Author Summer Land and husband and their two young kids

Why Finding Your Independence After Having Kids Makes You An Even Better Parent

I recently read an interview with a woman who lovingly wrote, “Life finally made sense after having children.”

For days, I couldn’t stop thinking about that line. Life made sense.

As a mother of a four year old and two year old, I feel like life has never made less sense. Don’t get me wrong – this beautiful path I’m on is glorious and something I do not take for granted, however, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

Before I had kids, I had a hunger for life that was insatiable. I traveled fearlessly, I studied enthusiastically, I socialized endlessly, I set professional goals worthy of an unrealistic romantic comedy starring Reese Witherspoon. I believed that life was what you made it and I was going to make something very good. I fell in love. I moved from the US to Australia. I bought a house. I got a dog. I wrote a book. And then I had kids.

Suddenly, my mindset shifted and what was once exuberance and optimism was now fear and anxiety. I had these two tiny humans who literally made me cry-laugh tears of joy by simply looking at them. But this is where life stopped making sense.

I don’t know if this is a personal problem, but having an overwhelming amount of love for someone is exhausting. Ever since becoming a mother I’ve been constantly terrified that something horrible will happen and am hypersensitive to news stories regarding children, refugees, animals, climate change, cancer, Russia, ISIS and of course, the death of Robin Williams. In between tearfully scrolling through my newsfeed or trying to not look at a dead kangaroo on the side of the road, I often wonder how and why I could have so much good when there is so much bad happening in the world? (I should mention I just turned 30 in August, so I think I’m due for an existential crisis.) And then of course I freak out at the thought of losing any part of it.

This is where the extreme guilt comes in. Because there is so much messed up stuff happening in the world, my instincts are to stay inside my home with my kids and do nothing but love and protect them. But let’s be honest – hanging out with your kids all day, every day sucks, especially if you’re a mom like me. (One who doesn’t have any craft organized and doesn’t want to play hide and seek more than once in a twenty-minute span.) Don’t get me wrong – I love being a mom. I just also really love being myself – the writer/ runner/ friend/ wife/ daughter/ eater.

I think we can all agree that, “Me Time,” as a parent is sparse. However, I’m going to argue it might be the most important thing. From conception you’re mentally and physically giving and giving and giving. It’s inevitable that at some point, you’re going to be depleted. I’m sure there are super moms out there, but I’m going to raise my hand and say right now that I’m not one of them. I’m good, but I will admit that I get tired and lose my patience and end up crying in the car. (Which I know is a right of passage for all parents.) I know that I need me time to recharge my batteries. However, taking that me time since becoming a mom hasn’t been easy. I feel guilty when I go to work. I feel guilty when I want to pursue a passion project. I feel guilty when I want to go on holiday without my kids. I also feel afraid. What if something happens while I’m away? What if my kids need me?

Here’s the thing – my mom raised me to believe that the world was my playground and I’ve always wanted to do the same. I don’t want my kids to be afraid to talk to new people or give up on their goal of getting to the top of a climbing dome. My grandmother always said, “Travel is the best form of education,” and I couldn’t agree more, which is why in October, I faced all my fears and went to Mexico for a week with five women for a creative-entrepreneurs workcation. We talked. We brainstormed. We networked. We explored. We ate. We drank. We walked. We swam. Perhaps the thing I needed most – we slept.

Of course waves of guilt managed to wash over me (along with the salty ocean water,) but every time I FaceTimed with my family, I knew I had made the right decision to recharge. My kids and hubby were totally fine without me and so excited to hear about what I was doing in Mexico. To be completely honest – they were also too busy having one on one dad time and extra play dates to even hang on the phone with me!

Even though the 30+ hour journey back included a light bout of gastro, I still arrived home more whole that when I left. I’m not going to say life makes more sense, but I definitely feel like I found my old brave self who knows how to trust the universe.

This piece was originally published on The Tot.

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