I’ve noticed something about my kids. It is definitely a pattern. Perhaps you have noticed a similar pattern in your own life.
My children–they are always around me. I mean always. There. Right there. All the time. If not both, at least one. Sometimes one of them will go to a friend’s house to play or sleep over or something, and I’m all “woo-hoo!”, and then the other one is there. Right there. Saying things to me like, “Can we go to [insert germ-ridden and overpriced place where kids like to go]? And go shopping? And make cookies? OOOOOH, I know, let’s make slime!” And I patiently smile at my little one and say, “why don’t we play the pajama game. We will both get in our jammies, and lay on the couch with books, and see who can be the quietest.” No one ever wants to play the pajama game with me.
Sometimes while I’m taking a shower, I get to listen to stories about Minecraft. And when I sit on the toilet, people want me to make them pancakes. Seriously, I could be in the kitchen for an hour doing dishes and such, but the moment I step into the bathroom, someone wants pancakes.
Most of the time I enjoy having them around during the day, but I long for days past when they went to bed at 7:00 pm. That was really awesome, does anyone remember that? That lovely middle part where your kids were fully sleeping through the night, but still young enough that you could put them to bed before Jeopardy came on. I kind of turn into a pumpkin or something right around that time, so it worked well for me. I tried to keep this going as long as possible, but my son was all, “MOM, I can’t go to bed at 7:30! I’M ELEVEN!” Whatever. In that case, can I go to bed at 7:30??
Now I know that you moms who have already launched your kids out into the world of college and first apartments and fiancés and weddings are going to say something like, “Enjoy it! Pretty soon they won’t want to be around you! They’ll be all grown up and move away, and they will only come around when they need money, and you’ll be so lonely and purposeless and empty and wishing they would call!” This is most likely correct.
But two things can be true at the same time, you know? And acknowledging that the one thing is true does not make the other thing less true. For instance, I can be reasonably smart and well educated with a Master’s degree and yet be completely unable to help my 6th grader with his math homework. So yes, I will be very sad when they grow up and fly the nest. But ALSO—mama’s so tired. Not in a “I need sleep” kind of way, like when they were babies. I am tired in the overworked and underpaid (make that unpaid) kind of way. I’m tired in the stretched thin and pulled in too many directions kind of way. In the eating 50% of my meals in the car while commuting or driving people to dance class kind of way. I’m tired in the 3 loads of laundry a day kind of way. I am tired in the get up at 5 am and pour all of my energy into the people at work and then my people at home, after which I get a whole 30 minutes to myself at the end of the day before I collapse into bed kind of way. And I only have two kids. Apparently there are people out there brave enough to have more than that, and honestly, I don’t know how you do it. Or when you had the free time to keep making all the babies.
These days, most of the alone time that I get happens in the car. Commuting is kind of like my “me time”, except that it’s stressful and there are lots of people cutting each other off and making rude hand gestures and my armpits get sweaty. Oh, and last year I had to have an MRI, so I got to be alone in that machine for a good 45 minutes. Little loud though. I go to yoga once a week and that is kind of like being alone. At least I’m on my mat all by myself and just breathing, and it’s quiet. Except for when that nose-whistling girl is in my class, then I get all angry while I am yoga-ing.
Where I really want to be alone is in my house. All of my mom fantasies begin and end in my clean, quiet house. I mean, sometimes I get to be alone, and I get to be in the house, but I rarely get to be alone in the house. A few years ago, my husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I told him they could take me out to dinner. Oh, and–could you take the kids away for a few days so I can be alone in my house? You could see the confusion in his face, maybe a little trepidation. I’m sure it is a little disarming to hear your wife say that she wants you to pack up the kids and leave town. And honestly, it took me a long time to work up the courage to ask for that, because I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, or make anyone feel unloved. But after some explanation, he seemed to get it. And guess what? On the weekend that we set aside to execute this plan, ONE OF THE KIDS STARTED VOMITING. Naturally. It took until February of the following year for us to find another weekend that fit the bill.
And what did I do on my mommy mental health weekend, you ask? Well, let me tell you. I made sure my house was all clean on Thursday–dusting, vacuuming, bathrooms all done. I went out with a friend Friday night and stayed out as long as I wanted. Which was 9:45 pm. Then I stayed in my pajamas all weekend, watched whatever I wanted on Netflix, made food that nobody complained about, took a nap, and read books. And my house stayed clean all weekend. It was awesome. All moms need to be able to do this on the regular.
And then my family came home. And they messed up the house. And wanted pancakes. And complained about the food. And put clean clothes down the laundry chute because that’s easier than folding them and putting them away. And told me stories about Minecraft. And gave me huge hugs, because they missed me.
And I missed them too.