There’s a man sitting on my couch right now. We just did bedtime together. He read with two girls, while I had a second grader read out loud to me. Then he brushed two sets of teeth and I brushed one. He said goodnight to a few kids and so did I, then we high fived in the hallway.
This man. He isn’t perfect and neither am I, but because of him, I’ve been able to experience the freedom I’ve needed to be a sane, happy Mom. After our 3rd child, anxiety swept in. Through conversations with people I love and trust, exercise, time with friends and freedom to be more than only “Mama”, anxiety has no hold of me anymore. Here’s the thing though—–now I can spot from a mile away a woman who is dying to get out and experience life outside the walls of her home.
These women, who like me, love their families more than anything, but who feel a stirring inside for something more. Women who have hearts filled with plans, dreams and ideas, but who don’t even know where to begin….So they do nothing and then they swell up in anxiety because they have all this unused energy and mental power building up inside of them. Whether it’s time alone, time to go to the gym, take a class. walk alone or make plans with girlfriends….women are feeling trapped in motherhood and life. The sad part is being a Mom is the most important job on earth, but it was never meant to leave us depressed, lonely or anxious.
But–what do we DO about this? How do we tell our husband how much we need this time alone? How do we learn to pass the baton to him and let him take over? Or how do we deal with a man who simply doesn’t get it?
For our family, here are a few things that have worked:
-Don’t expect him to parent like you. When you leave, the TV might be on more, or the kids might play outside in their nice clothes. They might eat junk food or not do their chores, but guess what? For a day or a few hours, it’s okay. Let it go. If you’re looking for some time alone, stop being a control freak.
-Try not to criticize him (or the kids). Chances are the house will be messier than when you left and you’ll have some catching up to do. Don’t say anything. If you’re wanting your family to cheerfully send you off for some alone time sometimes, don’t critique them.
-Allow yourself a few moments to prepare mentally for arriving back home. For me, one of the hardest challenges is going from a day hiking with friends, splat back into being the Mama. When I’m driving home, I’ll often take a few moments to rehearse in my mind how I’ll react to all the needs I’ll inevitably be greeted with when I open the door. It’s culture shock so plan for it and handle it with grace.
-Talk to him about WHY you need this time away, when the time is right. Is he tired? Stressed? Is it late at night and you’re all emotional about it? Wait until the time is right. Explain it to him or write him a letter. Help him understand the “why” behind it- not just because all your friends are doing it. Why do you need to get away sometimes? Explain, when the time is right.
-Don’t compare him to other men. On the outside, many women seem to have perfect husbands who cook, clean, do laundry, homework and scrub toilets while they’re gone. Men who are probably planning times for their wives to be away right now while I type this….Ha! Not the case! No one is perfect and guys sure don’t like being compared to the other husbands who seem to be doing it all perfectly.
-Call out the strengths you see in him. Build him up for who he is. The more you speak it, the more you’ll believe it and the more he’ll become it. Tell him what you like about him and let him know he’s appreciated.
-Thank him. We just had our 26th monthly ladies hike and to this day, I often tell my husband the reason I’m able to do it is ALL because of him. Really, it is. He needs to know how thankful I am and how much his support means to me. Don’t just thank him once either. Thank him each time, even if you don’t think it’s necessary.
-Be your best self when you come home. Show your family that time away helps you be your best and then when he has an opportunity to do something with his friends, cheer for him and encourage him to go.
Here’s to strong families, adventure and happy, healthy women, marriages and kids.
Ask for what you want, and be prepared to get it. -Maya Angelou