Saturday, January 31, 2015

Selfishness and Solitude

This morning, I spent the entire morning in my favorite place: Bed. (See prior post titled, "In Bed").

Although it was sunny for the first time in weeks, it was blisteringly cold and windy outside, and I had bad cramps. But mostly I just needed to be alone. Geoff took both kids to a friend's house; I felt guilty and selfish.

In the same hour, a different friend (another mom) asked me for a blog post on selfishness, and how the definition of selfishness changes when we become parents. Her request was timely.

I can't speak for fathers, but for mothers, (or at least for me), this feeling of guilt and "selfishness" is acute and has a single common denominator: Solitude.

Whether it's an hour in the gym, a yoga class, a drink with a friend after work, a business trip out of town, or just wandering around aimlessly in a grocery store for an hour by yourself, for many mothers, that feeling of being "alone"-- anywhere--is simultaneously delicious and guilt-inducing.

I have plenty of separation from my kids. Probably too much, actually. The problem is, I don't get a lot of alone time, or time to do my own "thing" (whatever that is). And on the rare occasions that I do, I always feel guilty and selfish.

This morning (before I climbed back in bed), I had to drive a friend somewhere. I didn't bother to get out of my pajamas. The drive took 14 minutes round trip, and in those 14 minutes I had an elaborate fantasy about driving to the ferry terminal, putting my car and myself on the ferry, and just going wherever the ferry was going and never coming back. It reminded me of the sorts of "runaway" fantasies I would have as a child and a teenager.

I think we as mothers put a lot of pressure on ourselves to deny ourselves these sorts of feelings. We worry they mean we don't want and love our children. We fear and suppress these feelings because we are afraid of their implications.

But the reality is that you give up solitude, or solitude becomes charged with the moral relativity of "selfishness," when you become a mother. I think mourning the loss or change in that solitude is normal and OK; just as it's normal and OK to feel overjoyed and all of the happy feelings that motherhood brings.

Then again, maybe I'm wrong. The name of my blog would suggest as much.

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