It’s one of my least favorite things, and lately I feel like it’s a constant low-volume noise that runs through my life: guilt. Specifically, the sense of guilt I feel when I’m not with our daughter (outside of school hours), when I’m doing something that’s just for me. Before I was a parent I felt like parents were probably just overreacting and over-thinking it. I mean, how could you feel guilty about doing the simplest things like going to the gym or going shopping by yourself every once in a while? But now that I have a kidlet of my own, I get it – that guilt feels very real to me, no matter how hard I try to release it.
It’s an extremely unpleasant feeling that has the potential to sabotage a good time, and I’ve tried to ditch it with deep breathing, distraction, rationalizing, you name it. At best, I can turn the volume way down on it and forget about it for a while, but it always seems to come creeping back into my soul. I know on so many levels that personal time is GREAT for parents: it’s crucial to our senses of self, it renews our reserves of patience and peace, it helps us feel the slightest semblance of balance. But inevitably at some point while I’m getting my haircut or dining out with a girlfriend, that pit-of-my-stomach feeling of guilt creeps in and my mind wanders back to our little girl. No matter how fried I’ve felt at times, when I get away for an hour or two (or a very rare overnight) I start to miss my little bug and feel like maybe I should just be with her instead of out and about. It sucks.
I am trying to get better about getting my Buddha on and noticing the feelings while letting them float away, but that’s easier said than done. It’s been six years now that I’ve been a parent and that sense of guilt still permeates my “free” time. I envy my husband, who doesn’t seem to feel it nearly as much as I do, and I envy other parents who seem to not feel it all. (Three weeks without the kids trekking through Europe? No problem!) So when I saw this little nugget on Twitter this morning, I had to read and re-read it a few times before it really sank in; when it did, my heart felt immediately lighter.
“Just like children need to play, adults need to decompress w/o guilt.”
Aline Newman tweeted it about a Forbes article that Laura Vanderkam had linked to earlier, but regardless of its source, it resonated with me so deeply and I immediately knew it will be one of those things I will never forget. Of course we need to decompress without guilt, but it’s the comparison to children’s need for play that really hit home for me. I am ALL about letting F play on her own and have lots of downtime for play. I understand on some fundamental level that kids NEED play, as I think most parents do. But equating a child’s need for play with a parent’s need for guilt-free decompression time, whatever form that may take – YES! I love it. THAT makes sense to me in a huge way, and it feels like something really good just fell into place.
Twitter is a funny thing, and there are times when it just seems like too much information. But when those bits of awesome float to the top, I am grateful it exists. This is one of those times. It just so happens that I’m getting my hair cut and colored this afternoon – I’ll let you know how it goes.