Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mommy, Unleashed

Today I had several hours by myself.

All you moms out there are jealous already.

Yesterday, my girls' Grammy called to see if she could pick Livie up after preschool today and keep her until lunch tomorrow. Uh, yes.

So I had the morning alone during preschool hours, 20 minutes with my little one, and then noon to four alone until I picked up Sophia from her after-school play date.

I did not know what to do with myself. After a moment of psychological flailing, watching my daughter's blonde head disappear in the backseat of Grammy's car, I realized that I could do just about anything I wanted. Well, what the heck do I want to do? I realized, I wanted to eat just whatever I was in the mood for without considering anyone else. So I got in my own car and went to a diner, where I got a booth all to myself. I ordered a BLT with avocado, and cottage cheese instead of fries. I was so happy to be sitting alone with a book and a meal which I did not prepare nor need to clean up after that I ate over half of it before I realized the avocado was missing.

While sitting there, I thought that people might be walking by and wondering what kind of person I was, eating lunch alone in my obviously un-corporate clothes. Okay, probably no one was even noticing me. But I'm so used to being with my children, and when I am with my children, people in contact with me immediately have a label for me: Mom. So being without them, I find not only do other people not know what to make of me, I don't know what to make of myself!

It got me thinking: what do I assume about myself and my life because I am a mom?

Here's some assumptions I have about how my days will go:

* When I order food in a restaurant, it must be something that at least one of my kids likes because they will not eat their own food and will want mine.

* When I go to Starbucks for a cup of coffee, I must have a snack in my purse for my four year old, otherwise I'm going to have to buy her a $3 and 300 calorie muffin.

* When I get dressed, it better be in clothes that can get dirty, because someone with greasy fingers will be pawing me.

* When I go in a store, I better be sure exactly what I need, know the path to get it quickly and get out, and be resigned to the fact that even with all the pre-planning, I may very well leave the store without what I came for, for any number of reasons (someone has a tantrum, someone has to go to the bathroom, someone -- me -- got so distracted that they forgot what they were there for).

Is it any wonder that four hours alone feels like being let out of a pen? And that, like an animal who has long lived in captivity, I would suddenly be uncomfortable alone in the wild. Now, that's an unfair analogy, because no one locked me up in a mommy cage, and I love being a mom. I have chosen a lifestyle in which I rarely put myself first, and I find it a fulfilling and meaningful life (at least half the time).

However, one assumption I do not want to make is that I no longer have a right to be myself, or put myself last. One of my favorite Christian authors and speakers, Jen Hatmaker, wrote in her book Out of the Spin Cycle, that moms can lose themselves to such an extent that they don't even remember what their favorite food is. Which makes them frustrated, small, and ultimately boring -- which is definitely not the life God had in mind for them when He created them as a unique and precious being.

So the moral for today: find four hours for yourself, mamas, and rediscover what you actually want to do, wear, and eat when you have no one else to consider. You might be surprised what you forgot about yourself. And make sure the waiter brings you that avocado.

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