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Staying Home

Mom's Night Out

From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 23 No. 2, March-April 2006, pp. 87-89

"Staying Home" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help parents who choose to stay at home with their children. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's life-style. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.

Mother's Situation

Now that my friends and I have preschool- and school-aged children, we hardly see each other anymore. Our children are on different schedules, and we rarely have time for play dates. I miss my friends and sometimes I feel as though my only purpose in life is to chauffeur children and maintain the house. Yet when I plan "a mothers' night out," my husband feels put-upon to be left home with the children. How have other mothers helped their partners understand the importance of spending time with their women friends?

Mother's Response

You've hit upon a need often overlooked in our busy lives: the value of women friends. Could this be part of North American society's emphasis on independence and privacy?

I have also found that since my children are growing older (I have two in elementary school and one in preschool), the scene is changing. I sometimes wonder how will I make friends when all my children are in school full-time. It won't be appropriate to show up at the park, the indoor play world, or the story hour activities alone! Who will I be if I do not have a toddler or preschooler to participate in those activities? It's another shift of personal identity, similar to leaving the working world to be a stay-at-home mother.

Of the friends who are growing into this next phase with me, some will go back to work, and some of us will figure out how to juggle the activities of our school-aged children and enjoy the moments to ourselves that we've surely earned. (Ah, to clean the entire house in one day without interruption!)

Because our household springs to life in the evenings when we are all home, I try to fit my friendships into the daytime while the children are at school. Some of the activities we enjoy together include cooking, making holiday gifts, and volunteer work. A full day of cooking shared between two mothers makes for a full month of easy evening meals. Making holiday gifts together for teachers is more fun when shared with a friend. Volunteering to help others is a great way to meet like-minded people, as well. I'm hoping to make time for regular exercise when my last child enters all-day school next year. Exercising with a friend takes some of the agony out of it for me!

I also try to relish the opportunities I didn't have when my children were babies. I'm able to pick up and go on a whim more easily, joining the crowd for coffee after a meeting, or whatever the case. On the other hand, I can enjoy mom-activities so much more without the worry of what my little ones are into. At mothers' groups related to church activities, or book clubs, or whatever your interest, you can sit back and fully participate without jumping around to keep up with a toddler.

These are all suggestions for fitting friends into your life while your children are away during the day. Evenings are more difficult because of the child care issues involved. In my family, my husband has seen the value of time for me to get away—he says it makes me easier to live with!

On the rare evening when there's something I really want to participate in and my husband is not happy staying home with the children, we hire a babysitter whom we are very comfortable with to come and stay with the children during the early evening hours. This adds to the cost of whatever my husband and I are doing (separately) that evening, but sometimes it's worth it!

I wish you the best in finding time to fit friendship into your life. It's a blessing worth making time for.

Lisa Gilder
Hopkins MI USA

Mother's Response

I also enjoy getting together with my friends and wish I could do it more often. I do a better job of being the parent I want to be when I take time for activities I can do without my children such as yoga, reading, or meeting with friends. I know I am more pleasant to be around when I take care of myself. When we make self-care a priority, we also provide a positive role model for our children, who will likely face similar challenges when they are grown.

It sounds as though you would like your husband to understand how much you value time with your friends and for him to support you in finding time to meet with them. In the book, Nonviolent Communication (may be available from the LLLI Online Store) by Marshall Rosenberg, there is a four-step process of communicating that involves observation, identifying feelings, identifying needs, and making requests. I have personally found this method extremely valuable. I used to think my two options for expressing myself when my needs weren't being met were to have an emotional outburst or to suppress my needs. Rosenberg provides an elegant alternative, although it did take practicing on paper before I used it out loud the first few times.

In your situation, you may be feeling frustrated; some of your needs may be connection, understanding, and autonomy (being able to make choices about your life). You can think about what your husband is feeling and needing, too. Why is he reluctant to watch the children while you are out in the evening? Perhaps he feels overwhelmed at the prospect of doing the bedtime routine alone. Or maybe he needs some time to pursue his own interests. After you and your husband identify your needs, it might be easier to find solutions that you're both willing to try. For example, perhaps you could initially help your husband plan activities for the time that you are gone to help him feel more comfortable. Or perhaps someone else (another family member or a sitter) could watch the children for an occasional evening.

Ultimately, I imagine you and your husband both want a happy, healthy family and I am confident you can all get your needs met!

Emily Ragan
Manhattan KS USA

Mother's Response

A friend whose children were older than mine once told me that she felt lonely when her children went to school. She said that suddenly all the mums she used to see disappeared into their own world. I prevented this from happening to me by cultivating friendships where the whole family can be involved. When my son plays with his friends, it is natural that the mothers gather, too, because we are also friends. Sometimes one of my son's friends comes over after school to play. When his mum comes to pick him up, she joins me for a cup of tea.

We also have family birthday parties. That means whole families get invited, not just the children. The mums always came when the children were very young, but I just kept inviting them even when the children were older. A few mums didn't feel comfortable about this and we drifted apart. But the others really enjoyed the family atmosphere of our parties. By inviting whole families it gives the chance for the men to get together as well as the women. And no one feels put upon or left out.

Not surprisingly, most of these friends are LLL families!

Jennifer Skillen
Bristol UK

Mother's Response

I have a school-aged child, as do many of my friends. While my husband is very supportive of me and our family, he does have months at a stretch when he travels a lot for work. It has been helpful for us for us to plan a consistently scheduled "moms' night out" on the second Thursday of each month. It is written on our family calendar, and my husband puts it on his work calendar several months in advance.

Since this is a regular and predictable event, it seems easier for all of us to prepare for it. We have an easy meal planned, and my husband leaves work promptly on those nights. I keep my cell phone with me and turned on while I am out, and I leave for home at a pre-arranged time. I sometimes call home to talk to my son before I leave the meeting place. Knowing that I am on my way home encourages him to get ready for bed more willingly.

I have also had success in meeting other mothers while our children are in school or preschool, or even just connecting by phone during school hours. Since I don't homeschool and am not employed, I have more hours available for meeting during the day. Volunteering is another way I have found to spend time with other mothers. Since I met most of my friends through involvement with mothers' organizations such as La Leche League, it makes sense that we combine our friendship with our support and promotion of the organization by volunteering together.

Overall, planning ahead and communicating clearly with my husband have gone a long way toward making my "moms' night out" successful for all of us: me, my husband, and our son.

Peggy Shultz
Big Flats NY USA

Mother's Response

My friend summed it up nicely: she was getting ready to head out the door without her children when her husband's friend invited him out. He said, "Gee sorry, Bob, I can't come out, I have to baby sit." My friend heard this comment and said, "When they're your own children, it's not babysitting, it's called fathering!"

Children grow up. Love waxes and wanes. Don't lose touch with your women friends. Life is demanding and everyone deserves some time to relax and recharge. As much as I love my children, I find it hard to concentrate on "me" time when one ear is in the other room. Once when my husband complained about being stuck home with the baby, I pointed out that if I could manage all day, surely he could handle a couple of hours. I haven't heard a complaint since!

Susanne Pettit
Bloomfield ON Canada

Mother's Response

First, I suggest making sure that both you and your husband set aside some time apart with friends or for individual hobbies. Perhaps he may already go out with coworkers during lunch, or go to the gym while you're driving your children around, and doesn't realize that you can't always enjoy those same connections as a stay-at-home mom.

Second, I personally find that seeing my husband watch the children makes me appreciate him more and turns me on! I often show him my "appreciation" later. If this is also true for you, you can point out to your husband that having some personal time away from the children will re-energize you and bring the two of you closer. It's worth a shot.

Julie Larose
Prescott ON Canada

Last updated 11/17/06 by jlm.
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