By Contributing Editor Jenny Isenman
I went out shopping with my mom the other day and I felt guilty, not because I was breaking my necessary self-imposed shopping ban, but because I had left my kids. I had left them not with a babysitter, but with my husband. They were not doing child labor; they were simply going to a movie.
I couldn’t pinpoint the cause of the feeling I was having. Maybe it was guilt brought on by the fear of sending them off alone with their dad. Would something happen without my guidance? He had never taken both kids to a movie, so the neurotic mom in me reiterated that popcorn is a choking hazard, and they should eat it one kernel at a time. I added, “Don’t let them go to the bathroom alone.” You never know who’s lurking in the stalls.
Maybe the guilt was over the fact that it was Sunday and I don’t get as much time during the week with my kids, considering they have no break between school and camp. Maybe I simply felt guilty about missing all the fun the “UP 3-D” experience had to offer: The sticky floors crackling beneath my feet. My daughter complaining that the 3-D glasses hurt her face and that watching without them hurt her eyes. One or both of them inevitably spilling something gooey or fluorescent blue on me. I know you’re thinking, stop romanticizing it.
The irony was that I had chosen to do something with my own mother instead. Should that not be of some value, spending time with her? Do I not have some obligation to spend time with my own mom even though I can wipe myself? Does my husband having a day with the kids not fulfill some need they may have for alone time with him?
I remember a therapist, who also happens to be my Step Mother, telling me a story once. She said, “There was once a mom who had one egg and three children to feed. Do you know what she did?”
“Split it 3 ways and feed her hungry children?”
“She went to her room, locked the door, and ate the egg.”
“Ugh, what a horrible story. The mom locked herself in with the egg? What did she do next, eat her children?”
“Jenny, what is the matter with you? The kids need the mom more than they need the egg. If she takes care of herself she can better take care of her children. She could have split that one egg three ways and then passed out and then what would they have?”
“You’re missing the point.”
Here of course is the point, which is easier to impart than to accept. Taking a break from being a mom doesn’t make you a bad mom. You are other things… a wife, a daughter, an (insert profession or hobby here,) you need to give yourself the freedom to be those things as well. Sometimes “selfishly” taking care of yourself makes you a happier person and therefore a better mom.
I know, the theory sounds so obvious, it need not be stated and yet I know only a handful of people so evolved as to live by it. I am working on becoming more evolved as we speak, I am ignoring my son, who is begging me to play Wii so, I can finish writing this bl…
I am a neurotic mother of two amazing, wonderful, brilliant, perfect children which is saying a lot because I am a harsh critic and an uncompromising disciplinarian. You know, the kids have to sing for their supper kinda stuff… well, they at least have to ask… well, a grunt would be nice. Actually, they just sit and I make multiple meals until one is worthy of their sophisticated taste buds and doesn’t exacerbate their fear of burnt spots, crust, pizza bubbles, or food that touches other food. It is my job to keep them protected from the Florida sun, prehistoric insects, and plasticware with the number 3, 6, or 7 on the bottom. I have to expose them to just enough germs to build their immune system, while using little enough sanitizer to keep them healthy. I also have to remember to feed and water them daily.
A freelance writer for magazines such as InStyle and Mademoiselle, I also have a fabulously funny and relatable blog called suburbanjungle.net