Ask any mom of young children what her ideal Mother’s Day would look like, and if she’s being honest, chances are she’d like an afternoon without her kids. All. By. Herself. I know that doesn’t exactly match the spirit of the day, but moms are already with their young kids the vast majority of the time. Every day is “Mother’s Day.” Moms are always caring for their children, changing diapers, making food, acting as peacekeeper and referee, constantly being interrupted from a task they’d like to accomplish. So the thought of not having to do that for a day actually sounds really nice.
Most mothers have learned, either intuitively or by necessity, that being a mom means putting the needs of others first. Yes, you need your sleep, but if your two-month-old is hungry at 3:00 AM, you’re going to get up to feed him, even when you know you’ll be up a few short hours later to get the older kids ready for school. Maybe you’d really love to finish the book you started, but your fourth-grader is struggling with fractions and needs help with her homework. Perhaps you have a long list of errands and to-dos, but your kindergartner wakes up with an ear infection, causing you to set aside all your plans so you can take him to the doctor.
Moms seldom get a moment alone with young kids in the house. Even the bathroom isn’t safe. Almost without fail, one of my kids will pound on the door or come to me with an “urgent” request or to tattle on a sibling while I’m in the shower or otherwise occupied in the restroom. They want to “help” while I’m making dinner. They need to be held and comforted when they fall and hurt themselves. They want my full attention when they’re telling me a story. They need intervention when they fight. They need… You get the picture. In short, it’s exhausting to be a mom on demand.
Yet I find a strange paradox at work here. Even though I yearn for time to myself without my kids, I feel guilty taking it. I feel like I’m a bad mom to take time for me; like I’m choosing my own needs over theirs. And what kind of mom does that?
A smart one.
The argument has been made that in taking time for yourself to recharge, you’re actually making yourself a better mom. You’ll be happier and in a better frame of mind to deal with your kids if you get a break now and then, rather than allowing resentment to build up toward them for monopolizing your time. Besides that, you’re setting a good example for them, showing them how to care for themselves in the future when they have to balance personal and family time. And believe it or not, taking time to be alone has biblical precedent.
The Gospels record numerous instances of Jesus going off on His own to pray. After feeding the 5,000 and dismissing the crowd, Jesus “went up on a mountainside by himself to pray,” according to Matthew 14:23. After healing many sick and driving out demons, Mark 1:35 tells us that “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” This was a common occurrence, as we see from Luke 5:16: “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
Jesus knew what it meant to never have a spare moment for Himself. People were always looking for Jesus. He couldn’t get away unnoticed. When He and His disciples went across the lake, people followed them. When they withdrew to more remote regions, people came. People needed Jesus. He was constantly caring for the needs of others; healing them, feeding them, preaching to them. He knew the crowds wouldn’t stop seeking Him out. He knew he couldn’t wait for them to stop coming to Him. If He wanted a moment alone in prayer, He had to deliberately make the time. If Jesus, the very Son of God, needed time away, why should we feel guilty about needing the same?
True, Jesus achieved the perfect balance of serving others selflessly and tending to His own spiritual and physical needs. We, as imperfect human beings, will never achieve that. I’ll always want more “me” time and be tempted to get resentful of my kids for getting in the way of that. And while Jesus retreated to pray, we may have less virtuous goals. Personally, I’d love to take a weekend all to myself and just write, write, write. Maybe other moms would love to catch up on sleep, take a long walk, do a craft like scrapbooking or quilting, or watch favorite movies. None of these things are wrong, so long as we don’t neglect our own spiritual life.
So fellow moms, go ahead and take some time for yourself, away from your children. You’re doing a great job with your kids. I hope you had a great Mother’s Day, and I hope you got to spend some of it all alone.