I’m deconstructing another lie I tell myself when I feel overwhelmed with the amount of responsibilities and roles I have taken on in my life:
I have no space.
Now you see, a part of me really thinks this is TRUE.
Seriously, I walk around with kids clinging to my body. I can’t talk on the phone, or walk out of the room or go to the bathroom or down the street without someone demanding to know what I am doing. I can’t do a single thing without considering the lives and needs of at least 3 other people first.
If I’m not directly mothering, I am doing house care and logistics, all while trying to arrive at my office a few times a week in a somewhat professional manner. I am a mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend, and therapist.
I am always with SOMEONE. Space is nonexistent.
Ok, that’s the rant. Here is the reality: I have all the space I need and want.
I am someone who LOVES space.
I grew up in a family of five children, and shared a room, until I was 20 years old. That room of my own in college was a turning point. I discovered, finally, that I loved being alone. I lived alone for most of my twenties. I moved across the country, backpacked, and traveled: all alone. I felt independent, and I liked being that way.
But independence was one thing when I was single. Add in a spouse and children and all the dependencies I experience now, and its deeply confronting to figure out how to meet the range of needs I have for closeness AND autonomy.
As a mother of young children, I experience a certain form of paralysis at times when I’m faced with even a small window of time alone. If I haven’t planned for it, I’m at risk of being overwhelmed by the backlog of my own needs that I haven’t attended to, and squandering the time.
The simple answer to creating the space I need is to just schedule it on a regular basis. Although, scheduling anything these days is still a crap shoot. I constantly rework my schedule around my family’s needs, illnesses, and activities. Carving time out of that matrix is such an arduous and unreliable task that I might say to my husband, “Oh, you know, I don’t really need that time alone right now, I’m good.”
But, it turns out that if you freak out enough about having “no space,” your husband will start to help make SURE you get it. Now he simply gives me a look that says, “Don’t pretend that you are capable of continuing your week without some time for yourself. I’ve seen what happens when you don’t arrange that, and I think we should avoid that scenario at all costs.”
Really, this can all be conveyed with a glance.
So, I have to schedule it.
Then, when I finally do create some time for myself, you know what happens?
I fucking miss my kids.
I miss their bodies and voices. I miss their expressions on their faces. I miss their hands and nails that need trimming. I miss their struggles and hilarious ways of being. I have a mere moment of relief when my husband takes over, and I can leave and do something different, but that is about it.
I remember when I was pregnant I worried about how I would ever get enough time alone as a mother. I thought I would be starving for long retreats and sojourns alone. What I never expected was that I would enjoy being with my family so much that I struggle to be proactive about my need for space.
But, if I don’t have time away from the responsibilities of motherhood, I don’t enjoy mothering as much. I don’t have the energy for the demands of it, and I find myself getting frustrated and uninspired about mothering.
So you see, space isn’t the problem. I have space, its all around me. The issue is me. It’s about my feelings and needs that have changed drastically since becoming a mother. The issue is my own challenge to adapt to my new situation.
I’m nearly seven years into motherhood now, and I’m still getting settled. Life has gotten more complicated, more full, and much less predictable.
Or so it seems.
If I’m honest, it has always been true that to feel deeply fulfilled, I require a range of experiences. I need closeness and space, activity and rest, stimulation and quiet, connection and solitude, intensity and softness, challenge and support.
Space alone doesn’t nourish me if I don’t also have closeness with the people that I love. There is a lot of nourishment I experience with my husband and children. In fact, my family is probably the most resourcing aspect of my life. I really need my time with them.
There is plenty of space to be had. I just need to claim it. Its my job to advocate for what I need so that I can function well in all the roles I have taken on in my life. It is hard to do this because I have feelings that seem paradoxical and unresolvable, and this range of emotions can make decisions challenging.
But if I know what I really value—which is being a resource for others, while also attending to my own well being—then it is very clear what needs to happen so that I can do exactly that, and do it well.
On I go to my day planner, and pencil. Seriously, am I the only person who still uses those?