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Are We Becoming Must-Have Hermits?

Must-Have Parent

I think social media is making us anti-social.

It's too easy to hang out in our houses, not see what the neighbors are doing, not meet up with friends.

It's too easy to get our community fix from the comfort of our own homes, or we're while sitting in a locked car in a parking lot, with the air conditioning on and the windows rolled up, waiting for a child to finish dance class.

When we're exhausted from days, weeks and months of must-have parenting, the energy required to make plans and meet up with other fleshy in-person humans can just be too much. We can log onto Facebook and see what our friends have been doing. We can exchange witty quips with strangers on Twitter. It feels almost like a conversation.

Almost.

I'm definitely guilty of this.

With my husband gone and my kids out of school, I've spent 24 hours a day alone with three children all summer long. Two of them are still in car seats. One of them is only recently potty trained. Everywhere I've gone, they've gone with me -- with all their whining, fighting, dawdling and wandering off.

Every ounce of my ever-dwindling supply of energy has gone to them. Every bit of my attention has had to be devoted to them -- watching to make sure they don't drown, or kill each other, or chat with random strangers on Minecraft, thus making themselves susceptible to child molesters. (This is apparently a thing, by the way.)

I can power through exhaustion. I can endure pain. I can Google and find solutions to most anything that's wrong or broken. What I cannot take is a hassle. I have a ridiculously low hassle tolerance.

Show me a checkout line with more than two people waiting, and I'm abandoning my cart and going home. We'll just find something to eat in the pantry.

If a trip to a park means that I have to chase children around the whole time to make sure someone isn't jumping off the slide or throwing rubber mulch (and that's what it means) -- we're not going. I have to budget my energy, and that's just not in the budget.

As a result, we've gone to the grocery store only when we've run out of milk and bread, and usually not until we've been out for a day. I order toilet paper from Amazon.

We go to doctor's appointments, of course, and swim practices. The kids play with other kids in the neighborhood. Sometimes we go for walks around the neighborhood. But, beyond those essential outings, we really haven't left the house very much.

It dawned on me last week that I have become a Must-Have Hermit. Not because I don't like people -- I love people. Agoraphobia is not my issue -- quite the opposite, in fact. I drive by restaurants and look in the windows wistfully. I see people in parks and fantasize about joining them.

The movies ... ahh, I can't remember the last time I went to a theater. And the real theater ... sigh.

But being the only adult with three young children in a restaurant, a movie, or even a park -- where they will inevitably cause a disturbance, run off in different directions or squabble with other children whose parents I will then have to placate, well, it just hasn't been worth it.

So we stay home. I get my human contact fix online and on the phone. But I'm missing the living, breathing humans around me because I'm scrolling through the funny faces and gorgeous sunsets on Instagram.

This is not just a MHP problem -- not by a long shot -- it's a society problem. But it's a problem that can hit MHPs especially hard. When our parenting partner is away for long periods of time, or has a work schedule that keeps us from seeing and talking much to him or her, conversations with other adults are all the more necessary. But when parenting is 24/7 with no breaks, we're also less likely to have the energy to find and forge those friendships.

What do you do to find the energy to get out into the world when you're exhausted by demands of must-have parenting?

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Rebekah Sanderlin Military Parenting

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Contributor

Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army wife, a mother of three and a professional writer. Her work has been published numerous places, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, CNN, and in Self and Maxim magazines. She currently serves on the advisory boards of the Military Family Advisory Network and Blue Star Families.

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