The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers: Make time for Solitude

It is a fond memory, still. Once a week, when the three big boys were little, Mike took them, a grocery list, and his father and did the weekly grocery shopping. On the way home, they stopped and played at Grandma's. I had about three hours alone in the house. I played Amy Grant as loud as it would go and cleaned our house from top to bottom. I ran up and down the steps without stopping to carry the baby with me or hop the gate. I moved freely about the kitchen without someone wrapped around my knees. I ordered my environment and made everything smell good. And I was completely alone.

When we moved from that house, Mike took ridiculously demanding job. He was never home. I had four children (and then five, and then six) and no one but my father-in-law ever offered to help with them. He's a wonderful guy; he doesn't really do babies, though. Solitude became a thing of the past for a very long time. A very, very long time. Come to think of it, I can't remember tever being alone in that house and I don't remember the last time I was alone in this house. Or anywhere else.

I have stolen early morning moments when everyone is still sleeping, if I'm quiet enough and careful enough not to wake anyone. They anchor my days and I'm rattled without them. I use them to read, to pray, to knit, and less and less, to write. If I'm writing to share, somehow that just doesn't seem like solitude.

Meg Meeker wonders how to balance solitude with the chapter on friends. I don't find that is a challenge. Actually, making time for friends and making time for solitude are two sides of the same coin. The demands here in this home are what require a concerted effort for both. My guess is that Dr. Meeker didn't have moms of many in mind so much when she wrote. I always find it interesting when people say, "Oh, what's one more? You have so many you probably don't even notice." They used to say this when a new baby was on the way. Or they say it when they drop their kids off to play with mine. 

One more is one more. One more whole person. One person with a unique personality. One person with uniques talents and challenges. One person with his own laundry. One person who needs to be fed and who needs to brush his teeth and get regular checkups and sign up for baseball and talk to the coach and finish his science assignment. It's one more of everything. Multiplied by the number that mother's particular "many" is.

I'm not complaining. I'm merely explaining how the solitude thing and the friend thing are unqieuly challenging when a mother has lots of children under her care. Nevertheless, let's persevere. Dr. Meeker suggests  four ways to work on making time for solitude: "start with bite-sized moments, find a place for solitude (and let everyone know), quiet your mind (yes, you can), and go deeper."

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#1 Start with bite-sized moments. I think these are my early mornings. Sometimes, I get a whole hour or more. I sit and read and knit knit and pray and have a cup of tea. The sun comes up and the whole day seems to sparkle in front of me.  More often, I get twenty minutes before someone is aware that I'm awake and alone and they zero in to get a piece of that action. She suggests things such as going to the grocery store alone. Eh. I'm not sure that counts in my book. If I go to the grocery store, I'm not genuinely alone. There are people there. I once went to the grocery store alone and hit a parked car in the parking lot. Not exactly alone time, there. But if we look carefully at how we spend our days and enlist the help of our husbands to find a pocket or two, there is alone time to be had even for mothers of very young children or mothers of very many children.

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#2 Create a place. Susanna Wesley threw her apron over her head when she wanted to be alone with God. I so get that. My eldest child, who is living at home and saving money while working full time, sits in the car when he needs to escape the activity here. Come to think of it, my second child does that, too. They didn't get that from me. I'm not a big fan of the car, ever. I'm currently working on taking over the first-floor study in our house. When the children are awake, I have no illusions of it being my space alone, nor would I want it that way. But when they are asleep, it's a good place to go to be alone in a space that ministers to me. A prayer corner is the perfect place to spend time alone. Can you claim the corner of a walk in closet, a nook in the basement, or even just declare your bathtub off limits at certain hours of the day?

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#3 "When you are alone, the next challenge is to break the habit of thinking about all of the things that you should be doing rather than quieting yourself. This is a tough one. Shutting your mind off can be done, but it takes training. Reject silly worries and give yourself permission to worry about other things later, like in thirty minutes, but not during your solitude." This is why I don't think time at the grocery store counts. I do not quiet my mind there, even if I'm there by myself. However, three hours alone in my house while all my kids are at the store with my husband--that's quality alone time, even if I'm cleaning the whole time. Sometimes, uninterrupted, purposeful physical activity helps to quiet one's mind. And starting the next day with a fully stocked fridge and pantry and completely clean house is a great benefit of quiet time.

#4 Go deeper. Are you uncomfortable when you are alone with yourself? Do you squirm without the distraction of someone else? Can you allow yourself to go deeper into yourself, to look yourself in the eye and be frank with yourself? Can you all yourself to still your mind? Or are you afraid of what you might discover there when the dust settles? Solitude is refreshing and healing, but it often takes time for it to be so. It takes patience. Can we be patient with ourselves?

{{This post is the 10th in a series discussing The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers: Reclaiming our Passion, Purpose, and Sanity.}}

The rest of our discussions of  The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers: Reclaiming our Passion, Purpose, and Sanity can be found here. 

Part 1(discussing Habit 1)

Part 2 (still discussing Habit 1)

Part 3 (still more on Habit 1)

Part 4 (Habit 2: key friendships)

Part 5 (Habit 2: your thoughts on friendship_

Part 6 (Habit 3: Value and Practice Faith)

Part 7(Habit 4: Say No to Competition)

Part 8 (Habit 4: Say No to Competition)

Part 9 (Habit 5: Create a Healthier Relationship with Money)