Generally speaking, parents are supportive of one another. We share parenting tips, recommend kid-friendly restaurants, and set up playdates. However, we can also be brutally judgmental of each other.
“Me time” is an area where otherwise accepting and supportive people dive headfirst into the mommy wars.
Just the other day, Sadia found herself nodding along in disbelieving and disapproving agreement when a summer camp counselor mentioned that another parent had arrived half an hour late to pick up her child because she’d fallen asleep. “How dare she,” Sadia thought, “make use of summer camp time to take a nap!” The fact is, we don’t know this other mother’s circumstances. Perhaps she works nights. Perhaps she’s unwell. Perhaps she fell asleep at work at her desk. Perhaps she has a newborn. Perhaps she fell asleep at her desk while suffering from mastitis.
SaraBeth receives a lot of “it must be nice” comments on getting a sitter and doing so regularly. It used to annoy her, but that time together as a couple is more important to her than big vacations or fancy name brand clothes. It’s her choice, and her husband’s, to make that time a priority.
Elizabeth, a single mom, is frequently told that she shouldn’t be running errands when her girls are with their dad. Instead, she is told she should be doing more stuff for herself, such as getting coffee with friends or setting a massage/hair/nails appointment. She has her “me time” set up just how she likes it, and it isn’t when the girls are with their dad. She stays as busy as possible during that time running errands and getting things done that are harder to do with 2 preschoolers in tow.
Sadia is also a single mom. Lots of people (most recently her dentist) tell her that she should be grateful to have several weeks child-free during the summer when her ex-husband exercises his visitation rights. She doesn’t see it that way. She only has 9 years left before her twins leave home to build their adult lives. She wants to make the most of their time together while they still enjoy her company. The teen years and parental rejection that will come with that aren’t far off. Call her boring, but she doesn’t spend her nights drinking and clubbing when the girls are away. Instead, she ends up spending more hours at work and the gym. She’d much rather be adventuring with her daughters.
As a stay-at-home mom (SAHM), SaraC finds a lot of people asking her, “What do you do with all that time?”. Three of her 4 children are still in diapers, so we MoMs know exactly what she’s doing: primarily feeding and cleaning four people, keeping them safe, and letting them know that they are loved.
MandyE received negative feedback for a blog post she wrote one time about “me time”. The commenter challenged her that “’me time’ begets ‘me time’” and if she continued to “indulge”, she would grow to resent her children. She admits the harsh words threw her for a loop and caused her to question herself.
Amy is her own worst critic. She criticizes herself for having help with childcare and housekeeping even though she’s a stay at home mom of four (two sets of twins). If she didn’t have help, she would never get “me time”. She deserves to go to the store by herself too!
Jen Wood gets judged for not taking “me time” at all. During the time she was a SAHM, she couldn’t justify paying someone to watch her kids unless she was making money to offset it. She had a high school girl, an assistant at the boys’ preschool, watch the boys ONCE. After paying her $30 for 2.5 hours out, Jen just could not do it again. It felt far too indulgent for a mother making zero dollars an hour. She doesn’t have family nearby, so free care is off the table. Most of Jen’s “me” time is at home with the kids, doing something in another room while they destroy the one they are in.
People ask SaraC, when she’ll go back to work, judging her for being a SAHM. Her answer is that she’ll return when it’s right for her family. She also meets working moms who feel they need to explain themselves to her! SaraC responds by letting these moms know that she worked when she just only 2 kids, so she completely understands the working mom’s lifestyle. She also fully recognizes that each family is different. She has no time or desire to judge a working mom and would appreciate them withholding judgment too!
During Sadia’s early Army wife days, she was informed by other military spouses that she was an abhorrent mother for working outside the home. She was told that a good mother would stay home with her babies. Her response then was that she was a better mother when she didn’t look to her children to fulfill her intellectually and socially. The outlet of work allowed Sadia to focus on being for the babies what they needed. Her response now is that her job provided stability, both financial and psychological. Her divorce three years ago would have been much more traumatic to the children if they weren’t already accustomed to Sadia working full time. If she didn’t have an established career to fall back on, with a salary to match, they would have noticed a rapid decline in their quality of life, one from which Sadia was able to shield them.
Michelle finds other mothers expecting her to have far more free time now that her children are older. There is a hope (maybe a fallacy) that “me time” increases with our children’s age. That hasn’t been true at all for Michelle. The children don’t nap and they stay up later. Their demands are just as insistent. There’s as much, if not more, to stay on top of. Michelle’s husband has asked her to consider quitting her job, but with the cost of extracurricular activities, the family relies on her paycheck to help defray the cost of five kids in five different activities.
We’ve all been judged for how we spend our time. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve probably judged other mothers. We hope that our perspectives have shown how different “me time” can be and there is no single approach that works for every family.
From August 31 to September 4, 2015, How Do You Do It? is running a series on “me time” for mothers: why we need it, how we make it, what we do with it. Find the full list of posts on the theme week page.
Have you blogged about mommy time on your own blog before? Are you inspired to do so now? Link your posts at our theme week link up! We’ll do our best to share them on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter with the hashtag #metime.