I spent much of last week lying on my couch, sick and tired. My two younger children played (cars, trucks, planes, trains strewn all over the living room) and raided the fridge as only a 20-month-old and 4-year-old can (cheese sticks, cheese sticks, and more cheese sticks). We watched some movies, took some naps, read some stories.
And for much of the time, I felt very, very alone. I know that many, maybe even all, moms feel this way at times — perhaps especially when being crowded, climbed on, pestered, and pulled in several directions at once. There’s nothing like being the most popular girl in the room to make you feel … apart, different, other, isolated. In my illness-induced haze, all I wanted was for someone to come and take care of me (or, more accurately, to take care of my kids so that I could take care of me). I wanted to be surrounded by people, to have everyone over for a play date — or at least to have someone to commiserate with over the injustice of still having to be the mom when I’m puking in the toilet.
But as soon as I was feeling better … I wanted to be alone. Not to feel alone, but to actually be alone, with just myself inside my head, just my own body in my personal space. I wanted to think my own thoughts, without being interrupted by requests to play “Let It Go!” (again) or demands to get someone another drink of water.
How ironic, I thought. Three days of solitude, of isolation, and now that you actually can have that party-play date without sending the whole neighborhood to the bathroom to vomit, the only thing you want to do is be by yourself?
It does make a little bit of sense, of course. Well, a lot of sense — especially if you are a mom who is constantly bombarded with demands, treated like a human jungle gym, and spends even your sickest of sick days putting the cheese back in the refrigerator three times in one morning.
And that’s because real alone time is necessary to help you renew, refresh, and rest your mind, just like a day spent passed out on the couch can help your virus-wracked body heal and regain its strength.
As moms, we talk about wanting to spend time alone, but so often when given the chance to actually do it, we use it to do something else: that errand that needed to be run, that phone call that’s been on the to-do list for weeks. And while doing those things opens up some mental space and gives us a sense of accomplishment, they are no substitute for a solo walk through the park with no lists or interruptions, the phone stashed and the lists laid down for a while.
Time spent alone and unplugged, with just you and your thoughts, gives you the space and the silence to listen to yourself and what you really think and feel, to see patterns and to hear things that have not made it through the cacophony of daily living yet. It can give you the distance to see problems from a different perspective so that you can finally solve them.
Most importantly for me, time spent alone gives me a chance to remember who I am, apart from being my kids’ mom, and why exactly I’m doing what I’m doing. I get to check in with myself and make sure that I am still “living the dream” I’ve always had of being a mom — and having a good time doing it. And then, when it’s time to go back into the fray, I can dive in whole-heartedly, fully present and aware of how blessed I am and how much fun I’m having — even when I’m the bad guy who takes the cheese away.
Yes, sometimes it’s good to be alone.
Photo credit: Lizzie Heiselt