This is the first post in a series of three about how important it is for women, especially mothers, to get the hell out of the house on a regular basis in order to preserve their sanity. A Girls Night Out, or GNO as I’ll be calling it, is often a light at the end of a dark tunnel for many a weary momma.
What makes a mom weary? Why do moms need to get out and have some fun? Do I really need to answer that question? Please!
I’ll just get right to the point here. It is healthy for a mother to periodically allow herself a night out with her girlfriends, (or even just by herself) because it’s not at all appropriate or wise to be friends with your children, (at least not while they are minors living under your roof) and not including sociopaths, schizoids, and a few other exceptions, PEOPLE NEED PEOPLE (if you are singing that song by Barbara Streisand I want to either say sorry or you are welcome, depending on you feel about that song). Our job is to keep kids safe, and meet their physical, emotional, educational and spiritual needs as best we can. We have X amount of years to civilize them and get them prepared for real life, but during those years, we just can’t be pals with them.
It just ain’t right! So that’s why parents need friends their own age. Sheesh….so why do moms carry such guilt about going out and getting away from their crotchfruit? WHY?
As children grow, it’s very important for them to see their parents as people separate from themselves with interests and needs that have nothing to do with carpooling, making meals or telling bedtime stories. This is actually a very important developmental milestone that parents have more trouble helping their kids reach, than kids have understanding. Erik Erickson, a well respected, albeit long dead, developmental psychologist, provided a comprehensive, and in my opinion, spot on theory of human development outlining psychosocial developmental stages and milestones humans must meet in order to grow into a healthy adult.
The stage related to separating a bit from Momma (and Dad) and being okay with it, is called Autonomy verses Shame and Doubt, and it should be tackled early on. Cliffs Notes version for those who don’t want to check it out – kids need to learn how to wipe their own asses and feel good about doing it, even if they miss a streak of poo (or two). Kids can do a lot more stuff than we give them credit for, and if we, as parents, can patiently encourage our kids to be independent and do things on our own, we will all be better for it. There is no shame in wanting to be your own person, separate from others, and being okay with exactly who that person is.
I learned this many years ago, when I arrived three hours early to pick up my then two and a half year-old son from day care. I watched him clear his lunch from the table, scrape his plate into the garbage, rinse off this plate and his glass, and set up his cot for naptime – ALL BY HIMSELF. I was stunned and enlightened. From that day on, I approached parenting in a whole new way. Sure he still needed me for so many things, but I witness first hand how happy and proud he was of his ability to be so independent. I told him how proud I was and he said, “Yeah, I’m a big boy now, Momma.”
He also informed me that he didn’t want to come home early with me that day. He wanted to stay for naptime and spend the afternoon swimming with his buddies and teachers. He wanted to be picked up at the usual time, which was four hours later.
At that very moment, the mash up of joy and pain permeated my entire being. I was happy that he was so capable and growing up, yet grieved the idea that in the blink of an eye, he wouldn’t need me at all, that he’d be a grown man living somewhere on his own. So I hugged him goodbye and drove myself home, took the dog for a walk and spent the next couple of hours curled up with the dog and a book. I had four straight hours to myself where I wouldn’t be sleeping or working for the first time in almost three years and it was alternately liberating, frustrating, uncomfortable and relaxing. Just the emotions I experienced in those four hours exhausted me.
However, from that day forward, I found it much easier to separate from my son, and re-connected with some of the activities and people I had put on the back burner due to the demands of parenting an infant and toddler. It was GNO time, baby, and I was all too ready to get some space.
GNO! GNO! GNO!
Do you GNO and if the answer is no, why the hell not? Do you not know what to do with yourself when you are away from your kids? Have you forgotten who you were before they came around, because believe me sweet-tits, you certainly were someone amazing with hopes, dreams, talents and interests.
Does GNO need to include dancing like an idiot and guzzling wine at the local bar? No but it can, if that’s what you and your girls want to do on your GNO. GNO can be scrapbooking or taking cooking lessons or an exercise class. Bunco? Super Duper! Why not also consider bowling, bungee jumping, shopping, and hiking, biking, power walking or hanging out at a bookstore with coffee? I love to hit a chick flick and get the extra large popcorn and refill that motherfucker twice! Sometimes I do this last one alone, wearing my pajamas. I stuff a mini bottle of wine in my purse with some Hot Tamales and whip them out when the lights go down.
My friend Stacy throws a party called “Bullets and Ball gowns,” on Oscar night. We dress up in gaudy ball gowns, hit the Brunswick Zone for drinks and a game of laser tag – all dressed up – and then return to her house to eat a variety of dips made from cheese and mayo while we cast our ballots and throw shit at the television when we don’t like a certain celebrity. I love that party madly.
Does that sound immature and crazy? Like we are setting a bad example for our kids by embracing our inner idiot and letting ourselves go for a few hours, not worrying about who hasn’t brushed their teeth or who is failing math. Well, it IS immature and a tad cuckoo, but who cares? Being a grown up doesn’t preclude a person from having fun!
Who cares what you do as long as you do! Do for yourself. Something as simple as heading out of the house by yourself for a few hours and wandering around the destination of your choice, quietly contemplating the meaning of life or thinking about how to re-arrange your closet is just as effective for re-charging your batteries as a good GNO. Just GTFO for a bit! You need your own space, even if you don’t think you do. And it’s a fact that your kids need to see you as an individual with feelings and needs separate from them, a grown up who attempts to achieve some sort of balance in life and pays attention to self-care. If they see this, it increases the chances that they will grow into adult who do the same.
Isn’t that what we want for them?
GNO Part Deux post on Wednesday? How to have a Moms Who Drink And Swear GNO and still be a fully functioning person and parent the next day. Yeah….that.
P.S. MY BOOK IS SO GOOD YOU SHOULD BUY IT AND THIS SHAMELESS PLUG IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE GNO I HAD ON THURSDAY NIGHT AT MY FIRST BOOK SIGNING. GNO! GNO! GNO!
GNO ideas? I'll be signing my book on May 8th at The Book Cellar in Chicago - THERE IS WINE IN THE BOOKSTORE!
And I will be in Seattle for Mamacon the weekend of May 17th. Friday night drinks and reading from my book and Saturday night I will be doing - holy shit - a stand up comedy bit about *cough* sex. If a GNO with dick jokes sounds like something you'd enjoy, get your plans cooking!