children, in order to have a chance of thriving as a family, and just because they deserve it like all humans, to have their needs met too.
If you’re familiar with my work, you know that my goal is for families to live what I call family homeostasis.
And this goal is impossible to attain if moms don’t commit to making sure that their own needs are met, as well as their children’s.
I must admit that I’m a bit reluctant to publish this article. And I think other like-minded parenting authors might avoid writing about this topic for the same reason as me: because our society often completely ignores children’s needs, to disastrous consequences to those poor beings, in order to meet the parents’ needs.
And we’re afraid that sharing this info might just be additional motivation for some parents to separate from their children more than is healthy for them, and ignore their needs even more.
But I’ve come to realize that this message needs to be shared, for the benefit of the dedicated and attuned stay-at-home moms who are floundering or barely coping for lack of self-care, so I’m taking that risk.
The advice in this article assumes, as I make sure to mention a few times, that children are ready to separate from mom, and that they are left in the care of someone who THE CHILDREN feel completely safe and comfortable with, and, if they’re young (babies, toddlers, as well as older children if they need it) well bonded to.
It’s important to understand that what’s key here is the child GENUINELY FEELING safe, comfortable and bonded, it’s not about the parent knowing that the child is safe and will be well cared for, or thinking that the child ‘should be’ fine with that person.
WHAT I RECOMMEND:
When I started running my Clean Parenting program 4 years ago, when I still had 2 daughters living at home, I recommended that all moms whose children are ready to separate have one evening or one chunk of time on weekends, weekly, where dad (or someone else if dad’s not around or available) took the children.
THIS felt critical, even though I didn’t know it when my children were little, and therefore didn’t practice it.
But 4 years later, having been living alone for a whole year, this seems ridiculous.
Ridiculously not enough.
Especially if you are an introvert or an HSP (highly sensitive person!)
So in my last Clean Parenting group, I came up with what feels like a minimum, for stay-at-home-moms, and especially homeschooling moms (which means many more years at home with children) to not only survive or be able to cope, but have a chance to also thrive and to be the best possible moms they can be for their children.
This is what I now recommend (again, once their children are okay being without them and there’s access to the right kind of caregivers.)
If you have multiple children and your youngest isn’t yet ready to separate, assuming it is helpful to you, you can follow that plan with your older ones. I don’t know about you, but for me, by the time I had 3 children, an evening out with just the baby/toddler did feel like a vacation.
If your reaction reading what I suggest is that it feels impossible, or brings up an intense negative feeling or disbelief that you deserve that time to yourself, then you might want to slowly build up to it. Start with a night off every 2 weeks or 2 hours of support on a weekday once a week. Then after a couple of months, graduate to a night off every week or 4 hours of daytime support during the week. Then add in some weekend time, etc.
I’d also suggest you do some inner work on the feelings and beliefs that this idea brought up, as you’ll likely never be able to thrive as a person until you can fully honor and commit to meeting your own needs.
IDEAS FOR GETTING SUPPORT:
There’s a common reaction I get when I share this advice in my Clean Parenting groups, after I’ve done some work with the moms on realizing the importance, for themselves as well as for their children, of focusing on meeting their own needs.
And it’s that they don’t have the right people in their lives to care for their children so they can get time off.
Here are some of the ideas I offer them:
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If you are a SAHM, are genuinely thriving and don’t feel the need for free time, I’m thrilled for you! (And envious too. Part of me wishes I could have been THAT mom, but I know now that given my specific needs, and being an HSP, this was not realistic for me, and therefore unkind to myself to wish for.) But if you are loving spending all your time with your children and are able to fully meet your needs in this way, then please disregard this article.
But so far I’ve not met one of those moms (that I know of.)
Most of the moms I meet completely ignore their own needs. And the ones who either come from emotionally healthy families and know their needs matter or have done a lot of healing work to get to the place of valuing their needs STILL don’t take seriously their need for alone time, or don’t know how to go about getting it met.
Can you imagine what it would feel like to have all the alone time I recommend above? What a different person you might even be? How much more patient and excited to be with your children you might be?
Isn’t that worth working toward?
I really hope I’ve inspired you to take your needs more seriously, whatever they might be.
And that if you’re resonating with this article, you’ll take steps toward creating some space for yourself. It might take months or even years for you to build the right relationships, find the right people, maybe do the needed healing work, that will allow you to have the needed support and conditions to have the time alone you crave.
But what’s important is that you keep clear on your goal and keep taking steps. Gradual, steady progress is what will eventually get you there.
What I recommend in this article might seem extreme, and I know it would have been hard to convince me to follow it, and that I deserved it.
CLEAN PARENTING™ PROGRAM
Would you love to create a life for yourself where yourself as well as your children are thriving?
Where all your needs are met?
Where you are finally consistently the mom you want to be for your children, and feel confident that your children will grow up to be emotionally healthy and whole?