I will admit it, I’ve neglected someone very important to me — myself! I don’t think I fully recognized how much until Michael and his kids spent a few days away at the lake with his family, my boys were still gone to their dad’s, and I was home alone. My summers usually always look like that. I’ve been single for the better part of 10 years since my divorce, and when the boys go to their dad’s for the summer that is usually my time to be Loren, the woman, as opposed to Loren, the mom.
I always try to make time for myself throughout the school year, usually on weekends when Hunter and Logan are at their dad’s. I think one of the most common things we do as parents…I realized this especially after my divorce…is get so wrapped up in our jobs as mothers and/or wives (or dads/husbands) that we completely let ourselves go. We stop focusing on ourselves and the things that make us, “us”. I believe this is one of the major reasons why so many people end up finding themselves feeling unfulfilled or unhappy after a few years of parenting, as well as stressed and overwhelmed.
Unfortunately we don’t always figure out the importance of “me time” until we’ve lost ourselves, and sometimes lost our marriage or relationship too. I know that is what it was like for me. I got divorced and became a single parent, and for the first time in four years I had to stop and think about what I wanted for myself and my life. And I realized, I really had no idea. Up until that point every decision I’d made in the last four-plus years had been made as part of unit, whether that unit was wife or mother. But I hadn’t given any real thought to myself and what I wanted.
Hell, I even chose my college major based on my kids! I hadn’t even started my first semester of college when I found out Hunter was coming — I enrolled in classes in May with my major still undeclared, then got a positive pregnancy test a month later. So I had to un-enroll myself from that school, move 200 miles back to where I’d graduated from (because that is where my now-ex-husband was still living), and enroll at a new school. When I enrolled in classes there, I chose Early Childhood Education as a major purely because I was getting ready to have a baby and figured if I had no idea what I was doing with my professional life yet, at least that would help me be a good mother.
After my divorce, it was shocking how long it took to “find myself”. Yes my friends, that is a real thing. When you get so caught up in your family and doing everything for other people, you would be surprised at how easy it is to forget who you are, or even what things really make you feel happy and love yourself. In my case, I became a wife and mother so young that I’m not sure I ever even had a chance to figure that out before diving into a life of adult responsibilities.
Michael and I have been together for four months now, and I honestly couldn’t possibly be any happier in this relationship. This is the first healthy and happy relationship that I’ve ever been in, and I quite literally thank God every day for blessing me with this man. He is kind, giving, even-tempered, understanding, appreciative, and above all else a true partner to the highest degree. He is absolutely everything I always dreamed of having but didn’t believe actually existed. It has been so easy to fall into a comfortable place with him, and give myself to him, his kids, and my kids just like I did back when I was married and my boys were young.
I’ve noticed recently that I wasn’t doing as much of the things that make me, me. But it wasn’t until he left for the lake trip that I realized just how much I’ve neglected myself. And let me just throw in a disclaimer right here and now that he in no way whatsoever has pushed me to do that. We both enjoy spending time with each other and he is always the first one to offer help when there’s something of my own that I’m needing to get done.
I’ve been making these choices completely on my own — because if it comes down to choosing whether to spend time with Michael or spend time writing my book, I choose time with him. If it comes to taking time to get my yoga in or seeing him while we both don’t have kids at home and have the opportunity to spend uninterrupted time together, then I choose time with him. I haven’t been hiking since last Fall, and I started reading a book in mid-April that I should’ve had finished by mid-May and still am not done with. I read two books in May and one in June, but I hadn’t touched a book between July 5th and July 29th. I have reading goals set for myself this year, and now I’m behind because I’m not taking the time to do it.
Honestly — I’m not sorry. Michael and I have a new relationship, and my boys have been gone (except for every other weekend) all summer, and we very much needed that time together to get to know each other and build a solid foundation for our relationship to grow on. What I’m seeing now, though, is that I’m going to need to shift gears a bit as the boys come home and we settle in for the school year, to make sure I’m still giving myself priority time in the midst of giving my kids and Michael and his kids my time. The last thing I want is to get so lost in this new family and relationship role that I forget about who I am as an individual.
Taking time to yourself isn’t selfish…you need it so that you have the energy to continue giving to those you love. You aren’t neglecting your children or responsibilities by taking a short break from them to regroup; rather, you are making yourself more able to serve them well. You’re also giving your kids time to learn the important skills of independence, thinking through and solving problems for themselves, and self-soothing — all very important skills they will need to carry into adulthood.
Michael and I have worked out a plan for the school year, which I will share more about late this month once we’ve had a few weeks for execution. We’ve worked out days where we each go our separate ways to get done the things we need to do at home. And something I want to do for me is make sure I’m taking time for reading, writing (especially my book) and yoga, and making time for hiking (which is definitely something that Michael and I can do together, or the boys and I can do together) on some weekends. I think it is just as important for Michael, because he loves to play golf but rarely goes anymore. He needs to make sure he is giving himself time, too.
So…how did I spend my few days alone? Michael and his kids left Sunday afternoon, and I went home and got my yard mowed so I would have the work out of the way for the week (I’d done my weekly cleaning already on Saturday). Then I texted my group of friends and made plans to do the Sunday Imo’s tradition we started last winter. We don’t go every weekend by any means, but it’s something we do occasionally because the new Imo’s location is a stone’s throw from mine and Jenny’s houses, and Zach lives pretty close as well. We can eat pizza and drink a couple of $2 beers and have a chill Sunday evening with the group, so it’s kind of turned into a tradition by default.
Monday I did something I hadn’t done in way too long — I worked on my book. I read through the first chapter I had written, made a few edits, then started on chapter 2. After a couple of mosquitoes found their way up through the boards on Michael’s screened-in deck, I called it a night and went home to take an Epsom salt bath and watch Mary Tyler Moore. Tuesday night I was supposed to go to a baseball game with a friend, but I hadn’t been sleeping well and didn’t really want to go anywhere, so I took that night to be home by myself and totally veg. It felt so good to not have to go anywhere or do anything! Then Wednesday I had to jump back into some responsibilities.
The week before, a coworker had asked me to make cookies this week for another coworker’s birthday. She let me know Monday that she wanted them Friday…of course! That meant I would need to spend Thursday night baking, but that was the day Michael was coming home and we had plans. So I ended up baking cookies on Wednesday instead, and also went to El Sol for a quick dinner with a couple of friends. I didn’t get much me time that night, but in all honesty, by the end of Tuesday night I’d had enough time to myself and was ready to be productive and see my love again. I may need time to myself sometimes, but one evening of doing what I want instead of what I have to do is usually enough to refresh my mindset.
This week I’ve been trying to soak up the last of my obligation-free time. On Sunday, I pick up the boys and they will be home for the school year. School starts next week…it’s so hard to believe how quickly this summer passed by. It’s time to get back into full mom-mode, and I’m definitely ready. If you’re a parent too…then cheers to you and the brand new school year. Soak up that time with your babies, take lots of pictures and enjoy the ride…and don’t forget about yourself!