As a mom of two amazing kids, I know all about the guilt of doing anything that doesn't revolve around my kids. I think it comes with the territory, along with feeling inadequate and feeling regret over the tiniest mistakes. When I was child-free it was all about me all the time, but that abruptly changed the moment I had my daughter. Suddenly my life was all about her, and the reasons it's Ok to want a life outside your kids didn't sink in. Not initially, at least. As a new mom, I didn't want to take the focus off my baby for any reason. It took some time for me to realize that caring for my daughter, and my daughter only, isn't how parenthood should be.
While I'm not perfect by any means, I love being a mom and I'm lucky enough to work from home so I can be with my children as much as possible, especially while they're still young. However, and because the majority of my days revolve around them — their needs, their interests, their homework, and their friends — it's not only OK to have a life outside of them, it's necessary. If I want to give my kids the very best, rejuvenated parts of me, I have to actually take time to rejuvenate.
I used to think being with my babies all day everyday was enough. I was so, so wrong. I got swallowed up, nearly disappearing completely inside the mundane, seemingly never-ending, important but not always fulfilling tasks of motherhood. It's an all-consuming role that can be hard to step out of. After the birth of my youngest five years ago, I knew if I didn't find a life beyond and away from my two kids, there'd be nothing left of me to give them when they needed me most.
If you're struggling with the thought of doing the same, here are some reasons it's OK to want a life outside of your kids. No, really. I promise.
Because You Had A Life Before Them...
I know it's hard to let go of your babies long enough to remember life before their existence, but you have to.
After the birth of my daughter, I felt so lost. I was her mother, which simultaneously meant I was no longer the woman I was before she came into this world. It was a strange, in-between world, where I had to dig my way out to figure out what made me happy outside of being a mom. I lived, laughed, and loved long before becoming a mom, so it's OK to figure out new ways to do the same once I became a parent, too.
...And You'll Have A Life After Them
One day in the near-distant future, my kids will grow up and leave the home I have created for them to navigate the world on their own terms. If I've done my job, they'll seek out careers they're passionate about, love with every fiber of their being, and become all the things I always knew they could be. This also means, of course, that my house will be empty. If I only live my life for them now, how will I adjust when they're gone?
Because Self Care Is Critical
My postpartum life wasn't balanced. I was depressed and didn't put myself at the top of any number of lists. In other words, I gave so much of myself to my baby, there was nothing left for me. This fed my depression, making it hard to see a way out of the fog. Once the depression was treated and I started to feel better, I moved self-care to the top of my priority list for the sake of my mental health. If this meant going to the grocery store alone, I did it. If it was getting my hair cut and colored, I did that, too, and without my kids. Taking the time to have a life outside of them reminded me that I'm important, too; that I need cared for, too.
Because Your Friendships Are Important
Before I became a mom, I didn't realize how demanding motherhood would be. I thought I could jump right back into all the things I did before my babies, like going out with friends. It wasn't quite like that for me, though. I was tired and utterly drained by the time Friday night rolled around and, honestly, all the days bled together anyway.
While my friends' lives kept moving forward, I felt stuck for a very long time. At some point (when I had nothing left to give of myself), I realized I had to find the time and energy to be with my friends in order to be a better me. Sure, it wasn't the same as it had been before I became a mom, but the connections are what I needed to revive me.
Because You & Your Partner Enjoyed Dates Before You Became Parents...
My partner and I used to go on dates all the time. It was wonderful. He's always been the type that makes me feel like I'm the only person in the room (a feeling he still gives me, 13 years later).
Having kids sort of took that away from us for awhile, though, because we focused so much on them. Now I know having regular dates is probably more important after kids than it ever was before, especially if we want to keep the romance alive. Is it easy to find sitter? No way. Still, having time where we can just be a couple, as opposed to being parents, is very necessary.
...And It's Just As Important To Continue Having Them
I still hold onto early memories of my partner and I when we had our first getaway as a couple. It was Thanksgiving and instead of trying to decide who to spend it with, we took a road trip to Chicago alone. We didn't have kids then, so the focus was completely on us. While I love co-parenting with him, I miss those memories and wish we could have more times like that now.
Having these things, outside of our kids, should be mandatory for relationships. After all, when the kids are gone it'll just be me and him. I'd hate to go through all these years putting the kids first only to have nothing in common with him when they go.
Because It'll Make You Appreciate Motherhood More
It's absolutely true that when I leave the house for a long run, a hair appointment, dinner with friends, or a date with my partner, I appreciate my role as someone's mom so much more when I return. Being gone puts all those moments into perspective; I can see how I've taken parts for granted, because I'm renewed from taking are of myself. It's a win-win for everyone.
Because Your Kids Will Miss You
There's nothing better than walking in the door after doing something that fulfills me personally (like grabbing a latte, alone), and my kids run to greet me. Every time it's like they haven't seen me in months. It's a reminder of how my absence does, in fact, make their hearts grow fonder (and I get to drink my latte in peace on the drive home).
Because You're A Devoted, Hard-Working Mother
Being a mom is a lot of work. Whether you work inside or outside the home, or are a stay-at-home mom (I've done it all!), it doesn't matter. We're the heartbeat of the family and our kids know it. Yes, I feel guilty when I think of going somewhere without my kids, or doing something I'll enjoy without them, but honestly, I deserve it.
Because You Deserve It
If there's anything I've learned in raising my two kids over the last 10 years, it's that having a life outside of them is absolutely OK, and we're all happier because of it.