I have to travel quite a bit for work. Usually just within the state, so no big deal, just kind of a headache. A recent trip across the country forced me to hire a nanny for two nights. She came with good references via an old family friend so the situation wasn’t particularly worrisome according to normal standards. However, I’m not normal. I’m extremely neurotic. Since the three of us are pretty much together all the time excepting the 8-hour work/daycare day, being away from the kids for two nights pretty much freaked me out. The nanny, who the kids insisted on calling Sharon (which wasn’t even close to her real name), was extremely gracious. She texted me pictures before she dropped the kids off at school, when she picked them up, after she fed them dinner, during evening play, and face-timed me before bed and when they woke up. It was almost as if I wasn’t really gone.
I loved coming home and hearing all of Caleb’s dramatic stories following Sharon’s stay with the kids. It always began with, “Momma, when Sharon was here, something went very very wrong” and ended with something like “there was too much soap in the tub when we took a bath” or “we opened containers in the refrigerator and found spider-fluff in everything” (spider-fluff is Caleb’s word for mold, not uncommon in my fridge). Just hours after I returned home, I was thrown back into my world, exhausted, and wishing for my hotel room again, where I could lay on my bed in my underwear and watch anything I wanted on TV for hours.
Prior to having kids, I have to admit, I was really judgemental of my friends who became parents and insisted on taking the kids everywhere with them, not making any efforts to separate themselves from their kids and have a good time as adults. I remember visiting friends and secretly feeling annoyed as their children constantly interrupted our conversations. Less and less I would hang out with my friends who had kids and I began spending time with people 5 and 10 years younger than me simply because they had more freedom and more to talk about than cranky husbands, whiny kids and overbearing grandparents.
Now I am THAT parent, amplified. Minus the cranky husband and overbearing grandparents. I spend almost every waking moment outside of work with my kids. Saturday mornings I take some down time for a few hours to run errands and clean my house while the kids hang out with a sitter. Sometimes I feel moved to make amends with my former parent friends and send them letters asking them for forgiveness for being so dense and jerky. My therapist has spent the past 3 years talking to me about “me” time and that if I spend some time “recharging”, I will be a better parents and my kids will be better kids. I am really curious to know how other people do it, particularly parents who are “outnumbered” by their kids, single or married. What does “me” time look like? Is there any kind of “me” time that is truly recharging, fulfilling, valuable time spent away from the kids? Do people revisit their “old” selves – pre-children – or find new hobbies and outlets? Or do we just wait until the kids grow up and move out?