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A Love Story

By Brooke Benton

I have a very busy husband. In addition to running two businesses, he holds a calling faithfully and is solely responsible for the financial well being of our home. Still, he always makes time for his first love: himself.

Every week he indulges himself a few hours of alone time: he skypes with a professora in Argentina, he meets with a personal trainer at least twice and lunches with friends and colleagues like lunching is going out of style.

I don’t resent him this. I love my husband. I adore him. A lot of days I even have a big huge crush on him specifically for the person he is, the person he’s constantly becoming—the person who speaks Spanish and looks quite trim and relays funny anecdotes acquired over noon-time sushi.

But sometimes I wonder: do I have this? Do I do this?

Since becoming a mother I feel like I have lost myself and I have found myself. I love being a stay at home mom and feel gratitude at its blessing every day. I don’t pine for a career, I don’t begrudge my husband his very important phone calls or his jet-setting propensity for meetings in different states. I don’t want to be anywhere else than surrounded by my three little ones, stockinged toes, cookies in the oven, play-doh and watercolor messiness. And I love the woman all this dang-hard mothering has required me to become—hopefully a more selfless, refined version of a giggly self-centered 20-year-old.

And yet sometimes I miss that 20-year-old. I miss her running legs, her strong limbs. I miss her waist. I miss her innocence. I miss her smarts, her sharpness, her list-making, task-completing efficiency. Sometimes I even miss that every so often she would paint her nails.

(I KNOW. Who was I?!)

So like every woman and mother and grandmother (indeed every woman who faces change in her life), I struggle to find myself again. Even that newer version of myself—I welcome her too. But who is she? How does she reconcile the new version with the old version? Segullah has helped me with this and writing my way to rediscovery. Three-hour mountain bike rides for a few months out of the year are lovely too. I can still run pretty well and the road around my house snakes on for miles. Even the gym offers helpfulness with its free babysitting and mid-morning yoga classes. I do have my things. I just don’t have much passion for them at this point. That, or I’m lazy.

(You can vote lazy. I’m not embarrassed.)

But here’s the thing: there’s something about my husband’s virility, his penchant for self-improvement. Because it rubs off on my in this odd way that doesn’t so much inspire as it does remind.  He makes me remember what if felt like to be her, that giggly 20-year-old. To not have kids. He makes me feel beautiful and smart, bold, energetic, sexy; in essence: the very girl I was before children.

But, but… is it enough to recapture myself through my husband?

And what of my “me” time? Do I need to start having a new sort of love story– a love story with myself?

What about you? Are you consistently pursuing yourself, loving yourself wholeheartedly and making sure you (like my husband) indulge in some alone time?

About Brooke Benton

(Blog Team) is attempting inner om with this writing stuff. Proud to claim four loud children, a patient husband and a fat black cat as family, she feels blessed to be their mommy-- their giver of kisses and baker of cookies. She is ever seeking a good novel and wishing for the sand between her toes, palm trees, the ocean.

27 thoughts on “A Love Story”

  1. Brooke…I've been missing you this week, feeling the need to call you, to check in. I then I read this and realize you've been right here, running around inside my head. We must discuss…in person. xoxo

  2. The more I read you Brooke, the more I like you.
    Our story is the same. My husband is very busy, lunches, is very 'important', and takes time for his passions.
    I love being a mother; really don't care to be doing something else, but…the battle wages in my head. I do yearn for some passion, for something. In the past I've felt guilty for devoting time for myself, but lately, since the past few months have been almost 100% devoted to others, I've felt a little resentful and depleted(not to mention I've been sick more times then I can count).
    Instead of moping my floor everyday, or folding the clothes(eventually, right?), I've chosen to be passionate about a few things. Just two things for the time being, I'm getting my waist back(a half and inch already!)and sewing. Already the resentment is melting away, the tension is easing, and I begrudge less(I admit, I begrudged a little when my husband ate steak for lunch and I ate peanut butter and jelly).
    I guess my point is, I am a mother, thoroughly and fully. But I am a mother who is going to have an awesome body again, and who loves to sew pretty things; if for no other reason then it heightens my sense of being alive.

  3. My alone time consists of quilting with the kid underfoot, for the most part. I really don't mind that they are underfoot though. I'm just happy I am able to sit at my sewing machine and create.
    Lately, a few friends and I have been getting together more for lunches and the occasional girls night out. We have the kids at the lunches, but there is nothing more rejuvenating that getting some day time chat with the moms!
    Like you, I have no desire for an outside career. And I am grateful I don't have that desire. And I encourage my husband to go to his lunches, go workout (love his improved body!) and even take a week to surf in Ecuador. I know how much these things give him stress relief. In return, he doesn't make a fuss about the lunch dishes not getting put away until I'm starting to make dinner, or the 6 loads of laundry that are waiting to be folded in the hallway.
    I'm rambling on, but my point is that even if it's not necessarily "alone" time, as long as we are able to make time for things we enjoy and are passionate about, I think we can gain that same feeling of rejuvenation.

  4. It sounds like I am not alone. I constantly encourage my husband to take time for himself– play xbox, go to a movie, hang out with a friend, etc. But I never really insist on the same for me! I'm trying to rediscover those things that will make me feel excited about life and create time to do those things. (I'll admit I'm one who pines for a career, but I'm determined to enjoy being a stay-at-home mom!)

  5. Painted toes! Oh, the luxury.

    And can I just say, beedie-beedie-beedie? These are things I have been thinking about these last three weeks as I am still trying to formulate my goals for 2009. Yes, STILL! How is it that at the cusp of turning 33 I am still trying to figure myself out?

  6. Everybody needs time to themselves. Living through your husband and kids is temporary at best. Everyone needs to be satisfied with themselves when they are alone before they will be satisfied with themselves in a relationship. One day a week is mine to do with as I please. Sometimes it is shopping. Sometimes it is something else. I couldn't live without it.

  7. How can I respond to this lovely post in just a few sentences? And I really did cause a toaster fire– big flames, smoke alarms and all.

    I miss the person with freedom too. It's funny that I always ask permission for my rare nights out while hubby has standing dates with tennis friends and high school buddies.

    And may I mention that I envy YOU? That I really miss my babies and early thirties? Live it up girl!

  8. I love this, Brooke. I am pretty good at taking personal time, but sometimes I don't fill that time with the things that really fill me, if that makes sense. This week has been full of too much facebook time (during baby's naps). Fun, but not really fulfilling. Next week or the week after I plan to go swimming or do something else I love just as much.

    I think if I had more kids, it'd be harder to find that personal time. I also think that were I not single for so long, I might not know how to do take it. Dh and I have the same lunch budget, so I get to have lunch dates, too. They aren't always sans kiddo, but at least I get out.

    I'm realizing this sounds like I have found the perfect balance. I have not. But . . . whatever I was going to say just left me because my little one just woke up. Ah well. I love hearing your musings on this, Brooke, and that you don't envy your husband his time.

  9. If my husband got to do those great things (personal time away from work) I would be SO jealous. I guess I married a homebody. True, he eats lunch out with coworkers and travels the country, but he pretty much has no friends or other interests. lol!

    Aside from comparing my PB&J to his sushi, I have lately been pining for the woman I have yet to become. Before kids I feel I was still not fully grown. I know I have more potential now, more experiences to draw on. The problem is being content with the path I have chosen for this time in my life and not wish it away any sooner than necessary. My time will come when my children are grown and I can paint and garden and sew and write and run until I am bored and wishing I had someone to play with. So for now, a few hours here and there of "me time" will suffice.

    Nice post, Brooke.

  10. and this is why i love you.

    i'm new to the stay at home mother thing, but i have my days let met tell you. the thing i wasn't prepared for was the guilt that accompanies me whenever i DO take "me" time. like i feel this need to rush through it so i can get back. to what i'm not sure. let's talk in 10 years and i can tell you how it's going.

  11. I think this is why so many women in this age start running/marathoning. It's like running is the new blogging. Most of these friends and women out there taking it up never have ran before — I think we kind of feel stuck in a rut and need to do something in our lives that we thought we never had the ability to do. To know that we can do more than wipe bottoms and toilets. I don't know if that makes sense.

  12. Kristine,

    You totally nailed it! I'm one of those women…I'd never run in my life, but decided to run the half marathon last year . I needed a tangible goal, something that I could finish because, let's face it, most of what a mom does is never finished. I also needed something that I had to do by myself. Sorry honey, but I can't take four kids under 6 on a 7 mile run. I love my husband and kids and I love to spend time with them, but I needed some time to just breathe and be.

  13. I didn't really like the 20-year-old me. She was LAME! But I loooove the 37-year-old me. I do take "me" time. I'm very insistent on that. Six kids can suck the life out of you if you let them. I guess I don't feel guilty if I'm learning or improving a skill. That's magnifying my gifts and talents, which is a Christlike thing. So I get babysitters for harp lessons and calligraphy class and my sewing club. (I don't do all those thing at one time though. Usually a few months of one, then a few months of another.)

    I guess I've always been terrified to end up one of those hollow empty-nesters who wakes up one day after her kids are grown and has no idea who she is.

    I take my job as a mother very seriously. But just like my kids are not allowed in my bed because that is MY space (if they need cuddles in the middle of the night it takes place in their bed. I think one kid-free 6'x6' space is not too much to ask), there are places in my life that are my places alone. It keeps me sane that way, and reminds me that there is a lot more to me than just being Mommy.

  14. I identify with SO MUCH of what has been said on this topic.

    My husband hasn't been as good at taking the productive time for himself either, but we are working on that.

    Since the birth of my fifth baby a few months ago, I have been in serious mid-life/identity crisis. I adore my kids and husband, and am grateful to stay home with them, but I have felt an intense craving for some of the old me, and the things I used to be passionate about. I honestly don't want a full career, just to feel like I have something uniquely me that isn't directly related to my roles as wife and mother.

    I have come to realize that I can't wait until my kids are grown, or I may never find those parts of me that have been smothered. In that much time, I think they will completely disappear.

    So for now, I am working on carving out a little time for those things that provide true recreation–to re-create and really fill me. To start, I am focusing on reclaiming my old body at the gym while the kids are in the gym daycare, and on improving myself as a writer (and learning to consider myself capable of being a writer in the first place!).

    As I have made efforts to take this time, I have found my patience level with my kids increasing. I think I am a better wife and mother for remembering that I need to be taken care of too. But gosh, finding that balance sure can be challenging!!!

    And if the time comes that I lose the passion I feel for these chosen "extra-curriculars" I hope to be able to find something new and different that will be able to keep building me up so I can in turn build up my family.

  15. Thought-provoking post, Brooke!

    I am the empty-nester on the other side of this question, and I must admit that I had a little bit of trouble reinventing myself after the last child left our home. This surprised me because I'd always maintained some of my own interests and even had a couple of books published before the kids left. My expectation was that (with them all away at school, on missions, etc.) I would be gloriously free to write to my heart's content! As it turned out, my "glorious freedom" felt an awful lot like going from the center of a world of my own making to being out in left field somewhere hoping to catch a fly ball.

    I did adjust, as mothers of adult children generally do, but it wasn't easy…and sometimes I still long for those days when I was pretty much at the physical and emotional center of my children's lives. Don't get me wrong…I still have an important role to play…and I enjoy it, but there's something wonderful about creating the atmosphere and environment of a home and then watching the people you love thrive in it. I found the whole thing quite magical.

    The good news is that my husband and I have more time to focus on each other now, which has been wonderful for us. The bad news is that, unlike Brooke's, my husband is not all that good at taking those important moments for himself. His very demanding career has become even more so as he nears retirement, and his very demanding calling is just that…very demanding. I'm thinking that, when he does retire, he is going to go through many of the same things i did when our children left. More adjustment for us! *yikes*

    Ah well, we came here to grow, right?

    So kudos to your husband, Brooke…and to you for supporting him in maintaining balance from the get-go (and for learning from his example). Seems to me like it's just fine for you to "remember yourself" through him for now. Take that dose of clarity any way you can get it! =) After all, you're the one at home with distraction upon distraction upon distraction (three of them, right?). Hey, it's part of his job to remind you of the strong-limbed, small-waisted, sharp-witted girl you still carry inside you! That's what love's all about…

    Okay, I need to wrap this up. (Too much glorious freedom on my hands!!) Anyway, while it's obvious you love being a mom, I agree wholeheartedly that every woman needs to cultivate a strong sense of self even (especially) as she mothers her children. As we moms know, it's very easy to get lost in the shuffle of all that care-taking.

    As for me, I've about licked my empty nest syndrome at this point. But I still think that the being-a-mom-at-home gig was very, very cool. Thankfully, the being-a-grandma thing ain't bad either!


  16. I'm one of those escapist running, reading, blogging types. And I'm much happier with some escapism in my life than I was before I allowed myself a little bit of time to myself.

    I agree with everyone else, Brooke– beautiful writing.

  17. Brooke, this is a great post. I hope to find out how you resolve this.

    I've still got this stuck in my head, "Still, he always makes time for his first love: himself." I'm not sure how you meant that, but it seems mighty unflattering. Unless you're just saying that because little kids are totally self-centered that he loved himself before he figured out he wasn't the sun in every solar system, and so he was his own first love and now takes time for himself or something. ?

    Although my parents were born in the 1920's, there was always an underlying current of love and fairness. My mom was a homemaker and my dad the breadwinner. But when dad came home, he went straight to the kitchen to make a dinner salad. He never sat down until BOTH he and my mom could sit together. If there was work to be done, they worked together and then relaxed together.

    I've been a stay-at-home mom for over 21 years now (something I never intended to be) and I homeschool my kids, but I think one of the reasons it has worked all these years is that my dear husband–even in his career/business building (including extensive travel (he's been a gold medallion for nearly two decades)) — not only understands my need to "have a life" but encourages it and actively supports it. And by that I mean he takes over the kids, puts resources toward it, and gleams with pride when I accomplish anything. It has made all the difference.

    Oh, and we did run a marathon to celebrate my 40th and his 45th birthdays four years ago. Wonder what that means? 🙂

  18. i meant it more as a hook. whether i accomplished that or not, i'm not sure. still, he's read it and he laughed.

    and good job on the marathons. maybe it means the couple that runs together stays together? i love it.

  19. Is it ok to admit I'm on the flip side with this? I knew when we had children I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom (have you ever thought how that phrase is an oxymoron?). When we first had children I think I drove myself into the ground trying to be the perfect Mom… the ideal – or what I thought the ideal was. How devoted she was supposed to be. And also berating myself when I didn't feel that way. I don't think your post was about that, but it was where I was when I was in my early 20s with 3 children 2 and under and a husband going out to sea. The things we do to ourselves.

    At that point I started getting a baby-sitter one night a week and having her put the kids to bed and that was my "me" time. It was either with friends on just by myself and I started to realize how much I needed it. It wasn't being selfish to take that time.

    Fast forward many years (I'll be 40 soon – I'm so excited… no sarcasm – I really am!) and I still take time for me. Over the years I learned that the children like to see me learn even. When I was teaching myself to paint they like to watch and then wanted me to paint things for them. When I learned to crochet – the picked out colors for afgans. And then it moved to quilting. (The internet is great for learning things!) Throw in that I can help them on computers sometimes and actually know a little more than they do or help my son with music and that "me" time turns into time that I use to learn things I give back to my children.

    The flip side? I am horrible at balancing my "me" time with keeping up with house and all the other things that need to get done. It might be more accurate to say I'm just horrible at organizing and setting priorities. I'm working on it.

    Which is why I cleaned my bathroom this morning before I go and quilt all day today to try and finish a quilt that needs to be done this week!

  20. what i'm loving about this, (sue, mommom and others), is that you're reminding me that it's a process. And that it takes a bit of working through it to figure it out.

    i love the idea that "me" time turns into "time that i use to lean things I give back to my children." maybe that's how all me time should me, in essence… whether we take time for ourselves to grow spiritually or mentally or with a hobby: perhaps all of this we give back to our children in some way.

  21. I have not been a homemaker long – ok, 6 months, I married the first time at 49 years old. I used to work, been on disability for 3 years – we have 8 cats, 2 dogs, (1 we are training to be my assist dog – 6 fish. My husband goes out in the world each day – lunch, blogging etc – One thing I have learned more than anything is…. everything you do is the time for you – you are doing it!!!!!!!!!!!!! Content and satisfaction – yes, I have yarn and quilt squaresw – but doing laundry is my time as much as crocheting – don't need to make time for me – it is my time – and it is all offered to the Lord anyway – isn't it?

  22. This is why I love you guys. We can talk about anything. It is definitely a challenge giving so much of yourself as a mother. I always wanted to be a mother. I was good at dancing and other things, but knew I'd give them up to be home with my kids. I love that my husband encourages me to do things for myself and is happy when I do things for me. I just wish I were more motivated to do them! And more present with my kids when they need me. Oh well. Progress is a process. Perfection comes after this life. Yep. Thanks for your thoughts, Brooke and all the others.

  23. I loved the "hook". and the honesty. and the humor. In short, I loved this post. I've read it several times and laughed outloud. Thanks for this post. and for being you.

    p.s. Lucky for me, I know how awesome you truly are. : )


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