I became a mom for the first time almost five years ago. E was two years old when he joined our family and after a week or two at home with us my husband went back to work. Prior to having a kid I had a lot of alone time and I didn’t realize what that did for me. It took just a few weeks of being a mostly-stay-at-home mom to realize: I’m kind of an introvert.
This was a revelation for me; I had always thought I was an extrovert. I’ve always loved being with people, I love being the center of attention, and because I don’t fear or dread those things I always test as an extrovert in personality quizzes. But when my introversion occurred to me, I remembered my childhood in a homeschooling family of six – a.k.a. a childhood rarely alone. I used to hide in cubbyholes to read books alone, climb way up high in a tree to daydream alone, and long to be old enough to be left home alone while my whole family went out to dinner so I could just revel in the silence and be blissfully alone. Then I realized that even as an adult, if I’d had had an unusually busy week or two I would start to get kind of antisocial and just want to stay home no matter what fun thing my friends were doing.
With kids it’s so much worse. When you’re a stay-at-home parent, so much the more. Homeschooling? Pile it freaking on. Throw in depression? I need to get out of here.
Last year (2014) was the first time I realized I have depression. With that additional revelation, I’ve gotten much better about letting my sanity overrule my cheapness and I’ve gotten childcare for short breaks a lot more than I did before. I also sometimes take advantage of my husband’s presence and go off all day shopping or running errands and revel in several hours where I don’t have to answer a single question or repeat myself even once. (Which is great for my sanity but not so great for my marriage if I’m like, “You’re home! Have some kids! Goodbye!” like I have to sometimes.)
The problem is that an hour here, three hours there, even a whole day every so often is just not enough.
It’s like when your phone’s battery gets low: “Only 15% battery life – please charge soon.” You plug it in for a little while (go out for lunch alone) but then you have to unplug it (pick up the kids). It’s definitely better than it was – maybe it added 10% – and now you have 25% battery life. Cool. But then you get drained again. “Only 12% battery life – please charge soon.” You plug in for an afternoon and evening alone and, hooray! 32%! But then it drains again. And again. And again. The closer the battery gets to empty the faster it drains. You need to charge this thing all the way, or it’s going to shut down altogether, and that’s not going to be good for anyone.
For me the only way to fully recharge is to have at least two nights alone. I don’t know why two nights makes a difference but it does. After two nights away I’ve found myself coming home earlier than I have to because I feel so good. (I say this like it’s happened a lot, but I think I’ve only had two two-night alone getaways since we had E. I adore kid-free weekends with my husband or friends, but they don’t fully charge me like being alone does, which kinda sucks.) When I’ve had that time to myself I feel like me again. I am a markedly better wife and mama when I’m fully charged. The problem is it’s hard on everyone to have mama go off for two days and nights alone – not to mention expensive. So, it doesn’t happen enough. But it needs to happen soon or my battery is going to completely deplete and I’ll mentally shut down.
What about you, stay-at-home moms and dads out there? Do you need to recharge? How do you do it?