My husband has given me the best gift to date: Three straight nights in my house all by myself. It’s the first time since before my son was born that I’ve slept in our house without him.
It wasn’t my plan, going into parenthood, to not have a free night at home for so long. I’m one of those paradoxical outgoing introverts, a party-going homebody, who can mingle with just about anyone and who also craves alone time.
Alone time, by definition, is entirely different than “me time”. Countless parents have impressed upon me the importance of doing things for myself apart from mothering. I’ve heeded their advice by attending my writing group meetings and participating in an adult dance class. Those are my two weekly “me time” outings. But that’s just it, they’re outings. I want an inning, and I’m not referring to baseball.
The closest thing resembling alone time as a stay-at-home-mom comes during naps. Except, wait for it, I’m not really alone. There’s another person in the house. A person whose care is my responsibility. When I get out of the shower, I double check the monitor to see if he’s stirred. When I take a phone call, I dash to the other side of the house talking at half volume so as not to disturb his slumber. I won’t unload the dishwasher while he’s asleep, because I haven’t mastered doing so without waking him. And let’s not forget the storm of rage that floods me when the doorbell rings. To be fair, he sleeps through it, (I’m knocking profusely on wood right now) but still, the curse words fly before I calm myself down again.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, I have an only child.
Imagine my shock, then, when my husband offered to take our son with him to Notre Dame for the weekend to meet up with most of my in-laws and go to the game. Two months ago, when he first offered, my response was an immediate “No.” Yeah right, like I was going to relinquish control of Miller’s schedule for not one, not two, but three whole days. Absolutely not. But then, last week happened. When you factor in fluctuating hormones that make me moodier than a kid on Halloween who’s just been told that his candy’s been given away and combine that with hints of the threes, I was thinking that I should take my husband up on his offer.
I got excited at the thought of having a chunk of free time all to myself. And then I got even more excited that it really was an option. My gut was screaming “Yes!” It was a little unnerving. After all, mom’s don’t take breaks like that. They don’t just get free time like that. Right? But wait a minute. The thought excites me. I get alone time at home, the boys get quality father son time, plus, Miller will get to see some of his cousins. That’s a win win win! It’s also the fastest I’ve ever packed a suitcase for my son.
Day 1: The boys left early evening. I went to a book signing, and with most of the night and an abundance of options still ahead of me, I did what I think most moms would do in my situation – I ordered Chinese carryout and sat on the couch. The zing of excitement from my newfound freedom was gone. I was exhausted. Much like a car that’s just been turned off after a long road trip, my mind/body was still shimmying, clanking, hissing, and warm from over 2.5 years of not being able to decompress in my own home.
Day 2: I woke up at 7:30 as usual. That’s okay. I laid in bed for a solid half hour before emerging from my room because I could. How cool is that. The day was a mixture of productivity and play. I taught a Piyo class in the morning, met a girlfriend for lunch, and went to a fundraising event in the evening. Between those scheduled events I had time to roam as I pleased, and that’s exactly what I did. When I walked into a room, I remembered what I’d gone in to get. I could complete my own thoughts and sentences. 24 hours in, and I had fully unwound and was starting to recharge.
Day 3: I actually slept in, til 8:45, and stayed in pajamas past noon. I read part of the book I bought at the signing, I wrote, and I ate while watching television all from the comforts of the couch. An afternoon wedding and an evening reception got me out of my pajamas and out of the house. At the reception I saw old friends and familiar faces. I made small talk and had meaningful conversations. I ate some good food and shared some good laughs. By the end of the night, I finally felt recharged and ready for my boys to return home the next day.
At the end of my three-day staycation, I’ve learned some distinctions in how to take mom breaks. Going on vacation is fun; it enables me to reconnect with my husband and with the world. Carving out “me time” regularly is healthy; it gives me a sense of identity separate from “mom”, and it reconnects me with others who share my interests. Having a staycation filled with alone time is necessary; it allows me to reconnect with myself.
For all of the moms out there with children at home, whether you take the time or make the time, I encourage you to stay at home, mom.