When I returned to my writing work after the birth of my son, I often heard him downstairs wailing in the arms of the part-time nanny I hired so I could spend a few uninterrupted hours with the muse. You want guilt? There’s a heaping helping of it.
I kept thinking: I should be with him. He’s a baby, for goodness’ sake. What kind of mother am I? Every morning, I heard selfish, selfish, selfish in the churning motor of my breast pump. But I knew there was only one way to gather up regenerative time and space for myself while working at home: I had to close the door.
As partners and/or parents, we need to recharge more than most. We spend so much time tending to the needs of others that it is not a luxury but a necessity for us to take a few minutes a day for ourselves. If we don’t, we’re no good to anyone. Maybe not right away, but mark my words, going without self-time for too long will result in a very unpleasant and oftentimes irrational meltdown.
Choose a sacred space for yourself whether it’s in your bedroom, home office or study. Preferably somewhere with a door. The closed door is a symbol. It says to your partner/family, “Do not disturb me unless there is an emergency.” Emergency means the house is on fire. Or someone’s been electrocuted. Or impaled himself on a dinner fork. In order to ensure you have your much-needed solitude, you must enforce the symbol of the closed door.
Getting your family to respect the closed door may be tricky at first. Every lost tape dispenser or broken toy may seem like an emergency worthy of disturbing you. Not to mention that kids might find it suspect; they often associate spending time alone with something that happens when they paint the cat with mustard. Don’t give up, though. Keep staking out your time and space. Remind everyone that you’ll be back in a few minutes.
If your kids have trouble honoring your time alone, work together to create a “Daddy (or Mommy) Time: Shhhhhh!” sign that you can hang on the door. When you discuss your time alone with your family, do so with a positive attitude. It will help them understand that while it may seem like you’re abandoning the family, in reality, you’re giving them a gift: A few minutes to yourself a day will help you be a better partner/parent.
Introducing the closed door to your partner and family is not as difficult as it might seem. Here is a three-step process that should help:
Gather your family in front of the door of the room in which you intend to have your solitary time. Tell them, “This is the door. When it’s closed, I’m not to be disturbed unless there’s an emergency.” Define emergency: Someone is hurt or in serious danger. Explain to them what you are going to be doing in general terms. You may wish to keep it simple and say you are meditating or taking time for yourself. Go over the rules with an upbeat attitude, so that it’s clear you are doing a helpful thing for yourself and for them.
The first time you utilize the closed door, take only a few minutes for your solitude practice. No more than ten. Don’t expect much and don’t plan to get too involved with your journal-writing, meditating, or whatever your rejuvenating event might be.
If you are interrupted, keep the door shut and communicate through it. Possible scenarios:[knock, knock]
Husband: Sorry, I know you’re busy, but where’s that apple-slicing thing?
You: That’s not an emergency, right, my dearest love? I’ll be out soon.
Child: Max won’t give me the iPad. I said please.
You: That’s not a real emergency, sweetheart. Daddy will be out in six minutes.
Give everyone a grace period of a few days to get used to honoring your request for privacy during your solitude. After that period is over, if you are still interrupted, begin to be more forceful—yet always loving—in your responses to non-emergent disturbances.
Begin to take time for yourself every other day. After a week or so, increase to once a day. In this way, your family will get used to your time alone. If possible, choose the same time of day in order to enforce your solitude’s regularity.
Above all, stick with it. Closing a door on your loved ones may seem hard or even pointless at first, but not only is it worth it, it’s vital for you and for them.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Studio Cain/Pixoto