Moms Need to Be Alone
I never pee alone. In fact, I can probably count on one hand the number of times I have showered, used the restroom, or gotten dressed without at least one pair of eyes watching (or a few if you include that one time I accidentally left the blinds open. #mypoorneighbors) Once I became a mother, there was this unspoken understanding that personal space was a bust for at least another 10 years. Okay, make that 20. Dads don't have this issue. They can pee/poop/search the internet forever in peace. AND ALL THE MOMS SAID AMEN!
For some reason though, mamas have little humans attached to our hips constantly. Even in our thoughts, we are surrounded. Have you ever heard the saying, "A mother is never really alone in her thoughts. She always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child"? I'm not complaining by any means. I love a good snuggle and I even breastfed my son until he was well over 2 because the bonding time hit me in the feels (see also: mamas boy). But any mom will tell you that it all can be overwhelming, over stimulating, and way too exhausting. Most of us just want a little break to refuel.
Last week for my birthday, my husband (Nick) offered me just that. A chance to retreat away, a moment to catch my breath, time to take care of myself. He had gotten a two night stay at a local hotel. He said I could choose to go alone or we could go as a family. However I wanted to spend my birthday is what we would do. My mama heart felt guilty. I knew the good wife move would be to say that all I wanted for my birthday was for all of us to be together, but deep down inside I just wanted to fill my own void, celebrate myself, and relax with no responsibilities. I almost guilted myself into a different answer but I have been really discovering that if I don't speak up for me, nobody will. So with that in mind... I opted to stay alone the first night and have the kids and my husband join me in the evening on my actual birthday to stay the second night.
It was wonderful. It was also weird. Let me explain...
Nick and I became parents as teenagers and moved into an apartment together. That means I went from living in my parents house, to living with him and a baby. Up until last week on the eve of my 29th birthday, I had never spent the night alone. EVER. Never have I woken up without someone to welcome the day with. When I end the day I compromise what shows to watch, snack according to my spouse, and go to sleep once all the kids are cooperating. That's not to say I don't take naps (#longlivenaps), get to run to Target, or enjoy my days. I'm just always in (good) company when my head hits the pillow. I never had an independent season to call my own shots, evaluate my own mind, sit within my own self, and enjoy my own company. In fact, I never really did anything new on my own.
When I arrived at the hotel I couldn't find parking, I panicked and called my husband (not sure what he was supposed to do all the way from our house). He didn't answer, so I opted to park valet and then stumbled when I needed to get all of my belongings out of my car while the guy stood there sighing impatiently. I was an awkward mess and super nervous because I didn't know what I was doing. I almost took my car key with me (its the remote start one) until common sense kicked in. Panic began to boil up as I realized I had never checked-in to a hotel before. Did I need my ID? the reservation #? The credit card it was reserved with?
Basically, I resorted back to that teenager fresh out of her parent's nest with no idea how to navigate the world. I operate a household with 5 humans and 3 dogs daily, organizing schedules, providing 3+ meals, and helping run a successful business all the while... yet on my very own was like a fawn on wobbly legs. I realized I was uneasy with my own presence. I instantly felt pretty lonely and not confident that I could handle ordinary things on my own accord. Side note: I appreciate my husband so much more now, as I realize he is literally my left hand. I took a deep breath as I approached the front desk and mentally told myself... "Candace, you are a grown-a** woman. Get it together and handle crap." So I did.
It felt empowering. I changed my mindset to accept the challenge. I felt myself getting excited about the adventure of tackling things just as an individual person and not "mom or wife" only. The front desk lady questioned me kind of assertively. "Are you here for business?" No. "Oh, are you celebrating something?" Yes, my birthday. "Yay! Is your husband joining you soon?" (Nosey Rosie) Ummm... yes?
I lied. I felt guilty. Odd, even. Like if celebrating alone was unheard of. Why would a woman not be attached to her job, husband, or kids? Was she selfish? A self-centered woman? The woman behind the counter would think I wasn't happy and grateful for what I had. So I lied because it felt demeaning to own the truth. Yet, her assumptions reaffirmed that I had made the right choice to forge my own path out of the norm. I never wanted to be a woman who only liked who I was in the company of others. As if, I somehow was insufficient or not whole on my own. Determined to be a complete person all on my own, adding to those relationships around me, yet not relying on them to piece me together.... I settled in my hotel room all alone.
It was a rather uneventful night. I read a book, ordered hot herbal tea for room service, Facetimed my husband (#oldhabitsdiehard LOL), and watched whatever shows I wanted. The next day I went for a run and then hung with some girlfriends by the pool and did some shopping. That night alone and the day following wasn't anything too extraordinary, yet it was monumental in my life and growth as a human. I love to reflect on moments that take my breathe away, make my heart race, or make me feel uncomfortable. So here are 5 things I learned from my hotel stay alone:
YOU NEED TO BE ALONE. Whether you're an introvert or an extrovert, time alone is a must. There is no clearer time to think or meditate or truly rest in your own unfolding as a complete human being, than when your inner voice is the only one you can hear. It's not selfish. It's not because you're a loner. It's because of all the people we care for around us as women, our FIRST obligation is to fill our own bucket before we pour out.
PEOPLE WILL HAVE REACTIONS. As with everything in life but still, some people gave me a dumbfounded look. Every person who asked what I did for my birthday or encountered me "alone" on social media discussing my plans... had an opinion and lots of questions. I'm pretty sure all the women who spoke to me were intrigued, envious, or judgmental. I got questions like, "What'd you do while you were alone?!" "Did you regret being without your family?" "Why'd you do it?" "Weren't your kids upset?" "How'd you pull that off?" Don't get me wrong, I get the concern. But for the love of God I didn't abandon my family and flee the scene for a life lived on the road as a tight rope circus performer. I celebrated my birthday with the one person who has been with me since I traveled through a vagina and took my first breath... MYSELF. It's just such a foreign idea to know your needs and assert them as a woman and especially as a mother that it is groundbreaking to hear of others doing it.
IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE HUGE. (Good grief I can't help myself... "that's what she said" 😂). In all of my years as a mother (10 😱) I have found that it is impossible to get away for any extended period of time. Maybe you can but for me that just doesn't fly being that I am a stay at home mom. However, small moments of being by myself work just as well. Sometimes it's even just grocery shopping solo. Or if we drove separate somewhere I'll ask my husband to drive the kids and let me jam out in his truck on the way home. You can even wake up before the kids and read a devotional over your morning coffee. If a night away seems too daunting or even impossible, figure out a way to get 5-10 minutes in solitude (not with girlfriends or date night. ALONE!) as often as you can.
YOU WILL COME ALIVE AGAIN. Getaways aren't bad. I'm totally pro-vacation because hello, someone else does the cooking and the cleaning. The truth is though, I don't want to live a life I can't wait to escape. I'm sure we all desire for everyday to be fulfilling and magical to our souls but reality proves different. In order to have a good day we must create good days and I can't breathe life into those around me daily unless I have placed the oxygen mask on myself first. Day to day tasks are mundane and exhausting. Giving and giving of yourself can leave a void in the pit of your stomach. Contentment fades away with the joy and good intentions of serving a family well. My time being alone showed me that I filled myself up in my own company. I loved myself well in the silence of a hotel room. I heard my need for a hot tea and gifted it to myself. I noticed a need for fresh air and burning muscles, so I ran. Being fully attentive to my heart's desires put a fire back in me. I felt seen and heard and passionate. Almost a week later back in my everyday life, and I can still feel the effects of that self care. I feel alive in the everyday... laughing more, playing more, sleeping more. I've carried the thought of being in-tune with myself back into the monotony and it is life-giving.
YOU HAVE TO TAKE IT. In this case my gracious husband offered the suggestion but still left it up to me to stay in the hotel alone. Even if he suggested it, I still had to say yes. I think we have this guilt of what other moms will think of us or the martyr mentality that we should suffer as mothers and in return we tip toe around needing a break. Much less, assertively taking one in our own hands. No one will knock down your door saying, "you should love on yourself today"! As a human, you've got to speak up and assert your own time. Ask for help. Enlist a relative or a friend. Make the appointment or reservation. Then JUST GO.