It all started out innocently enough. I got the kids ready for school like usual, dropped off the Valentine’s Day box in the classroom and the kids off at their respective school. And then I snuck back home instead of going to work. Because I took a vacation day and didn’t tell my children.
I didn’t have anything to do. Usually precious vacation days are used for days the kids don’t have school or they have school activities like class parties or field trips or we are on a family vacation. Maybe I’ll take a day off for my birthday, but not always. But to take a day off for no reason? Unheard of.
It’s something moms daydream about. A day to do whatever we want to do – just like life was before kids. I don’t need to put the disqualifier out there about how much we love our children, how they are the best thing to ever happen to us, that we would love to spend every minute of every day with them. It’s all true. However. You know, we used to be people with interests beyond DisneyXD and basketball tournaments and school drama. We had dreams and goals and passions. And we still have them but maybe our time for those interests has diminished greatly. And can I also just say that we are tired, physically, emotionally and mentally? It takes a lot of energy to keep up with these little bundles of joy. In our house we have church activities, sports for both kids, music for both kids and regular school commitments. Oh, and we work full-time and have a house to keep up. So down time for personal activities just doesn’t happen often.
When my kids were babies, I daydreamed about days I could spend just sleeping. I had a fantasy about renting one of those by-the-hour hotel rooms and napping. Bedbugs and nasty sheets didn’t do anything to squelch this fantasy. These days I dream about quiet – time to read, watch MY shows, write, nap without interruptions or demands for snacks and meals. So when a day popped open on my work schedule, I took my chance and kept my mouth shut that Mom was going to have a free day. Because if I said something, I would be asked to do something with all of this free time. There are errands to be run! And if Mom has free time, she’d love to spend it doing these chores. Nope.
So I snuck back into my house. I went to the gym at a respectable time instead of at 4:30 a.m. I ate garbage food for lunch (cereal and Cheetos). I read books. I wrote. I napped. I watch Golden Girls. I practiced my ukulele. It was great. It was quiet. No one asked me to change the channel. No one woke me up from my nap so I could see something on TV. No one complained about the food being served. Ahh. Then I picked my kids up from school and put my Mom hat back on again and made dinner, worked on homework, and checked schedules (basketball games and swim practice had been canceled due to weather.) It was the perfect day.
And then over the dinner table, I made a fatal mistake. I opened my mouth and told the family about my day. Disbelief swept over the boys’ faces. You had a whole day off? But we had school. You were just home by yourself? What did you do? You didn’t go anywhere or do anything? And you didn’t do anything with us?
The Squirrel openly said what was being thought. “You could have had lunch with me! You could have surprised me at lunch and had lunch with me. I really thought you would have done that. Because you haven’t had lunch with me all year and it would have been a surprise. I really thought you would have done that. Because you weren’t working and you weren’t doing anything.” Oh the guilt. If the Squirrel could receive an Oscar it would be for a leading role in Mom Guilt. How dare I have a day off for just myself? And I didn’t DO anything. How did I not think of them and do something for them?
This is coming on the heels of three weeks of being a single parent while my husband traveled. Going to multiple swim meets and basketball tournaments and school ball games and doctor’s appointments and sickness in the house and school projects and Valentines and making lunches and cleaning and cooking and chauffeuring and working every day. Every Wednesday I get up extra early to make them breakfast for Wake Up Wednesday. Just the day before I spent a few hours in a gym watching basketball and then two hours building a Titanic Valentine’s Day box (which this child then cut in half to get his valentines out – because that’s how the Titanic looked when it sank. TWO HOURS of hot glue gunning!) But how dare I take a day off to do what I want to do when I could have spent it hanging out with him at school.
See, when my Moose and Squirrel were born, I jumped fully into the role of Mom. It is my favorite thing. It really is. But it is so easy to give give give and then find that you have done nothing for yourself in…months? Do you remember when they were babies and you considered self-care a shower? Yes, we have all been there. Some days that’s still the only “self-care” I get. Self-care for me now comes in the wee hours of the morning because I’d hate to disrupt these little balls of joy or take away from them in some way. Which is why I had to take a day off of work just to have a little down time.
I think when the Squirrel hears the word “son” he actually thinks it’s “sun” as in the world revolves around him. And I’m sure he’s not the only one. I’ve helped perpetuate this myth so I will take ownership. And it’s not just the Squirrel who feels this way. The Moose may be quieter, but I know he recognizes how much of our lives orbit him and just accepts it as fact. Two sports a season? Sure why not? Band AND choir? Yes! Weight lifting three mornings a week – of course! He is my gentle Moose who always says thank you and never outright asks for much, but mostly that’s because we just give it before it is asked. And of course we do. We love these boys and it is so easy to get wrapped up into everything they do and like. Right now, I am having intense conversations about basketball players and Sharknado. Do I care about either of these topics much? No, but I do now. Because what is important to them is important to me.
Where does this intense gravitation pull to the kids start? Naturally as soon as we pee on a stick and see that plus sign. I instantly went off coffee cold turkey (probably one of the hardest things I’ve done for my kids), skipped Subway and monitored every single moment they made. Then they are born and we are in constant vigilance. They had a dirty diaper – yes, but what kind of dirty diaper? Was it poo? If so, what color, what was the consistency and how much? Did they eat? When? Exactly how many ounces? Did they burp, cry or fall asleep afterwards? We are trained to notice Every. Single. Thing. about these babies because they could all indicate Signs (of something – we never know what.) And that constant vigilance never turns off. There isn’t a chapter in the baby books that says, hey, you can chill now. So this vigilance morphs into how many words do they say, how many friends do they have, how much exercise do they get, how many minutes do they read, how much quality time am I getting with them? And I’m not saying this stuff isn’t important. It is. But if you are like me, questions like these can keep you up at night and you kind of forget about the stuff that used to keep you up at night, like a good book, talks with friends or great sex.
It’s probably time to reclaim a little of ourselves again and teach our kids that they are SONS (or daughters) not SUNS. They are hugely important people in our lives. My babies have literally changed the person that I am today. They have taught me deep love, sadness, perspective and an ability to laugh in harrowing situations. They changed who I am for the better. But….I still need to be me. And I’m going to work on getting that back in just tiny increments. For example, one of my children is awake and yet, I am typing away at this blog, something I wouldn’t have done three weeks ago. Normally I’d be getting breakfast ready right away and maybe trying to cajole them into reading a book. But I really like to write and I’d like to do this for me right now. I’ve started adding things that I like to do to my to-do list – things like, take a bath, start a new book, text a friend, watch Great British Bake Off (I LOVE Mary Berry!) And those items are going to have a priority level like “pick up the Squirrel’s boutonnière for the Mother-Son Dance.” Because I’m important in this family too.
And my sons will still be my suns – let’s be real, I do orbit them. But I don’t need to know about how big their BMs are anymore (seriously guys, I honestly DON’T CARE! Please stop telling me and just get out the plunger!) And I don’t need to cater to their every single whim if I’m on empty. And if I need a nap, I’m going to take it instead of watching Sharknado 3 with you because, well, I’m tired. I’m sure you’ll fill me in about it all when I wake up. I’ll be ready for the sun then.