White Knuckle Parenting: Time Away from the Kids
Hanging out with my kids is awesome, but sometimes it is nice to not be around them.
We all love our kids. Of course we do. That said, isn't it the best thing in the world to spend a few days away from them? Imagine multiple hours in a row without someone touching you all the time, not having to feed small people every three hours, and not hearing this constantly: "Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Excuse me, Mom? Mom? Excuse me? Mom? Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom!"
I got those days away last week. I went to a blogging conference in New York all by myself. I left Wednesday afternoon and didn't arrive back until Sunday evening. Count those days: more than four.
It was delightful.
But just because I was away doesn't mean I wasn't thinking constantly about my kiddos. Okay, it actually does. But it doesn't mean that I wasn't thinking intermittently about them.
I left them with a babysitter on Wednesday afternoon and I'm not entirely sure they knew I was leaving. My kids love babysitters, probably mostly because I always tell the babysitters that they can let the kids watch TV if they need a break. Then my kids ensure that the babysitter needs a break.
As I drove away from my house, I had already started to miss the munchkins. I thought of their little faces and their hugs and was sad that I wouldn't see them for so long. Then I started thinking about other things and by the time I remembered that I should call to wish them goodnight, it was well past their bedtime and I was drunk.
I called the next day to chat with them, but they were watching TV with their dad and only one of them felt I was interesting enough to talk to. By the second time I called the next day, they all wanted to talk to me. And talk to me. And talk to me some more.
Is it just me, or when you talk to your kids on the phone do they sound so much younger than they are? I heard their high-pitched little voices and missed them terribly. I imagined their hugs and cuddles and I knew that they wished I were there and in that moment, I would have done anything to be there.
But then I remembered how taking time for myself makes me a better mother. I remembered that separating from my kids and showing them that it is important for mothers to have their own time, interests, and personhood is crucial to their growing up to respect women. I remembered that I wanted to go hang out with some friends and the kids had started to ramble by this time anyway, so I shook them off and worked on being thoroughly myself some more.
And then I went to Rock Center and bought a lot of souvenirs for them.
My kids had a playdate over the weekend and that mom texted me a photo and told me that they were wonderful. It's that goofy picture you see above. I stared at it for a really long time. I may have caressed it with my finger. I may also have wished that my husband had bothered to comb their hair before sending them out in public.
As I traveled back toward my family on Sunday, I became more and more excited to see them. I was relaxed and happy after not having to micromanage their little lives for a few days. I couldn't wait to hug their little bodies and see their little faces.
Yet I was also worried that I was going to walk in and one of them would say something obnoxious and someone else would whine and then the third one would throw a tantrum and I would immediately be sorry I came home instead of staying on the Amtrak train until it got to Florida.
Instead they smiled and jumped up and down and gave me huge hugs. My husband told me that my middle son had woken up that morning and immediately said, "Today is the day mom comes home." You can't beat that. It was pure joy.
Then someone did something obnoxious and I reprimanded said child and my oldest was all, "Mom's already yelling!" and the one who had been obnoxious yelled, "I win! I get a cookie!" and I knew I was home.
I am so happy to be home with my kids. But I am even happier that I took a few days to myself. Because, yes, we all love our kids, but we also need to take time to love ourselves and recharge every once in a while.
Jean, a.k.a. Stimey, writes a personal blog at Stimeyland; an autism-events website for Montgomery County, Maryland, at AutMont; and a column called Autism Unexpected in the Washington Times Communities. You can find her on Twitter as @Stimey.