As I slog my way through yet another two-hour bedtime, I fantasize about being able to get away. When I imagine my break, the most enticing thing is the thought that I can end my day whenever I feel like it without having to worry if someone else brushed his or her teeth. I would eat dinner in peace, read a book, and not worry about someone popping out of bed 50 times before they fall asleep. Sitting on a couch at 7:00 with the whole night stretched before me, who hours unaccounted for, is all I'm asking for. It's all I need. I imagine what it will be like to be responsibility-free and living life like I did before I had kids for just a few days.
When the opportunity to take these breaks comes, I shake with excitement as I count down to my departure from my kids. This is the best part of it. The entire break lays ahead of me. Not a second of my time away has been used up. Just knowing it's there feels like I'm wrapped in the warmth of the best vacation ever despite my kids screaming through the house and elbowing me in the boobs. Barring the flu, nothing is going to interrupt my joy because I'm counting down to my break.
Once I start the break, I already mourn the end of it because precious seconds away immediately begin disappearing. Every minute is one less minute of freedom. Rather than relish it, I worry over its end.
Beyond my inability to stay present, there's one other reality that casts its shadow across my break: my life will never again be like it was before I had kids. I can't pretend I don't have kids for a minute because those two are deeply ingrained in my soul. No matter how much they irritate me with their incessant questions and demands, they're a part of me and there's no way I can disentangle myself from them. While I eat meals in peace and quiet and sleep in as late as I want, they're still there with me the whole time. Whether I'm worrying about them or laughing about all the funny ways they've fallen down, I'm never not a mom. I can never go back to be the person I was before having kids.
While this is sometimes challenging to accept because I didn't even know how amazing freedom was when I had, it's a good trade-off. Before having kids, Greg and I were sitting on the couch, watching tv, and being so bored. At this point, that sounds like heaven, but at the time it was getting very tedious. We weren't appreciating all the time we had. We didn't write novels, create masterpieces, or even go out very often. We just sat there and wondered if there was something we should be doing.
Now, we appreciate the shit out of any free time we have. And if we have a night off, we're going to wrestling matches or fun restaurants or, even if we're sitting on the couch, we're watching shows about amazing houses or Queer Eye, so we're definitely having more fun than we did before. And, between all the chaos and tantrums with the kids, there are genuinely good moments. Times where we laugh and enjoy each other's company as a family.
One of the weirdest parts of these short breaks is that I actually miss the kids when I'm away (not right away, but after a day or so. I'm not a saint over here). I slowly start to miss their little faces and the funny things they say. Usually, by the time the vacation ends, I'm even sort of looking forward to seeing them. But then, within five minutes of seeing them, someone's screaming because the window on her side of the car won't roll down like her brother's window does and I'm already counting down the days until my next break.