When my husband and I were dating, there were times that he would go dark and I wouldn’t hear from him for a day or two. This was, of course, in the archaic time before everyone had a cell phone so we didn’t hear back from someone at a moment’s notice. We both had full time jobs and hectic schedules, so I never really thought too much about not getting a quick reply from him if I left a message on his answering machine at home or voice mail at work.
Shortly after we were married and actually living under the same roof, I started to understand a bit more about my husband’s “ghosting” periods. No, he wasn’t having a torrid affair or anything improper. He simply needed and loved his alone time.
This concept was a new one to me, having grown up with six siblings in a house filled with noise and a revolving door of friends and relatives. No one had alone time, even if we wanted it and, to be honest, I don’t think any one of us could grasp the idea.
I began to realize that my husband was really on to something when we had our kids. It didn’t need to be days locked away from each other, but a couple of hours alone with a book or a long walk did wonders for my ability to be a wife and mother.
The simple concept of learning to be alone and appreciating the space apart was one of the best things that my husband ever taught me and our kids.
We are a family of five now with high school and college-aged kids, which makes for a very busy household. Quite honestly, there may be nothing more valued in our family unit than alone time. Taking the lead from my husband, our kids have grown up knowing that personal time is something to be respected and valued.
Sure, we do lots of family activities, go on family vacations, and try to eat together whenever we can. There is, however, an unspoken house rule that if one of us is holed up in our room for a couple of hours, we treat it as a “do not disturb” situation.
As parents of teens, we have seen benefits of alone time that we had never imagined. What started out as respecting each other’s need for space in our home has helped them become more confident in adopting this same mentality when it comes to friends and the outside world.
With a constant barrage of social media and texting, teens get into the mindset that they need to be in constant contact with their peers or something is wrong. Being alone has a negative connotation for a lot of teenagers and our kids have fallen into this trap, as well. But there have also been times when I have seen them be bold enough to tell their friends they need some down time.
Because we have taught them that being alone is completely different than being lonely, they’ve learned to know their limits are and speak up.
One night last week, my daughter announced that she was going to take a long bath instead of joining her friends in their usual Facetime chat. Being a mom, I immediately jumped to the conclusion that there had to be some drama around it. But she quickly reassured me she just needed a night to herself. Atta girl!
It’s these small moments that make me and my husband proud that we have instilled the importance of alone time to our kids. And as corny as it sounds, the time apart has given us a greater appreciation for when we are together. For us, that is priceless.