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Nurturing your inner adult

There are times when I’m sitting with other moms and we’re talking about one of the standard subjects: If there’s a mom with a baby, we’re talking about nursing or sleeping. If there’s a mom with a toddler, we’re talking about a house full of mayhem. Any kid-related topic that comes up gets us talking about that subject, even if we’re long past it in our child-rearing lives.

Those times are wonderful and create such a great bonding experience, especially between moms. But then, occasionally, it occurs to me that we could actually be talking about something else. The thing is, we may know very little about the other parents amongst us outside of their child-rearing lives. Do we know what she thought she’d be doing as an adult when she was a teen? Do we know the bawdiest story she has from her days working as a barrista? Do we know about her former passion for roller derby? Do we have any idea what she used to talk about before she had kids?

That’s why I’m a big advocate of moms getting out of their mom circle and into the wider world. Even if the subject matter still involves kids, being with other adults passionate about the same thing feeds our inner lives and makes us much better parents.

This weekend I went to a children’s writing conference in Big Sur. Now, this may not sound so far from hanging out with a group of moms, and in some ways, it wasn’t. Though the majority of participants were female, and the majority of those were moms (and grandmas), we spent very little time exchanging information about our kids. Number and gender were the most common pieces of information, and possibly an anecdote or two would follow. But for the most part, we talked about our own passion for stories.

Many of the participants were probably like me: I’ve always loved children’s stories, but it was only as a mom that I started getting interested in writing them. But a fair amount of the participants were not yet parents, or were parents whose interest in children’s writing pre-dated parenthood. In any case, it was a weekend of intense talking about something that only tangentially related to our mom-lives, and the combined creative energy was invigorating.

For a few days, I handed my mom life off to my dad (since my mom was off being a mom to one of my siblings) and then my husband. As soon as I stepped out the door alone, I had that liberating feeling of being responsible for my self only. It’s not that I dislike being responsible for my kids, but when I step out of that life I feel like I’m a professional jockey on a horse bareback or a ballerina who kicks off her toe shoes and goes for pure personal expression. Just like the rider and the ballerina, I’m going to come back to my real life. But striking out on my own for a few days reminds me who I am, separate from my kids.

No matter what your interest, I recommend that you make a commitment to get out and do it occasionally without your kids. When you come home, I promise that you’ll be that much better of a parent, and that much happier of a person.

Posted in Parenting, Psychology.

6 Responses

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  1. Kristin says

    How timely — I’m going down to Southern California later this week without my kids to be on a TV show. This will be the first time I’ve been away overnight from my two-year-old so I’m a bit anxious, but I think everything will be fine. Meanwhile, I’m going to have a good time.

  2. Resa says

    This is such wonderful advice, thanks. As my kids get older (they’re both teens now), I get more freedom to be “me”, but even so, it’s a good reminder.

  3. shell says

    I agree! Unfortunately, I get little opportunity to take a break from motherhood. I used to meet once a month with my writer’s group that turned into more of a woman’s group, but I now that the boys are older, I can’t take them with me, and I don’t have a babysitter available (at least very often). Coincidently, all the women in that group are older than me and don’t have children of their own. But I love them and being with them – not talking just about kids! I did have an opportunity this past year to go overnight on a photo shoot, and that was wonderful! Doing something I’m passionate about (photographing old homes) was a wonderful break, and it was short enough that I didn’t worry about the kids.

  4. Suki says

    It’s really hard to deal with the reality of having kids when the people you’re involved with don’t really understand! Even older women who had kids once can forget how hard it is. I wish I could offer advice on how to get back to getting free time for yourself. I know families who do kid-trades with each other — each week one or the other family takes all the kids so the adults can get some time off. This might be something to start looking for so that you can get the time you need.

  5. Candace says

    Hi Suki. 🙂 I was motivated to come check out your blog from The
    List we are both on.

    I made the decision to return to competitive Jiu Jitsu and submission grappling when my youngest was about two years old. How did it work? I don’t know, it just did… I make time, somehow, to train. It is much easier now that we all homeschool, frankly. I’m out of the house with them a lot, and out of it without them about three evenings a week, too. It frequently drives my husband crazy, but I keep telling him that almost nothing improves my ability to be a dedicated homeschooling mother like the opportunity to not be one for a few hours. I come home happy to see everyone, ready to make dinner, ready to clean house and power through laundry, etc. Parenting is exhausting, and for me it takes the ability to have my own identity that isn’t Someone’s Mom to do it well. Otherwise I just forget where they end, and I begin. Great post, Suki, thank you!

  6. Suki says

    Thanks for your reply, Candace. I completely agree with you about the Law of Mom Energy, which seems to work very differently from our accepted laws of physics. In the LME, the more energy the mom puts out as a mom, the more energy she needs to put out as herself. If she only puts out energy as a mom, eventually she gets exhausted. But if she puts out energy as herself as well, it seems to bolster the mom energy! Good luck with your Jiu Jitsu — that seems to be a perfect pairing with being a homeschooling mom. Do you get a cape and lettered stretchy uniform, too? 🙂

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