“Sad” and “seriously depressing.” Those were the words I recently saw splashed beneath a social media share about how friendships change in motherhood. One of the women had commented that since becoming a mother, she and her husband routinely said “no” to social events where they couldn’t bring their baby still under the age of 1. “We bring our child everywhere we go,” she explained. “If it’s not appropriate to have her with us, then we probably shouldn’t be there.”
She also went on to talk about how grateful she was to have friends who understood that — friends who supported it and enjoyed spending time as a group with their kids as well. But that didn’t matter to the judgmental woman who found it “sad and depressing” for any woman to not want regular breaks from her child.
I’ll admit, reading her words fired something up within me. Both because I have this enduring wish to end woman-on-woman judgment and because I’m not a mother who has ever felt a strong desire to take breaks from my child either.
I have a large and supportive group of friends made up of women who have made some drastically different decisions in parenting. Some are passionate career women, others happily stay home. Some are addicted to their cloth diapers, others wouldn’t go near anything but disposable. Some have breastfed long past a year, while a few barely even tried. And several of my friends are the type of women who need those breaks — both on the weekly basis that include a night or afternoon set aside just for themselves and on a more long-term scale, with regularly planned vacations with their spouse.
I respect these differences. I support them. I have even offered to babysit their kiddos so they can get those breaks they need.
I have no judgment against that need at all, it’s just not one I’ve personally felt.
I am perfectly content to spend the bulk of my free time with my child. In fact, I’m more than content to do so; it’s something I genuinely enjoy. My idea of a perfect Friday night involves all my friends and all our kids together, with the chaos breaking out into a front yard as we BBQ hot dogs or order pizza. I love those gatherings far more than the ones that require me to get a babysitter and leave my toddler at home.
And I am thankful to be part of a friend group that prioritizes those types of gatherings as well.
Of course, I do think there are several factors that go into my feeling this way. For one, I was diagnosed at the age of 25 with a disease that seemed hell-bent on stripping me of my fertility. There was a long time there where I wasn’t sure I would ever get the chance to become a mother at all. And I mourned that possibility with such a ferocity, that now, getting to spend time with my daughter today? It feels like a gift. Like this thing I don’t ever want to take for granted.
On top of that, I am a true introvert at heart — the kind of person who hates spending time with strangers, but deeply cherishes the relationships she has. I am a nurturer in everything I do, and when I love someone, I love them with everything I’ve got. The very core of my personality makes me someone not likely to want or need a whole lot of time away.
I was also just a few months shy of 30 by the time I became a mother. I had spent my early 20s, especially, living my life to the fullest. I wasn’t tied down by romance or unrealistic future pursuits. I was just young and free. I traveled, studied, dated, and partied. I did everything a person is supposed to do when they are young and untethered, so by the time my daughter came into my life, I was truly ready to settle down.
I have never once felt like there was anything I missed.
And none of that discounts the issue of child care. Most of my friends who experience the need to have time away from their kids also happen to have family close by — grandparents who are happy to take one night a week, or who are involved in things like daycare pickup and the coordination of extended sleepovers. These friends have no issue taking a week-long vacation without their kids, because they have no problem coordinating the child care to do so.
I don’t have that same luxury. I live 3,000 miles away from my family, and while I have friends who love and adore my daughter, if I’m doing something without her, it’s usually something I’m doing with them. I have to pay for babysitters and accept the limitations of their schedules. Not to mention, the lesser bond they have with my child. My friends who leave their children regularly with the grandparents can do so knowing the bond between grandparent and grandchild is strong and regularly reinforced by how often they see each other. The same can’t be said for any babysitter I would ever hire.
The good news is that I don’t really mourn any of this. I love spending time with my child and being a part of a friend group that gets just as excited as I do about holding big slumber parties and waiting to crack open the wine until all the kids are in bed.
I see these years where my child wants to be with me as incredibly fleeting. Before I know it, she’ll be heading off to camp, or participating in school trips, sporting activities, and a social life that doesn’t include me. She is going to forge her own path, and I am going to have all the child-free time in the world.
Why should I force that time upon myself now, especially when I don’t feel like I need or want it? When I don’t feel like it would serve any purpose beyond convincing some stranger online that I’m not as “sad and depressing” as she might think?
The truth is, we are all different. We all have different needs and different ways of fulfilling those needs — both in parenting and in life. You don’t see men tearing each other apart for how they arrange their own lives, so why do we see women so often doing it? Why is it so much easier for us to look at women who are doing it differently, and to tell them they are wrong as opposed to lifting them up and supporting choices that work for them?
I have never been more happy and fulfilled in my life than I am today in motherhood. And if there is ever a day when I felt the need for a break, or a desire to do something I couldn’t include my child in, I can promise I’ll find a way to make it happen.