Staying Stylish in Suburbia

Alone Sweet Alone

Thursday, May 30, 2013

How motherhood taught me to savor solitude

There was a time when I thought being alone went hand in hand with being lonely. It signified certain boredom for me and played on all my insecurities. I'm a fairly social person and couldn't imagine going to a movie by myself (how sad) or shopping without a friend.

One of my first experiences with dining alone came when I went to live in Spain after college. I arrived a few days before my teaching program started and didn't know a single soul in the city. I was a foreigner in a foreign land wondering the streets of Barcelona in wonderment and delight. But when it came time to order lunch for one at a cafe I felt suddenly silly in my solitude again. My lack of companionship made me feel naked as if I needed to cover up by busing myself with a map or a book or by chain smoking cigarettes. Everyone around me seemed to be enjoying themselves, caught up in conversation with lovers, friends or family. I was determined not to be noticed or God forbid pitied by any of them. I ate as quickly, paid for the bill and went on my solitary way, suddenly struck by a deep need for interaction.

Oh the folly of youth. What I wouldn't give today to be whisked away to that very same cafe. To have the luxury of an entire afternoon and evening stretching into the night time with nothing to do and no one to tend to but myself and my own thoughts. If only I had the time now to slip into the cool darkness of a matinee alone or to wander through a bookstore without chasing after a small person peeling paperbacks off the shelves.

Because if there is one thing that motherhood has taught me it is to appreciate my alone time. Those precious few hours when my daughter goes down for a nap or while I'm out running the occasional child-free errand. I relish each moment to myself like a good stiff drink, taking my time with each and every sip. It relaxes me to feel that no one, not even my beloved husband is around. Only the quiet of the house as I write or the background buzz of strangers going about their daily business.

A friend of mine just got back from taking her very first vacation alone. She isn't a mother yet so to have already gleamed the importance of treating oneself to such an indulgence with or without companionship strikes me as both wise and impressive. But why not, right? If we can't enjoy our own company then what's the point. The pictures from her travels were lovely. I could just imagine her walking around, sunbathing, swimming and meeting new people all on her own time with nobody to answer to but herself. Divine!

It's all in our perspective of course. I learned to love being alone only after it became such a scarcity for me. When my children become teenagers and want nothing to do with me I know I'll miss their all consuming dependence with a passion. For now though I'm lucky to have a partner who encourages me to slip out to the hammock after dinner to swing amongst trees in the quietude of a summer evening, or to "run-away" now and again for a Saturday afternoon pedicure. It keeps me sane and as the saying goes, "if mama ain't happy ain't nobody happy."

Being alone is an acquired taste for some, myself included. I've learned to love and respect it over time. What makes it that much sweeter is knowing that whenever I find that sacred moment of solitude, I'll soon be returning to the sweetness my bustling life. And truly I wouldn't have it any other way. The rarity is what makes it gold.

What about you? Do you treasure your alone time or wish you had less of it? What's your favorite activity to do by yourself?

P.S. How great is the photograph above of the girl swinging with a view of La Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona?! Yes please!


  1. learning to enjoy your time alone is truly an acquired to speak. years ago, i couldnt have imagined eating out, going to a party, attending a myself...but now, I do and I enjoy. my favorite alone activities is gardening and hiking..i prefer to go at my own pace with both of those.

    1. Oh yes! Grdening and hiking are great ones! Thanks for sharing.

  2. I remember the first time I sat at a restaurant alone, reading a book, the first time I went to a movie theater alone- a little apprehension. Are these people judging me, wondering why that poor girl cant find one friend or a date out? That feeling very quickly passed and was replaced with a lovely wave of the joy of solitude and independence. Something I savor so now.

    1. Thanks for sharing Marilyn. I know you can relate!