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May 22 2014

Taking Time Away From My Toddler is Not Easy–But Necessary

By at 11:04 am

running

For me, the five-day span between Monday and Friday is usually a long, tiring race to the finish line of getting things done. Between working full-time, commuting almost four hours a day, and having a household to maintain, my time with my toddler during the week is, unfortunately, pretty limited. So is my time for me.

Weekends, however, are another story. I’m fortunate in that my job doesn’t tend to require weekend work, other than the occasional email here and there. And in fact, the reason I purposely push myself so hard to be productive during the week is to free up weekend time to spend with my family.

But if I’m being honest, when the weekend rolls around, I also like to take a little bit of time for me. Usually I like to catch up on the fitness front by going for a run or two; or sometimes I’ll meet up with a friend at a local frozen yogurt or coffee shop. But often (er, always), this leaves me feeling guilty, because I know that it’s time I could be spending with my son. In fact, the same holds true any time I make plans that don’t include my child. I experience my own version of separation anxiety, or, to put it more accurately, separation-induced guilt.

Oddly enough, I don’t feel at all guilty about leaving my son at day care when I go to work. I have to work. That’s just my reality, so I suppose I more easily accept it. But once the weekend rolls around, this signal seems to go off in my brain with a warning: “Limited kid time approaching. Must. Spend. Every. Second. With. Child.”

Rather than let that guilt completely destroy my downtime, lately I’ve been pushing myself to get past it, and here’s how that logic goes:

1. The notion of “abandoning” my child for an hour here and there is probably all in my head, not his. While I’m out running or having coffee with a friend I haven’t seen in months, he’s probably busy playing at home, or running around the playground with his father. I don’t actually believe that while I’m out, my son is sitting there doing nothing but bemoaning my absence. And I’m sure he doesn’t resent me in any way for taking a couple of hours for myself here and there. (Do 2-year-olds even understand the concept of resentment? I doubt it.)

2. My “me time” often consists of exercise, which is important for my health and wellbeing. I truly believe that the healthier I am, the more energy I’ll have to take care of my son.

3. Friendships are important to maintain, and you can’t always maintain them after hours when your child is asleep for the night. So if I want to retain a connection to my friends, it sometimes means making time for them during the day. And I’d rather have an hour of kid-free, quality conversation than invite a friend over for the afternoon and spend half my time ignoring her and the other half stuffing crackers in my son’s mouth to keep him from interrupting our conversation.

Am I justifying my actions to make myself feel better about not spending every possible moment with my son? Of course I am. But do I also believe that it’s okay to have a little “me time” here and there? Absolutely. I know in my heart that I am 100 percent committed to taking care of my son. And now, several guilt-ridden workouts and Starbucks trips later, I’m finally learning that sometimes it’s okay to also take care of myself.

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