I recently spent my first weekend alone at The Hewing Hotel in Minneapolis since having our baby 6 months ago. As an introspective introvert who spent many hours alone each week, and took day trips alone, I knew I needed it badly – but I didn't realize how badly.
When the clocked ticked to 11 pm on the first night, I had boundless energy. I was ready to go out, see people, go to a concert, take a walk, or create. It felt wonderful and strange to feel this alive again. This spontaneous. I forgot that when time alone is absent, I become a tightly wound version of myself I do not like. And including my pregnancy (where I constantly thought about the human inside of me every day), it had been 15 months since I had extended personal space.
It felt like God himself breathed a giant, endless gulp of air through my entire being. I was refreshed.
I also realized, unknown to myself, I've had a constant tape playing in my brain whenever I'm with my husband and daughter. And although these thoughts come out of good intentions to be a good partner and mom, they are wildly unhealthy, unbalanced, and untrue. They are exhausting me and zapping all my energy. They go something like this:
1. Is he happy he's married to me?
2. Should I have cleaned that one extra thing?
3. Am I too selfish?
4. He's just sitting there, enjoying himself. Why can't I do that?
5. I do more than he does around the house and juggle more.
6. He's unattracted to me after I had our daughter.
7. He's bored with me.
8. I'm used up.
9. I'm an awful wife.
10. I'm an awful mom.
11. I don't do enough.
12. If I can just get it together I could be better.
Sound familiar? It's what I'm calling my "Mom Guilt Tape". This stream of consciousness rolling around in my brain accusing me and causing me to live my life, marriage, and motherhood out of guilt and fear — fueling my anxiety and depression.
By myself the tape stilled, puttered and stopped. I could sit at breakfast again watching the white smoke from city business hang in the stiff, cold Minnesota air. I noticed how my hands felt around the woolen coffee cozy, and the deep graininess of the wooden table I sat at. My nose remembered with deep delight the smell of coffee. I soaked in cool morning light rays pouring through floor-to-ceiling windows, catching dust particles in the air and landing on shoe laces. I drifted through the day listening to the snow crunch beneath my boots, and had untimed chats with friends and family members without "fitting them into a window of time." I watched my warm breath hang in the air and a gentle steam run off the frozen river. Everything slowed. Everything bloomed. My heart felt grateful and peace-ridden, and more like myself than I had in years. I was given the gift of noticing.
Let me be clear, the problem isn't my husband, or my daughter. It's my view of myself, and the spinning of my thoughts.
When I returned home from the weekend, I let my husband read my journal entry so he could get an understanding of where my brain was at. I also asked him if he ever felt guilty when he left to hang out with friends, or watch a favorite show on Hulu. He said no — and looked at me absurdly. He doesn't struggle with this deep-seated guilt and mind-spinning.
The thing is, there are many women and moms I've talked to about this and they also iterated that living with guilt is common — especially after becoming mothers. And that when their partner is relaxing, they feel that strange creature rise in them of "That must be nice. I can't believe he's just sitting there."
This mentality, I've realized makes it virtually impossible to ever truly rest. If I take a salt bath, have dinner with a friend, read a book, go on a walk, workout, sip the best proseco or red wine, but constantly have the guilt tape running through my brain I'm not really resting. Or rejuvenating. Or using that time wisely to refresh myself.
I've been on a path to get rid of my mom guilt and to still the "Mom Guilt Tape" with the aim to be a healthier, wholer version of myself. I'm no expert, as I've just begun, but below are a few ways I've been pursuing this lifestyle.
11 Tiny Ways to Practice Living a Guilt-Free #Momlife
1. When I have free-time, I take it. I enjoy it. I don't dwell on feeling bad about it.
2. When my husband is taking free-time, I let him enjoy it instead of feeling annoyed at him.
3. I try to go through my day more slowly and deliberately. This means more times than I can count I'm noticing the frenzy, anxiety, fear and guilt that are spinning in my body, and I'm pausing and breathing and asking God for help to calm down.
4. I try to be more present when I'm home with my daughter and husband, so when I do take a break I can be fully present in that too.
5. I build in mini-moments of rest throughout my day. So even if I don't have 4 hours, I can still do creative, and life-giving things.
6. I'm honest with myself and husband about taking true alone time — whether a day trip, time reading, or having a staycation.
7. I plan time with friends, and focus on being a woman and friend during those times instead of thinking about my husband or daughter.
8. I let the spontaneous soak in again — the afternoon light shining warm on my face, the feel of hardwoods beneath my bare feet, the gorgeous taste of wine on my tongue — instead of feeling like I need to push past little enjoyments to get something done for someone else.
9. I keep my pulse on my lingering postpartum depression and see a counselor when I need to. If it's one thing I've learned, postpartum depression fueled this guilt more than I knew.
10. I don't count my workout time as alone time. Although it's good for me, it's not restful or filling.
11. When I get too wound-up with my to-do list, I repeat the phrase "Whimsical Discipline" — a phrase that came to mind during my weekend at the Hewing. (Watch for an upcoming post on this coming soon!) I try to live each day in a sort of flow instead of plowing through my endless list and never reaching the end or enjoying anything.