Parenting: It’s the end-all-be-all job. Period. The only employment contract we’ll ever have where we’re on the clock from the minute we take on the job, till our very last breath on earth. It’s a lifetime commitment in the absolute truest sense, which means there’s very little punching out or showing up late or playing hooky. Ever.
As parents, we face a challenge every day. Every. Single. Day. And it’s about the most all-consuming thing any of us will ever take on in our lifetime, because when we sign on, it means a boatload of sleepless nights and massive amounts of overtime and 24/7 unrestricted access and very little time to focus on anything else. Even going to the bathroom. Or reading a newspaper. Or being able to dry our hair or shave or finish our coffee. Or a conversation. Or a thought.
Sure, above all else, parenthood is beautiful and rewarding and full of joy and magic and emotion that fills us up in ways we never knew we could be filled.
That sheer wonder of being a parent outweighs any sacrifice any of us could ever make. That ability to bring a living, breathing little person into the world who’s totally reliant on us for absolutely everything for their survival is huge.
But the plain and simple truth is that being a parent is a massive labor of love (heavy emphasis on the word labor). And it’s friggin’ exhausting. Ask any of us parents. Regardless of where we live or what language we speak or how many kids we have, our answers will almost always be the same. We love being parents, but we’re tired. So very tired.
And even though the mass majority of us wouldn’t trade being somebody’s mommy or daddy for anything, we’d definitely cough up a lotta coin for six-to-eight minutes alone in the bathroom. Even the best, most devoted, attentive, and hands on parents just need a minute. A minute to breathe, a minute to chew our food or talk on the phone or take a shower or, God forbid, brush our teeth.
The problem is that we don’t often get one. That’s why most of us resort to stealing moments of solitude wherever we can find them. And I’ll be the first one to admit that I’ve done it more than once. Desperate times, you know.
I’ll admit that Mommy’s “tummy ache” that required me to be in the bathroom for close to 20 minutes with the door locked wasn’t much more than a quick toot of gas from that frozen yogurt after dinner. Or that “mountain” of laundry that had me busy-busy downstairs in the laundry room for 45 minutes was really just two Hanes T-shirts and four pairs of socks. Or that the “big trip” to the supermarket was nothing more than a dozen eggs and some tea bags and a chance to catch up on my tabloid reading without any interruptions (or having to pay for them).
Remember, they call it a daily grind for a very good reason. ‘Cause that’s what it is. Or at least some aspects of it are.
Stuff like cooking and cleaning and shopping and carting people around to far-off and inconvenient places takes effort. Think of the amount of energy and fortitude it takes to get out of bed every day so we can ensure that all of our people are safe and sound and fed and transported and cuddled (and coddled) and supported, seven days a week.
And when we’re putting in that kind effort day after day with very few breaks, it can wear us down to a little nub if we’re not proactive about carving out a little “me” time.
Truth is, every parent needs to escape every once in a while. We need to be able to spend a few minutes inside our own heads (or outside, if that’s your preference). We need to be able to practice stringing grown-up sentences together for when we’ll eventually be able to use them, once our kids are grown. And we need to be able to reenergize ourselves so that we’re actually enjoyable to be around. Cause there’s nothing worse than an overworked, salty, sleep-deprived mom who isn’t allowed to finish her mocha latte.
None of that makes us bad parents or awful people. It just means that we need to be allowed to escape for a minute here and there so that we can remember that we’re actual people with our own unique identity and needs.
Look, I know “escape” is a strong word with some negative connotations—like not coming back—but it’s way better than the word “flee,” so I’m gonna stick with it.
All I’m saying here is that we should never feel guilty about creatively carving out a little time for ourselves. Parents are insanely busy people. So it’s OK. We’re allowed, just as long as we don’t forget when it’s pickup time, and we make sure the toilet paper stash in the pantry is full. Then, we’re good.
For more from Lisa Sugarman, visit LisaSugarman.com and Twitter and click here for an exclusive offer to order her book Untying Parent Anxiety.