Mama Or Me: The Balancing Act Of Motherhood And Self-Awareness

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Imagine you’re alone. Totally alone. No kids. No partner. For three weeks.  You wake up in an empty, quiet house. You go to sleep alone in your bed, in an empty quiet house.

Now, depending on your personality, you will either react to this imaginary situation with dread and fear or excitement and pleasure. Or maybe a bit of both.

When the email about a family reunion in the Netherlands this summer, landed in my inbox (I am married to a Dutch man) I knew my son needed to go. Being the only grandchild, and only nephew to his Dutch Oma, Opa and Tante, they were jonsing to spend time with him, and he was jonsing to spend time with them­ – not to mention his bazillion towe headed cousins.  Since airlines don’t allow a four and a half year old to fly alone, and Fed-Ex won’t deliver even the cutest kid, we needed to go with him. Or did we?

After assessing the situation: the costs of plane tickets, the loss of wages for three weeks times two, using my travel time and money to go back to a place I’ve both lived and traveled to many time, I came up with what I thought was the best solution: the boys would go to the Netherlands and I would stay home. For three weeks.  Alone. I have to admit, the thought of it excited me

Over the next few weeks, every time I would tell someone about my upcoming solo staycation, the responses ranged from shock and intrigue to this one, mostly given to me by other moms: A look of concern in the eyes, coupled with a sad, pouted mouth, followed by an “aww,” which reminded me that being on my own for three weeks also meant being without my son for three weeks. No offense, but three weeks without my husband, not a problem. But, three weeks without my son?  I didn’t know. We’d never been apart more than 4 days since he was born. Would he be okay for that long without me? Would I?

The day before my son left for the Netherlands, I dropped him off for preschool in the morning. As I was saying goodbye to him, a sudden feeling of sadness overcame me. My eyes began to well up. Suddenly, the realization that I would not see him, hug him or cuddle him to sleep at night, became, well, real. I was sad, and was worried I would spend the next three weeks sad.

I came home and quickly sent out an S.O.S. email to all of my good friends putting them on alert. It went something like this:  Dear Friends, I’m going to be alone for the next three weeks, I might be sad and I’m looking for partners in crime.  I explained that I wanted to make good use of my solo time by doing three things: 1) working on creative projects 2) reflecting and rejuvenating and 3) having fun!

Thankfully, my friends rule and I received several emails back with enthusiastic responses.

The following day, I dropped my son and husband off at the airport and said goodbye.  And much to my surprise, there were no tears, there was no sadness Apparently, my burst of sadness the morning prior, was sufficient enough to satiate my inner mama, and what was left was a feeling of freedom.  Total and complete freedom.  Mama had flown away, along with the plane to the Netherlands, and what was left behind, was me. Just me.

It had been over seven years since it was just me.  Me, living alone in my own home.  Me, doing anything I wanted to at any time of day, without checking in about a pickup, or a play date or dinner.  And speaking of dinner, I didn’t have to make dinner, for anyone ­– not even for myself if I didn’t feel like it.  If I wanted to eat an apple and a bag of pistachio nuts and call it dinner, I could. If I wanted to go out to a great new restaurant at a moments notice, I could.  It was like I was single again, but without all the angst of actually being single.

My first solo evening, I went to see the band Sharon Jones and the Dapp Kings at the Greek Theatre. My friend knew the bass player, and he had gotten us fantastic seats, plus passes for the after party.  I was already partied like a rock star and it was only the first night of my solo adventure!  After the show, my friend, a fellow mom, and I looked at each other stealing yawns. It was 11:00 P.M and we were both exhausted. The thought of being on my couch with the new episode of Orange is the New Black, suddenly sounded much more appealing to me staying out.


Right then, I realized that part of my new found freedom was that I could do exactly what I wanted at any time, even if that meant going home and planting it on my couch instead of going to a fab after party.

The next three weeks, I went to movies, and on long hikes with friends. I went roller-skating (yes, that’s right) and to BBQ’s sans children, where I salsa danced with beautiful men. I went to impromptu happy hours and to the beach. I woke up in a quiet house, where instead of the hustle and bustle of our usual morning routine, I could take my time, and sip my coffee in a peaceful silence. I sat in my hammock and read that book I had been trying to get through. I worked on creative projects, and yes, I binged watched the entire new season of Orange is the New Black.

The fear of being lonely or sad without my son, the one that crept up when dropping him off at preschool, never returned. I was content with doing all the things again that made me feel like me, to be present with myself, whether alone or with friends, without needing to be concerned about anyone else.

And my son? He was having a great time with his family and friends in the Netherlands.  We Skyped every few days so we could see each other’s faces and I could hear about his adventures. I knew that he felt secure, confident and happy. And so did I.  I knew that in a few weeks, we’d be back together again.

Should I have felt guilty that I thoroughly enjoyed my solo time without really missing my family? Does that make me a bad mom or a bad person?  I don’t think so. What it did was remind me that everything in life requires balance. And so does being a mom. That feeling again, of just being me, without wearing the role of mom, was invaluable. I was me before being a mom, and I will always be me.

Now, I’m not suggesting that every one of you send your families away for three weeks- even though some of you may want to, but what I am suggesting is to take a little bit of “me” time every now and then to remember who you are.  Not you as a mom, just you.

(Photo: iStock)