Anna Leary — I love being by myself. In the solitude is how I recharge and organize my thoughts.
But…I have two kids. They are four and almost-four and I’ve only been away from them once since birth. I went to a business meeting in Vegas back in 2015 for 3 days when they were both still babies. But, that was millions of minutes ago (literally over 2 million, I did the math, thanks Internet).
I find quiet moments throughout the day — when they’re at school, after they’ve gone to bed, but those times always need me to be doing something else. As a stay at home parent, there’s always laundry, lunch boxes to wash, MORE LAUNDRY, grocery shopping when I don’t want it to hassle to going with them, try to write during those times, and then folding all of that laundry. Oh, and don’t think I always get to sleep through the night because apparently a bear lives in my son’s room and sometimes my daughter likes to get up REALLY early to tell me about Doc McStuffins or her favorite planet (JUPITER, obvi).
For me, a writer at heart, I need a lot of prep to sit down to write. Scroll social media. Watch some TV — usually something on HGTV or MTV’s Catfish. Eat a snack. OK, several snacks. Make another cup of coffee. It’s like my brain is scared of what might happen when I actually sit down to write. Because if you sit down to write, you’re accountable as a writer. You actually have to WRITE. You have to put in the work. Words and cohesive thoughts have to come out.
My wife and I own a travel trailer RV and we’ve been talking since we got it 2+ years ago about taking “writer’s retreats” in the RV. Parking it at an RV park locally, and we take turns spending solo time in the RV writing and the other holds down life at home.
And we finally did it! We found a week where our schedules were open, our kids have a couple more weeks of preschool and a babysitter can watch them in the afternoons, and we did it. There’s a nice RV resort about an hour and a half away from our house and I’m here. My wife spent the weekend here and she’ll spend the forthcoming weekend here, and I’m getting the WHOLE WEEK TO MYSELF.
Solitude. Quiet. Beautiful views. Only 24 channels on the TV and more than half of them are sports and children’s programming. I got sucked into a CSI:Miami marathon the first day when I didn’t get out of bed until 3 PM — why? Because I can.
It’s been really challenging to stay off social media, but staying on social means I’m not writing. And I came up here to write. And not have anyone quite literally hanging on me 24/7. And to have the luxury to turn my phone on silent because I know no one is depending on me for five whole days. While I’ve still be able to talk to my wife, my kids, and some friends, it’s all been on MY terms and that is so freeing.
My whole point in writing this is: take time for yourself, friends. Especially if you are a parent or caretaker of any kind. So often we sacrifice who we ARE, our very essence, to the altar of not having our own identities because we have all these other responsibilities. And I’ve come to realize that’s not fair to anyone. It’s not fair to my kids because they don’t see me as anyone other than Momma. It’s not fair to my wife because I often can’t talk about anything other than the kids. And it’s not fair to ME because I started losing myself. Who I am in my core. What I like and what I want and who I was before kids and marriage and who I want to be NOW.
I realize that not everyone has to luxury to have a week away solo. But I do encourage you to really look hard at where you can carve out time for yourself. Can a neighbor or school mate’s parents watch the kids for a couple of hours? Can you use the quiet time after bedtime to read or take a bath or watch what YOU want on TV? Somewhere you can blast your favorite music and just be YOU without all the other titles you have?
I know we’ll be doing these writing retreats more often because I’ve found that I need this solitude. And I’m going to demand it of my schedule because I am important, I am worth it, and so are you.
Anna Leary is a co-parent of two kids, business owner, wife, lover, and best friend. During her time away she has subsisted on cold brew coffee, microwave meals, and a giant bag of kettle corn from Costco. She’s been listening to David Bazan, too. There are plans for a campfire and s’mores, but that would require pants and seeing the campground neighbors; jury is still out.