The kids are sleeping at the same time and for the first time all day (or sometimes all week) I have a moment to myself. A complete moment to myself. Do I lay in bed and binge watch Law & Order or do I read a book? Do I nap? Do I zone out on Facebook? Do I catch up on dishes or laundry? What am I supposed to do with this time? What can I do with this time that will leave me feeling filled up and not poured out?
I’m 6 years deep into this motherhood gig and I’ve learned I need alone time each and every day. I need to press refresh, and my alone time is the fastest route to the button. Some days it works out and some days it does not, but I have to at least try to make it happen. When I am purposeful with my alone time–when I use it to fill myself up– I walk away feeling refreshed, reloaded, ready to parent again. When I race into my free time carelessly–when I just hurry up and do “nothing”–I walk away resentful that the time was not longer, wishing for more time and feeling completely exhausted.
I am a slow learner, so I am just now really understanding what people mean when they say “you are what you consume.” We’re not talking about food here, we’re talking about life. The details of my life matter, who I talk to, what I say, where I say it, what I do and what I don’t do, what I hear, what I watch, what I read, those things matter. They can either add to me or they can subtract from me.
I find such joy in the opportunity to do nothing, but all nothings are not created equally. Laying on the couch and napping as K-LOVE plays in the background is a different nothing than laying on the couch and scrolling through Facebook. One of those nothings feels sacred and quiet and restful and the other nothing feels loud and intrusive and rushed.
Some nothings have a black hole and when I go down the black hole of those nothings I come out feeling like 2 hours was 10 minutes and I wonder why I didn’t treat that nothing with more respect.
So, lately I have been very intentional with my alone time. I have pushed and planned to make sure it appears and I have guarded it once it arrives. Each morning I wake up one hour before everyone else has to be up in the morning. I tip toe around the quiet kitchen and make coffee. I sit on the couch and sip from my cup and talk to God and then I study scripture and listen for what God wants to teach me that day. I write in my prayer journal.
Later, if I’m lucky enough to get both kids napping at the same time, I listen to a podcast (The Right Heart or Magic Lessons or Fr. Mike) or I read a book (like this one) or I spend time writing. Sometimes I am so exhausted and so mommy-ed out that I just sleep. I go into my room, turn the A/C down and just nap. Sometimes I am so behind on housework that I jam Casting Crowns while I scrub last night’s dishes, and that’s ok because I still walk away feeling like a whole person.
I walk away from the good nothings feeling like a complete person. A real person. A person who is not just a mother or a wife. A person who deserves rest and room to think complete thoughts. And that’s the purpose of my alone time– to remind me that I matter, too.