By Beth M. Wood
The government says I deserve a break…some “me” time. I have this in writing.
It’s called a Parenting Plan. Every other weekend, my three kids are picked up by their dad at 6 pm on Friday, and returned to me at 5 pm on Sunday. That’s 47 hours. Just for me. My married-with-kids friends are terribly jealous. And if I’m being completely honest, it sounded good to me, too, at first. After so many days of doing it all myself, I look forward to slowing down the pace a little.
As these “breaks” approach, I always create a “to do” list: laundry, cleaning, fix the ice maker, clean out the gutters, cut the lawn, finish a feature article, work on my memoir, write a post for my blog, tweet a few clever messages…the list goes on and on.
The night before my KFW (Kid-Free Weekend), tired from all the cooking, breaking up of fights, picking up toys, doling out chores and giving baths, I start to daydream about what my weekend will be like: I’ll dress a little nicer for work on Friday so that I can meet a friend for happy hour after work, unwinding with a glass (or two) of wine. I’ll skip my Saturday morning boot camp just this once, and linger over The Today Show and a cup of coffee. I’ll spend the afternoon window-shopping, then meet friends for dinner and drinks at a swanky bar on Saturday night. I’ll lose track of time relaxing, laughing, catching up, then sleep in late Sunday morning, and check off a few items on that to-do list before welcoming my kids back home.
This is my reality: Rather than head to happy hour straight from work, I rush to pick up my kids from their respective summer camps so that I can spend a little time with them before they leave. At 6 pm, I hug each of them one more time as they run out the door to greet their dad. By 6:15, I’ve stripped all four beds to wash sheets, blankets and pillowcases after two weeks of daily use. At 6:45 I walk past the hall bath and immediately reach for the Scrubbing Bubbles, spending 45 minutes disinfecting first one, and then the other guest bathroom.
Around 7:30, I finally sit down in front of the TV only to realize I never ate dinner. At 8 pm, I sit back down in front of the TV with a plate of Eggo waffles to watch a few old episodes of The Nanny I taped last week. This is when the phone calls and text messages come in from family and friends inviting me out for a drink. Seriously? I’m in baggy sweats and smell like a toilet wand. I turn down the offers and fall asleep to the whomp-whomp of my kids’ clothes in the dryer.
At 8 am Saturday morning I’m on my way to boot camp, because if I don’t go, even just this once, I’ll beat myself up over it all week (plus it’s a great outlet for all the stress).
By 10:15, covered in dirt and sweat after a 90-minute butt-kicking, I’m on my way to Dunkin’ Donuts for a large coffee: three creams, three sugars, please. I get home at 11 am fully intending to hit the shower, but when I walk in the house I’m disgusted with the dirt and junk that’s piled up from two weeks worth of living (how did I not see all this last night?). I spend an hour putting away toys, soccer cleats, crayons, camp newsletters and half-full cups of juice.
At noon, I pull some leftovers out of the fridge and eat a quick lunch standing at the kitchen counter while I empty the dishwasher, fill the dishwasher and scrub out the microwave.
At 12:30, I run out to grab the mail, and realize my five-year old could get lost in the height of my lawn, so I cut the grass before I shower off the filth from boot camp. At 2 pm I hit the shower (finally) and then begin running errands. By late afternoon, I miss my kids terribly, checking in via text with my two boys, ages 14 & 11 and reminding them to hug their little sister for me. I’m exhausted, but relish a night out with adults, so I spend some time making myself presentable and head out for dinner and drinks with friends.
My plan to sleep in on Sunday is thwarted by an early soccer game followed by coffee with a writer friend to review each other’s work, after which I race to the grocery store, forgetting the carefully thought out list I made a few days before. And because I’m running on a single banana and one large cup of coffee, I spend a good $50 more than I would have if I’d remembered…to eat. To bring the list.
I race home and put away the last of the groceries as I hear my kids running up to the front door. Home at last.
Every other Sunday afternoon I wonder, “Where did those 47 hours go? Why didn’t I slow down and enjoy them more?” But I think part of me knows that I need to move at this pace, even when – especially when – my kids are away from home. Because if I sit still long enough, I’ll realize just how terribly I miss them, and I won’t be able to watch The Nanny for the tears filling my eyes.
But here’s the thing: I need this time. It gives me a chance to miss my kids, to not take them for granted, to realize just how much I love being their mom. Just because I take this time for myself doesn’t mean I love them any less. What it does mean is that when their dad drops them off on Sunday afternoon, they come home to a calmer, more patient mom. And that’s something that benefits all of us.
About this writer
- Beth M. Wood is an award-winning marketer, freelance writer and mom of three. Her social media addiction pays the bills and steady copywriting gigs feed her shopping habit. She blogs about marketing and social media at bethmwoodblog.com, digresses about life and parenting at bethmwood.blogspot.com and tweets @a1972bmw.
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