Baby Blues: ‘Me Time’ Isn’t The Mommy Burnout Cure-All I Thought It Would Be

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I knew from the moment I ventured out that this would be more difficult than I expected. Breaking my routine, even by doing something as simple as buying a movie ticket with daylight swirling all around me, made me feel vulnerable.

But that’s okay, I thought, once I get seated in the comfy darkness and crack open my pack of Twizzlers I’ll feel right at home.

Wrong. What seemed like an intimate audience, just me and a few scattered viewers, suddenly became a red carpet event. A gaggle of teenagers, presumably on an English class field trip (I was there to see The Great Gatsby) stampeded into the theater. I can’t even describe to you the intensity of the unexpected near-panic attack this brought on. My heart pounded in my throat. The jungle drums started in my head as I realized these kids were funneling in around me, and soon I’d be surrounded on all sides by teenagers. Now or never. I stood up to re-seat myself.

It took a few minutes, but my heartbeat returned to normal in my new seat at the back of the theater. The movie started, I enjoyed it, I ate too many Twizzlers, the movie ended.

Then back into the brightness. When I got home I tried to lie down for a nap, but I was restless. So I went for a run. When I was done, the strangest thing happened. Like I’d been socked in the stomach with a basketball, I collapsed to my living room floor and cried. I couldn’t stop. I didn’t know what I was crying about. Expectations, maybe? That my very special “me” day was barely fun, let alone the restorative experience I’d been searching for?

Awhile ago, I wrote that I desperately needed more time away from my daughter to be happy. Well, now the pendulum had swung the other way. After showering, I decided the only thing that could possibly snap me out of this funk was being needed by her. So I picked her up early, brought her home and we ate dinner together. We played. I felt better.

I’ve learned that “me” time is unhealthy for me. Dangerous, even. I must be working, surrounding myself with friends and family, doing for others, or sleeping. That’s it.

If there’s one thing I know for certain, it’s that when I hit my lowest of lows, I need to stay as busy as possible. Will I burn out? Probably, and I’ll spend another miserable day crying it all out of my system. Is it easier to just keep plugging away at work and motherhood and push all those nagging personal desires and lofty ideas of “me time” down where I can’t see them on a daily basis? Well, yes.

I think it’s just a new fact of life that I don’t know how to be alone anymore (when I’m not working, that is). I don’t remember how to be spontaneous and I definitely don’t remember how to have fun. Or maybe my definition of fun has changed. All I know is that I certainly won’t be attempting another “me day” anytime soon.

(photo: FotoYakov / Shutterstock)

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