Isn’t that true? Somewhere under that super organized and responsible task master is a girl who used to put fun pretty high on her to-do list. What did you do for fun B.C. (Before Children)? What made you happy? I’m not talking about meaningful-purpose-in-life happy, I’m talking about childlike-laughter-inducing happy. The bigger question is, do you still make time for those things in your life?
While girls’ night out at the dance club may have to go by the wayside, most of the fun activities that brought you joy B.C. should still be a part of your life A.D. (After Delivery). Of course, it’s more difficult to carve out time for personal fun once you become a mother, but doing so will keep you on your game much better than hacking away at your to-do list day in and day out.
As my husband and I recently prepared to take a long weekend away together for my 40th birthday, I was reminded how making time to have fun as a mom is so not fun. The gymnastics required to replace myself for even a few days left me feeling like I should just resign myself to another fifteen years of Chuck E. Cheese until my last child goes to college. Once I got the freezer meals made for the sitter, the house cleaned, the laundry caught up, the carpool and babysitting favors arranged, and the 173 page document prepared outlining everything from menu options to homework assignments to bedtime routines, I was exhausted and hardly in the mood for fun.
But then I drove away. And just like the air from a deflating balloon, the seemingly all-important details crowding my brain suddenly released themselves into the endless blue sky above me. After three days of cavorting through Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park, I was ready to take on my little world again. Not only did I reconnect with my husband, but I reconnected with myself and the things I love to do. The simple pleasure of having fun gave me the fresh outlook I so desperately needed. Yes, the hassle of getting out the door was most definitely worth it.
I know what you’re thinking: “That’s just fine and dandy for you, Allyson, but I can’t really arrange a three day trip without my children any time soon.” That’s not what I’m suggesting. A getaway like that is great, but child-free trips are few and far between for obvious reasons, and it doesn’t take long for the positive effects to wear off anyway. (One night of bad sleep and a few temper tantrums does the trick.) As mothers, we need mini vacations every day. We need to make time for fun. In fact, our sanity depends on it.
So why don’t we do it more often? Every mom has her reasons: Not enough time, it’s selfish, too tired, fun is for kids, and the list goes on and on. But what happens to a mom who never does anything fun for herself? She develops MMS–Martyr Mommy Syndrome. You know what I’m talking about. A mother experiencing MMS goes to bed spent and exhausted with resentful thoughts like these swirling around her head: No one in this family appreciates the things I do to make their lives comfortable and happy. When is someone going to notice how hard I work and tell me I can have a few minutes to myself? All they care about is whether or not they have clean underwear and a hot meal on the table. What about me? I guess moms don’t get to enjoy their lives like everyone else. (Funny how easily these lines roll off my fingertips . . .)
Well, I have a little secret to share with those suffering from MMS: You have to make and take your fun. Don’t wait around for someone to give you permission or an invitation. Setting aside a little time each day to have fun isn’t selfish, it’s necessary. And if you tell me you’re too busy? Well, aren’t we all. Let’s be honest and admit that our expectations for what needs to be done before we can relax and have fun can sometimes be ridiculous. If you really are too busy to incorporate a few minutes of fun into your day, then you are too busy. (And you take your life way too seriously.)
Making fun a priority may also require the elimination of a few things, like a perfectly clean house or a totally empty inbox. It also requires the creation of some boundaries. A “good” mom doesn’t have to be by the side of her young children every waking moment. In fact, giving yourself permission to take a little break from your kiddos to do something you love is certain to make your time with them that much sweeter. When we do the things we enjoy for even a few minutes a day, it gives us the much needed energy and perspective that we lose when robotically pushing through our out-of-control to-do lists.
How do you make it happen? Just like my weekend away, carving out a space in time for yourself every day requires work and determination. And just like that same weekend away, it is so worth it. So consider yourself duly invited. You know you want to have fun, so put away that vacuum and get going! (Come back next Thursday and we’ll talk logistics.)
QUESTION: Do you suffer from MMS? Do you want to have fun but don’t know how to make it happen?