I did something this weekend that I haven’t done in my 10 years as a parent. Wanna venture a guess?
No, not bungee-jumping. Pull an all-nighter? Nope, too old for that. I did not run a marathon, either. In fact, you can cross anything related to sweating or athletics off your list. This was so much more gratifying and much less taxing.
I spent 57 hours alone in my own home. I was like Macaulay Culkin but with access to alcohol and wi-fi.
Mike left bright and early Friday morning with the kids to visit his family in Ohio. It’s the kind of trip I’ve taken many times. As a stay-at-home mom I’ve had a freedom in scheduling that Mike doesn’t. When Elena was a baby I made many treks up to Indy with her for days at a time. Twice I’ve taken the kids to the beach for a week without Mike. He couldn’t take the time off and who am I to pass up the beach? I’ve been the idiot that thinks 5 kids and 2 moms driving to Oklahoma sounds like a brilliant idea (hint: it’s not).
While I wouldn’t pass on these trips in a heartbeat (though investing in that glass partition cabbies have might not be a bad idea), there was always a part of me that was jealous of Mike. Even though I knew he’d rather be with us, even though I knew I’d left him behind for work, I was still envious of his weekends and evenings. To wake up to silence. To eat what you wanted when you wanted and not have to cut up anybody else’s food or pour them a drink. To watch movies with swear words at 6 p.m. if you felt inclined. To take a nap and not have anybody raise an eyebrow.
A few weeks ago we were having that timeless summer discussion where I lament that I am never really alone. I can’t get anything done, someone always needs something, somebody is always talking. I’m not proud, but I like to imbibe this particular vintage of stay-at-home mom whine early and often. He’s so good at giving me my space when I need it, but this time he hit a home run.
“Why don’t I take them to Ohio for a long weekend?” He might’ve even started that sentence off with, “Hey girl …” Or maybe I just imagined that part.
And so they did. What did I do? I spent all of Friday morning in my jammies drinking coffee and getting my Pinterest fix. I cleaned the house from top to bottom and it stayed clean. I worked at The Container Store for part of Saturday, then leisurely shopped at Trader Joe’s without the devil’s invention: the kiddie shopping cart. I napped. I had girlfriends over in my clean house. I slept in. I went to the pool with my sister and didn’t have to cart around 50 lbs of wet towels, snacks and pool toys. I wrote.
It was the perfect balance of solitude and fellowship, of silence and conversation. It was glorious.
It was a little strange, too. By Sunday afternoon it felt unnatural and I was ready for my family to come home. I needed them home. It was enlightening as well. For the first time, I could empathize with Mike feeling a bit left out from all of our previous trips. He was good at sending me photos, and the quiet would be interrupted with pictures like this:
They were having so much fun. Just two kids who are a million times easier to travel with than ever before, hanging out with their dad who is a million times more fun than me. I won’t lie, it tugged at me a bit. And I could finally understand why Mike would be envious of me, who for all these years got to be the fun one on these adventures. Yes, traveling with kids can be exhausting. But for every bad bathroom experience or backseat meltdown, there are moments like this:
Moments you’ll treasure forever when they have set out on their own adventures.
Like everything else in life, we must balance these things. For a long time it was just me on these trips. It’s been too long since it was all of us (something we hope to remedy later this fall). And now, I hope that we’ve started a new tradition of dad adventures. It’s not something I’m used to, only being responsible for myself. But for a weekend or two a year, I think I could manage.