I think I must baffle people, for I’ve never felt the need to regularly be away from my children. Of course I have my times of needing to be alone, but I tend to get snatches of that throughout the day, and my husband or other family can watch the children for a few minutes if I need just a little time to myself.
But do I think I need regular time away to meet with a group in order to be a better wife or mother? Obviously not since I don’t do such things. This recently came up with someone asking me to sign up for a mom’s group. (Am I the only one who finds it ironic that children aren’t allowed at the mom’s group?) I hedged about it, as I’m not generally a fan of such things, but also because I have my doubts about how Charlotte would do since she’s never been in a group without me. She’s been without me for that long before, though not until very recently and never with someone she didn’t know (nursery is provided for the group in question). I was just told by the lady trying to sign me up that she would be fine, that she could definitely go that long without breastfeeding (yes, I know she can if she wants, but she doesn’t often want to do so), and that I needed this time away to be a better wife and mother.
Let me be clear that I am not looking down on those who feel they do need that regular time away. There’s nothing wrong with that, but neither is there anything wrong with not feeling like such time is needed, in my opinion. I think that societal expectations are such, though, that the assumption often made is that children somehow hamper one’s life or provide unwelcome distraction (I agree they can be a distraction, but they don’t have to be an unwelcome one), and therefore a separate outlet is needed.
I’m reminded of some friends in Liverpool. A friend offered to babysit Kieran for me after he was born, and I politely declined. She mentioned how she’d repeatedly offered to babysit for some mutual friends, a family from Zimbabwe, and was a bit upset that they kept refusing the offer until it was explained that in their culture they simply didn’t do things without their children. While I don’t have the cultural background to make that statement, I feel that way in regards to my children. If my children aren’t welcome somewhere, I won’t go.
I do agree that having adult conversation and personal time are important things, I simply disagree that one must have regular time away from the child to have those things. I’ll admit that part of my issue could be that I’ve never been a big fan of just being around larger groups of other women, to be honest. I do enjoy being around other mums, but am unsure of groups like that for some reason. I’d also be a bit nervous about talking about parenting things since I know my parenting philosophy isn’t exactly mainstream. However, I also know that a large part of my trepidation with such things is that I truly get uptight being away from my children for long, and therefore would be stressed and on edge during the group. That surely would not be conducive to focusing on the group or discussion at hand.
I suppose I also feel that it’s a relatively modern, and Western, notion that mothers must have time separate from their children: the very people that make them mothers. Again, if a mother does feel that she needs this for her own sanity, and can do it, I’ve nothing against that. I simply don’t think it’s a necessity for me or that such time will necessarily make one a better wife or mother. I know it can be hard fitting in personal time and ensuring we still have time for reflection and meditation, believe me. But I find with a little planning and/or determination I can make that happen while having them with me. Of course, being away from the children would also take that planning and determination. So mothers, if you feel you need that time away, that’s fine, but if you don’t, that’s great, too, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.