When my son was first placed in my arms after almost an entire day of grueling labor and a seemingly never-ending delivery, I felt (among other things, of course) an immense amount of pressure. Not the pressure I had been feeling prior to his arrival, but an internal squeeze of overwhelming obligation. I held this small life and felt like I had to spend the rest of my days, every waking moment, with him. That feeling stayed with me for some time, until I realized that not always wanting to be with your kid doesn't make you a bad mother. I didn't have to stare at him, night and day, to prove I loved him; I didn't have to be by his side or nearby at every moment, in order to prove I would always be there for him; I didn't have to devote every second of my life to my child, to prove I am devoted to him.
Society has long told women that when (or if) they become mothers, they must give up every other aspect of their lives in order to parent the way they're "supposed to." Our humanity is essentially stripped from us, as we are portrayed as watered down versions of our former selves; reduced to spit-up covered mom-zombies who live for playdates and nap times and our kids' impending achievements. While there are plenty of mothers who do enjoy spending all day, every day with their children (because, you know, there are so many ways to be a mother and all are valid and worth respecting) I, personally, am not one of those mothers. I need time away. Like, need it. I need to spend time working or going out on the town or driving by myself or reading or writing or exploring my city or going on a date with my partner or doing literally anything that doesn't require my son's presence. Just because I'm a mother, doesn't mean every other aspect of my life has ceased to exist. Just because I'm a mother, doesn't mean my identity is forever tied to my son, and my son only.
It took far too many sleepless nights and near-breaking-point moments to realize that I needed, and deserved, time away from my kid. It wasn't until I spent a weekend away with a dear friend, that I realized that being away from my kid actually made me a better mother. I felt energized; I felt like myself; I felt like I could enjoy my son, and not resent him when he inevitably threw a tantrum I was too drained to adequately handle. I felt, well, like every mother should be able to feel.
Still, guilt can (and does) rear its ugly head and, before I know it, I feel defunct or like a failure or like I'm a terrible mother for wanting to spend time away from my kid. In those moments, I try to remind myself the following things, because wanting to have a life outside of your child in no way makes you a bad mom.
Your Kid Can't Provide You With Everything You Need
Honestly, asking your kid to give you all the fulfillment you want and need out of life, is just unfair. That's far too much pressure to put on a kid, especially since they will inevitably fail at the task. Your child cannot be your only source of joy because, well, eventually they'll leave you and the guilt they will (probably) feel when they've "left you behind," will only cause them unnecessary pain. It's healthy (and I'd argue, necessary) to find other sources of happiness, outside of your children.
You Deserve Self-Care
If you're constantly giving and giving, and not taking for yourself in order to (in the words of Jada Pinkett-Smith) "fill the well," you're going to end up empty and, eventually, break. You need and deserve and should be spending time taking care of yourself. Doing something for you that absolutely and in no way benefits someone else, actually benefits everyone around you. The more you care for yourself, the better equipped you are to care for others.
Your Kid Will Learn Independence
The more distance you put between yourself and your kid (at age appropriate times, of course) the greater your kid's chances are of growing into a self-sufficient, well-adjusted and independent adult. That's the dream, right? To one day look at our kids as they venture off into the world, and know that we did a good job preparing them for it? That can't happen if we're constantly with them, all the time, doing things for them.
Your Additional Relationships Deserve Your Attention...
A mother has more than just the relationship she shares with her kid. She has the relationship with her partner or partners, her relationships with her family members, her friends, her co-workers, her neighbors, whoever she cares for and is in constant (or, sometimes, not-so-constant) contact with. Those relationships deserve her time and attention, too. And, as a mother, she deserves to enjoy those relationships and nourish those relationships and work to keep those relationships, even though she now has the added responsibilities of motherhood. I, for one, so very much enjoy happy hour with my girlfriends or a quiet night on the town with my partner, sans kid. Those moments with those people are just as important to me as the moments I share with my son.
...And So Do Your Kid's Relationships With Others
And, of course, your kid deserves the chance to go out and make relationships of their own, too. Whether it's spending time with their other parent or the kids at the playground or their nanny or whoever else they may or may not have in their life, they can't facilitate and cultivate those relationships if you're constantly around.
The Time You Spend Together Will Be That Much Better
If you give ourself the opportunity to get away from your kid and enjoy some mom-free moments, I guarantee you the time you spend with your kid will be that much better. The perspective and rest and energy you gain when you're away from them (plus, honestly, the small part of you that illogically misses them) will make the moment you walk through the door and they run into your arms, that much sweeter. It's that whole clichéd, "absence makes the heart grow fonder" platitude that is regurgitated ad nauseam but, you know, is also accurate.
Quality Of Time Spent Is More Important Than Quantity Of Time Spent
Sure, you could spend every waking day of your life with your kids, but I can almost guarantee you that your humanity is going to get in the way and you'll lose your patience, your energy and (probably) your will to live. I would even go so far as to say that your kid would rather spend less time with you if it meant that time was happy and fun and you were in a good mood, than more time with you when you're exhausted and short-tempered. Again, because it's worth repeating, you need to regenerate and care for yourself, so that you can adequately care for someone else (plus, you just deserve it because you're a human being and happiness should be experienced by everyone). Don't burn yourself out, mom.
You're More Than Just A Mother
Just because you're a mom, doesn't mean you stop becoming a partner or a friend or a sister or a daughter or a reader or a writer or a dancer or a worker or a business owner or any of the many (all) things women are and can be. "Mother" is not your only identifier in life, and you deserve (and should) explore every other aspect of your life and personality, so that you can enjoy all life has to offer, not just procreation.