Friday, May 18, 2012

"Me Time"

Last week I took a cue from my ol' pal C.S. Lewis who said, "It is a good rule after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between."

I decided to re-read Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches, by Rachel Jankovic, after having finished Beyond Bathtime (linked to my review).

Loving the Little Years is a quick and easy read and I highly recommend it. (I've reviewed it before HERE.) I've also purchased several copies to give away to various friends. I have also been informed that more than one friend has turned around and bought several more copies for mothers that they know. Truly, this is a great book! My opinion on that score remains unchanged.

During this particular re-read, I was struck by the chapter on "Me time." I've heard it and I know you have too -- we mothers "deserve" time alone. Neither Jankovic nor myself would argue against that point. Raising children is a hard, tough (and somewhat draining) job to have. For example, if you're sick, there is no calling into work to take time off! You must work through the pain or discomfort! There is always something that needs doing and always someone who wants your attention. Sometimes you might feel like you just want to escape and take a personal vacation day. And, quite honestly and frankly, sometimes you might need to. Getting away and recharging is important. However, taking time to be alone is something that I think a wise wife and mother will consider carefully. Please note that I'm preaching to myself here because I needed to re-read this chapter.

I'm an introvert. I like to be alone. In fact, I recharge best in peace and quiet. Lots of talking, lots of people and lots of noise for prolonged periods of time leaves me feeling anything but energized. I like getting together with friends, but I prefer to get together with them only periodically as it keeps conversations fresh and exciting. (I also like to make sure I have a few hours of uninterrupted time with them when I do meet for fellowship so that we can really take time to share with and encourage one another. Then I like to go away again and process for awhile.) My children do not seem to share this same desire for a patterned relationship with great quiet spaces. (Nor should they!) They like to be with me, sitting on me, talking to me, grabbing my hand and walking alongside me, requesting piggie back rides and wanting to tell me long stories about the intricacies of Angry Birds and Legos. Some days I feel like the Grinch, grabbing my head and complaining about all the "noise, noise, noise!!!" It overwhelms me and I need to get away, have some space, and just be quiet for a little bit. Then I return to them recharged and at peace again. Thankfully I have a husband who understands this and supports me by giving me opportunity and ability to "escape" for my "me time" on a regular basis.

Recharging is good and I'm all for it. But what I'm NOT in favor of is the message that we mothers/wives/women deserve the "me time" or have a right to it. We need to be careful not to stray into territory that will cause us to fuss and fume if we do not have our time alone, which will then cause resentment to build up between ourselves and our spouses and/or children. I particularly have to be careful about how I view nap time (or quiet time) in our household. Every afternoon from 2-4 p.m. my three children either take naps or have their own quiet periods. Sometimes, for whatever reason, that doesn't happened and I lose my own quiet time in the process. This tends to put a strain on me as I feel that I "need" my time alone. (And in a sense, remember I already admitted that I do! But while I recognize that quiet brings me rest, I need not to not feel resentment when I do not receive my just afternoon reward! Ahem.) This is something I have to work on.

In Loving the Little Years, Jankovic says:

. . . [T]he Christian view of self is very different, and you need to make sure that it is the one you have. We are like the characters in a story. our essential self is not back in the intro, waiting to be discovered. Who you are is where you are. When you are married, your essential self is married. As the story grows, so does your character. your children change you into a different person. If you suddenly panic because it all happened so fast and now you don't recognize yourself, when you need is not time alone. What you need is your people. Look out - look at the people who made you what you are - your husband and your children. Study them. They are you. If you want to know yourself, concentrate on them.
Those women who try to find themselves by stripping away the "others" will find that they are a very broken thing. This will lead them to resent the people who they think made them that way. She may say, "I used to be so energetic, but all these people take, take, take from me and now I have no time to just be me!" And the world gathers around and comforts her and says she needs some time to follow her dreams.
But the Christian woman needs to see, "I used to be so boring! Now my character has some depth, some people to love, some hardships to bear. Now I have some material to work with!" A Christian woman's view is always forward and never back. (Chapter 12, Me Time, pages 61-62)

She concludes with this statement:

If you want some quality "me time," make a date with your husband. Do something special with your children. These people are you. Your identity is supposed to be intertwined - that is the way God wrote the story, and it is the way He intends us to read it. (Chapter 12, Me Time, page 62)

That's a doozy of a truth for me to remember. They are me. I am their mother. I am Jonathan's wife. That is who I am and this is the time we have together. Contrary to how it may feel at times, our time together is very fleeting. A brief moment in time is all that I have with my children. A brief life with Jonathan. Time continues to pick up speed and my babies are no longer babies.

I want to remember this. But I don't want to just want to remember this truth - I want to live it in light of the resurrection, knowing that every day I live as if Jesus died and rose again for my sins and has called me to live a life that reflects the truth of Him to others. My children will learn to love God by the way I live my life with them. I am not saying that their faith is dependent on me, for it is not. But their view of God will be influenced by the way I live, the things I say, and what I represent of Him to them. Representing that they are interfering with my own plans and selfish desires for "me time" does not reflect how God views them and says nothing of the plans He has for each one of their amazing lives. My time is not my own. Christ paid a great price so that I would be His and now my job is to glorify Him and represent Him as accurately as possible to those who help make me who I am - a wife and a mother - no matter how much noise they might manage to make in any given moment.

Here's the main point I need to remember:

It is important to seek the wisdom of God in discerning what I personally need to do to build our home. Sometimes that means not planning a night out, or using "quiet time" entirely for my own individual pursuits. This answer will look different for each mother and each family (I do realize this) and it will also look different in the various seasons of life. For me, right now, it's knowing that sometimes I need to give up quiet for the sake of the family and for the sake of the gospel.

The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. Proverbs 14:1

As a side note - I honestly don't even want to hit "publish" on this post for fear that my darling daughter, who is teething, will not sleep this afternoon and I'll be instantly tested to see if I believe anything that I have typed. This is the danger of blogging, you know. I'm tried by my own declarations of what is true! Therefore there is the ever present need to pray for and encourage one another as we persevere!


Annette W. said...

Well said...some new thoughts to consider. Looks like a fabulous book.

Kathy said...

Very good review. I've seen this book, but have not read it myself. But, now I want to! The passage you quoted from the book spoke to my heart. I agree, there must be a balance of taking care of ourselves vs. demanding our own ways. Thank you.

Sky said...

I agree! I like what you, CB, pointed out in regards to resenting a missed "me time" it is easy to feel those sentiments when being a 24/7 mother, we do need that time but we are also an integral gear in the works of our family, we are what makes the family a whole unit!
This quote really popped out at me;
"Those women who try to find themselves by stripping away the "others" will find that they are a very broken thing."
That is one of those nail-to-head insights. This characteristic is what I see in most of my secular friends who have children. They resent them, they pawn them off constantly and get huffy at the slightest inconvenience. I often wonder why they even have progeny! But this is a natural human trait, the selfish instinct that has the potential to take over any act or life.
I have four friends who are on their fifth child this summer and all of them are wonderful mothers, they are patient and loving and kind and gentle. They are completely involved with each child, they teach, cook, sew and plan family outings, they are a completely dedicated gear in their family's works, to the point that I do wonder if they have any identity beyond their children, but you know what? Their example of motherhood is beautiful and it encourages those qualities in my own life with my kids!
What I've found in my life is that peace and happiness come from trusting God's plan for me and those around me. That I take pleasure in the little things, even when I don't get my quiet time! There is a peace, a certain satisfaction, that I am doing what God has called me to do; My best for Him and leaving all else to Him.

Carrie said...

@Sky - YES! And AMEN! My best for Him -- and leaving all else for Him. Well said!!!

*carrie* said...


I, too, loved this book, and read it twice last year.

Interesting story about Twila Paris: I wrote her a letter when I was a kid (8 or 9) and told her I wanted to be a contemproary Christian singer when I grew up. To which I say to myself now: Don't quit your day job! =)

Queen of Carrots said...

Or to quote a less spiritual author, Terry Pratchett:

"When a woman's children grow up and move on, she finds herself wanting to live her own life."

"Really? Whose life she *been* living, then?"

I appreciate the point about the others in our life being part of who our real self is--we don't and can't exist in a vacuum.

I find that the time I get is much more valuable if I use it as preparation. What will actually help me be better able to face the next round? Some things that might be great choices for someone else (or that I might love the idea of in the abstract) would only leave me stressed and cranky. Above all, burning the list of "this is what a good mother does" obligations. My family needs me, not some mythic hero.

I do think it's not helpful to have your life *completely* wrapped up in your children, simply because it's bad for children to think the world revolves around them. We should all be pressing on, growing, learning--bringing our children UP, not bringing ourselves down to them. Be a bridge, not a garage.

Diary of an Autodidact said...

So many things to like about this review (and the quotes from the book). I too am an introvert, and the reverberations can sometimes be too much. (Can you all not talk ALL AT ONCE!)

I would hope that all (good) husbands realize the need for some alone time, and relish the thought of some special time with the kids themselves. (I firmly believe that the time I had alone with each of my kids when they were very little - and nobody to bail me out - led to a better relationship with them.)

I like Sky's point that "finding oneself" seems to mean ditching the kids (and I might add, husbands too.)

Carrie, you are so right about the difference between enjoying something, and feeling you "deserve" it. If I might put my "ranting hat" on for a minute, this sense of entitlement ruins more marriages than anything else. If you are "owed" something, who is supposed to provide you with that? The husband, of course. And if he doesn't and you are not happy, then it is HIS FAULT! (Fill in all of the entitlements you want: me time, a certain number of children, a certain financial or social status, happiness, whatever. Or a certain vision of "spiritual leadership".) When you feel unhappy or disappointed, it isn't because you had unrealistic expectations, it is because he is bad. (The generic "you", not any specific person, of course.)

This isn't limited to women, certainly, but our culture reinforces female entitlement more than male entitlement.

Barbara H. said...

I am much the same -- an introvert who needs a certain amount of quiet time to recharge. As you say, there is a difference between "demanding" that time vs. understanding that I operate best with it and trusting the Lord to either provide it or enable me to do without it. He's done both at various times.

As children get older they can learn to respect the courtesy to give mom some time, to understand, "I'll be with you in ten minutes," etc. That's one thing I've struggled to balance over the years -- I was raised in the "Children should be seen and not heard" era (and somewhat the "Children shouldn't speak until spoken to" principle as well), and I certainly didn't want to go THAT route with my own -- that approach has its own problems. But then it seemed the pendulum swung to the other extreme, and now I see parents who are constantly jumping up to fulfill a child's request (or demand), never able to carry on a conversation for being interrupted every other minute, etc., and run ragged til the kids go to bed. Children can and need to learn consideration for others, how to wait patiently for what they want, not to interrupt, how to entertain themselves for a few minutes, etc., but it is almost a lifelong process, and it's hard to know sometimes how best to handle those situations. I guess one difference is motive: if I don't want to fulfill a request because I feel bugged to death, that's probably an attitude problem on my part, but if I think they're getting a little snippy and demanding and need to learn to exercise patience, then I can still lovingly say "no" and suggest something else for them to do, etc.

Different situations, different ages, different seasons, different personalities, all may need a slightly different approach. I'm so glad God promises wisdom when we ask Him for it!

Shonya said...

(Lots and lots and lots of stuff I don't feel like typing out).

But mostly, thank you for this great review/revisiting of that great little book. I need to have my friend return it so I can read it again. :)

Oh, and a hearty amen to Autodidact.

And a quote from A Mom Just Like You re: this subject: "When you do have a chance for a break, receive it not with a sense of guilt, nor with a sense of entitlement, but with simple gratitude to the God who cares for your every need" (216).

Bluerose said...

I needed this post AND all these comments! I guess that means I NEED to read this book, too! :)

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