The first time I tried to read it, I closed it before I got to the end. Because you know what I’m pretty sick of? Being told how I should feel, how I should spend my time, what I shouldn’t eat and how I should parent. But I’m also a writer, who jots down my thoughts on all the same things, and maybe others see my words as similarly bossy. I don’t know.
I do know I’m tired of the open letters. Tired of headlines that start: “Dear Mom Who…” or, “To the person at the grocery store who…” I’m over it. I’m tired of reading letters from strangers to other strangers telling them the way they order their days is wrong.
But whenever something annoys me to the level that this post did, I figure there must be something to it. I mulled it over all day. Wednesday was a freak, 70-degree day here in Coastal Virginia; it was a one day break before another winter storm threatened slush and ice. My two littlest and I had lunch with a friend, ignoring the housework that tried to demand my attention. We stayed later than we should have so my eldest daughter could play at the park after school, and when we arrived home the girls put on their rain boots to hunt for the “treasure” they had buried in the snow the week prior. I stayed inside, scrambling to feed the baby and cook dinner.
It wasn’t ten minutes before Emerie, my five-year-old, came in breathlessly relaying an emergency. “My sister is stuck in her rain boots in the mud,” she announced. I left the beginnings of a sauce on the stove and the baby strapped in his highchair to investigate. This is what I saw.
“I have something for you,” she called; “I saw it and I thought of you.” Meanwhile I struggled to get the boots loose, accidentally breaking one of them. My girls appeared at the front door, flinging it open wide and emerging with bare feet to “help,” all the while abandoning their brother in his chair and letting our excitable dog escape. The dog greeted our neighbor, with whom I was still trying to have some semblance of a conversation, and then ran on down the street. I called to the girls to get back in the house, excused myself from the neighbor, and ran to catch the dog. When I returned with him, and to my barefoot children, who were still chatting with our neighbor, she handed me this little towel:
I accepted the gift and thanked her; I told her how (clearly) perfect it fit this time for me. I ushered my children inside and told her I wish I could have spent more time.
I thought back to that article. I know it was nothing if not well meaning. Maybe her experience really did change her; maybe she really doesn’t need time to herself now that she has an eternal perspective. I say good for her, and I mean it. Supporting our neighbors in this struggle over the past six months and walking with our friends whose eight-year-old has courageously fought a similar fight, it’s shifted something in me somehow.
But it hasn’t changed my need to be an individual. God blessed me with these beautiful children. He created me to be their mother. I am beyond grateful that he chose me to raise them, and I am awestruck part of every day. But he also made me to be a wife, a writer, a sister, a friend, and yes, yes, yes, before all of that: a child of God, an individual with interests and hopes and fears and dreams, not all of which were meant to either be fulfilled by my children or repressed.
So here I sit at 6:15 a.m., drinking coffee and frantically writing before my youngest calls me. This is my time. And I will continue to need it, along with phone calls from girlfriends and dates with my husband and long walks with just my music and time alone. And it’s not because I don’t have an eternal perspective, and it’s not because I don’t love my children, and it’s not because I don’t love Jesus enough. It’s because I know who I am enough to know what I need, and I know that asking for what I need doesn’t make me weak any more than denying I need it makes me strong.
So here's the ironic part where I tell you what to do: Don’t be afraid to know what you need and to make space for it. It will make you better in every part of your life. Don’t let anyone—however well meaning—tell you otherwise.