We hear so often about moms who don’t pay attention to their kids.
Moms who, for whatever reason, don’t, or can’t, focus on their children.
Moms who ignore them.
But we don’t talk very much about moms who ignore themselves.
Moms who are so caught up in the business of mothering or work or both that they don’t take care of themselves.
And that’s not healthy either.
For a family to work, to thrive, every member needs to be tended to.
Every member needs to have a life, an existence outside of his or her role in the family.
A space to be the person who existed before he or she became a parent or even a spouse.
An identity separate from the family.
Even if only for a moment, now and then.
Recently, I took a trip across the country for a long weekend away. It was the first time I had left my son for more than one night since he was born.
And I struggled with going.
I felt horrible guilt about leaving my child, even in the care of his father and grandmother and aunt.
Felt bad about taking some time to be the me who is a writer and a friend and a woman.
The me who is more than a mom.
I felt like I wasn’t entitled to that time.
Like it was a sign of weakness that I needed it.
A message to my child that I didn’t love him enough.
At several points leading up to the trip, I almost cancelled.
But something deep within me kept pushing me to go.
To take the time.
As I stared out the window of the airplane, somewhere over the middle of the country, it hit me.
I wasn’t a bad mom for wanting this, for needing it.
I would be a better mom for recognizing it.
More patient, more appreciative, more thankful just for having a little time.
More whole, as a person.
Which would necessarily affect my ability to mother.
I have sacrificed, in many ways, to stay home with this child.
Because I want, with every fiber of my being, to be with him, day in and day out.
But that doesn’t mean that I don’t need to have some time for me.
It doesn’t mean I stopped existing as a person.
Because I didn’t.
And my son didn’t suffer while I was gone.
He loved his time with the rest of his family.
He learned that other people can feed him and tuck him in and kiss his scrapes.
He learned that dads—men—are caregivers, just like moms.
He learned that moms—women—are people outside of their roles of mothers.
He missed me, yes.
And I missed him.
But only one of us cried for the other in the separation.
And it wasn’t the toddler.
How do you make sure you take care of yourself?