Last week POPSUGAR Love syndicated my post about 30 Things That Will (Probably) Happen to Your in Your 30s and a commenter wrote: “This is written in a really “non-mom” tone. I only relate to about half of these,” which I thought was kind of interesting since I am, in fact, a mom and I wondered what was “non-mom” about my tone. So, I asked. And she replied:
“Perhaps we just have very different lives, and I’m sure my being a single mom contributes. The tone of this article just seems to point to much more of a social life than I could ever dream of. Sad right? lol.”
Then, yesterday, I posted a letter from someone who said he and his wife were concerned about having all the good times before they have kids as if, once they have children, the fun stops.
And THEN, over the weekend, I was dancing at a divey bar with my friends in Chicago — Me, a mom! Out with my friends! Having fun! — and someone made a comment about how I was “out-dancing” everyone even though I’m a mother.*
And all of these things have me thinking: do most people think parents (and maybe, specifically, mothers) don’t or shouldn’t or can’t keep being social and have fun? And I don’t mean “fun” the way people say, “You still have fun, but it’s different kind of fun.” I’m talking about the same damn kind of fun you had before you had children — the up ’til late at night with your friends, dancing ’til dawn, taking vacations, and generally doing stuff with other adults that don’t involve the phrase “play date.” I mean, of course, you don’t do these things — the dancing ’til dawn kinds of things or whatever it is YOU consider a fun time — with anywhere near as much frequency once you have children. But you can and should still do much, if not all, the same stuff you did before (within reason, I guess; things that put your health and physical and/or mental well-being at serious risk are certainly debatable), at least sometimes, and you shouldn’t feel weird or guilty about it.
This past weekend I took a solo trip to Chicago for a reunion with old friends at BFF’s birthday party weekend, and it was so good for my soul. I do this about twice a year, and it was something Drew and I actually talked about before we had Jackson. We talked about it even before we got married. As most of you know, I met Drew while I lived in Chicago and we were long distance for a year and a half before I moved to New York, and part of the stipulation of my moving here was that I would make frequent visits back to Chicago (or wherever my friends happened to be, I guess) to re-connect with some of the most important people in my life. I made it clear that, even after we had a kid, I wanted to continue doing that because time with my best friends is like filling my cup and I think it makes me a better and more connected wife and mother and person in general. It helps ground me and it shifts my perspective and it makes me happy. I have, and do, encourage Drew to take advantage of time away, too, if not weekends out of town, then at least nights out. (We take overnight trips together without Jackson about twice a year, too).
Anyway, I think every parent should try to take advantage of time away (including time away from your spouse and partner, but time together away from your kids is also very important). I worry when I see and hear comments like the ones I mentioned above that there’s a general message that good parents don’t step away — that in order to remain fully invested and present in your role as a parent (and spouse or partner, if applicable), you have to be fully present, physically, all the time, and that’s just not the case. All parents need regular breaks, but parents like me, who have very little separation between their home life and the rest of their life, either because they’re full-time stay-at-home parents or because they work from home, especially need time away. I mean, I think I’d lose my freakin’ mind if I didn’t go out as much as I’m able to.
Those of you who are parents, I’m curious: how are you balancing your social life with the demands of parenthood? Do you get out as much as you’d like? Do you feel guilty when you do? Have your interests shifted since having kids or do you still want to do the same kinds of things you did before? Are you getting time with other adults that isn’t centered around your kids?
* It was my good friend who made this comment and I think she just meant that she was surprised I had the energy to dance as much as I was despite having a very exhausting toddler in my life. I can see how one might think that, but the secret is: toddlers build your endurance. If you can parent a crazy-active 2 1/2 year-old boy full-time, then dancing ’til dawn ain’t no thing.
[photos via my friends' instagrams and stuff]