Thursday, February 17, 2011

"Alone" Time: Healthy Or Stressful

I think I'm having attachment issues.

I've been in this weird place lately where I have been struggling to define myself outside of being Mommy to someone. "Struggling" is a bad word for what I'm feeling though. It's not a struggle, I am not unhappy per se, just a little lost. For the past almost 3 years, I have been either pregnant or nursing. My body has not been entirely my own, and everything I do to it, everything I put into it, every decision I make effects another human being in one way or another. In a lot of ways I stand in awe of myself because my body -- MY body -- sustained another human life entirely for quite some time, in the womb & outside. What I have been able to do is fantastic & I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.

But because of those decisions, I haven't been away from my daughter for more than a few hours at a time. I'm actually kind of proud of that - I was there for all of her firsts. I watched them myself & didn't have to hear about them from someone else. I am there when she goes to sleep at night & I am there when she wakes up in the morning. She is my world. Of course, it is also healthy for both myself & K for me to go out and have some separate time from her. As mothers we need a mental break every now & then to gather ourselves & regroup, and our children need to experience their world without us right there beside them. And while I have taken advantage of some "alone" time in the past, it has usually just consisted of a few hours out in the evening, or an extra hour or two of sleep on a weekend morning. It never occurred to me to spend an entire night out somewhere, and it hasn't really been an option in the past because K was still nursing.

But she's not anymore. She's not nursing & I don't HAVE TO spend as much time with her. Realizing this & knowing that I won't have an opportunity like this again for at least another year or so, I made plans to visit my cousin in NYC for her birthday - My first overnight trip away from my daughter EVER, and an entire 24 hours to just be me, as an adult. Without having to worry about anyone else but me. I was really looking forward to the mental break.

Until I actually thought about it. I haven't spent an entire night away from my daughter since she has been born. Do I really want to do that now? I knew she would be fine, leaving her in the capable arms of Laura, my wife & K's Marmy. It wasn't her care I was worried about. But the thought of sleeping in a completely different building in a totally different state as K was making me very emotional & I didn't know why at first. But it's because she's becoming independent from me and a part of me feels like I am already about to lose her, so why spend any more time away from her than I have to? Since weaning, she has pushed me to the side in a way. She is reaching for Laura more & more and is not as dependent on me. So I am trying to cherish the little time that is left with just her & I at home before Baby #2 arrives. It won't be long before I can't give her 100% of my attention because there will be a new baby to care for. It won't be long before she doesn't want to nap with me anymore (and I don't know if I will be able to nap with her once a sibling comes into the mix). It won't be long before she starts preschool & starts learning things & spending a larger amount of time away from me. It won't be long before she grows up. Realizing all of that, do I really have to spend a night away from her now?

I kept hearing, "She'll be fine, just go & enjoy yourself" or "You need to do this for you, you won't have a chance to do this for a while". But the truth is, I didn't WANT to spend the night away. It was causing me more emotional stress than it was worth just thinking about being away from her for that long. I had a similar issue when she was much younger & still nursing. I would go out for a few hours in the evening, but my head would never really be where I was physically. I was constantly wondering how K was, is she hungry, is she taking a bottle, should I have pumped before I left, and sometimes it was more mentally & emotionally draining to be away from her than it was rewarding or healthy for me. It wasn't worth the effort or worry because I wasn't getting out of the night what I should have been. It wasn't really a break & I didn't feel any better for it.

Faced with the same dilemma regarding a sleepover, I decided against it. Yes, I wanted a break. Yes, I needed to get away on my own for some time to be just me. But I did not need to have a sleepover to achieve that. Just a long day would suffice. And if I'm not ready to do an overnight away from my daughter then I shouldn't do it, regardless of what others think is "good" for me. I know what's good for me and what I can handle, and I can't handle an overnight yet, and that's OK. There is plenty of time for that in the future.

As with all things, there has to be a balance. Alone time is great & healthy for everyone. But not if it causes stress. The reward must be greater than the sacrifice for it to be beneficial, otherwise it defeats the purpose. And for me, right now, it is worth it & healthy to spend a very long day & late night in NYC as me. But a sleepover would defeat the purpose.

Have you had a situation where you needed to re-evaluate what was beneficial and what was detrimental? How did you decide where that fine line was?

1 comment:

  1. AW! I haven't spent a night away from T either, so I know the feeling. My mom keeps telling me that it would be good for me, good for Andy & me to get away for a night, but I think there is so much time for that to happen, I'm not into rushing it. I am planning a weekend away myself in August, so I'll have to face it on my own then, but I'm hoping I'll be more prepared as he'll be nearing 3. Anyway, it looked to me (from pics) that you had a nice time out that weekend! Hope you're feeling well. :)