A friend is having a fabulous 40th birthday getaway in a few months. It involves a short flight and a drive and some fabulous scenery and spa and an overnight stay at a great house. Guests are making their plans for flying in from all over the place and it looks like a really good time.
I started doing the mental gymnastics needed to figure out how to pay for the plane ticket, and checking my husband's schedule for whether he's in town that weekend, and scheming who would watch my kids if he's not and then I stopped. I'll be sending my regrets.
It's not the money, or the schedule, or even childcare, really, that is keeping me away. Those things can be worked out.
It's this person right here.
He has spent every night of his short 20 months firmly tucked in against my side and nursing when he wakes before drifting off to sleep again. There was a time when his Beema could get him to sleep the first time, but even then, I was the one he wanted when he woke again.
I don't expect he will be weaned by August, and even then I doubt he will be able to sleep through a night without needing me.
I'm not going to make him do that just so I can go have a great time with some friends.
He's way too much of a toddler to bring along though. He would ruin everyone's good time. So I will stay home, and put him to bed like I always do, and be there when he wakes.
I find it difficult to explain to people sometimes that I want to be with my children. I'm not in a rush to get away from them and I don't roll my eyes at how obnoxious they are or at the thought of having to take them along with me.
They are my kids. They need me, not someone else, to be there for them. I really don't have that much time left before they are the ones who want to leave, and then I won't have the option of laying down beside them, downy head snuggled on my shoulder, to feel the soft rise and fall of a little chest as they sleep. I will never wish I had spent less time with my children. Never.
A new friend asked me at my birthday party a couple of months ago when was the last time I had celebrated a birthday without my children in attendance. I understood what she was asking, but it gave me pause because of the apparent assumption that I would want such a thing.
Personally, I don't want to spend my birthday in a way that excludes my children. I want them with me. I like them to be part of the celebration. I find an invitation to hang out with a friend minus the kids a bit of a conundrum because, as much as I like friends and fun activities I feel pulled away from where my heart really lies, which is at my messy house, with my loud, rowdy, often dirty and far from perfectly behaved progeny. It never feels good to be away for too long.
Which isn't to say that I don't need, or crave a break on occasion, when I'm really weary, and sleep deprived and under stress. It doesn't mean I'm supermom, or always patient, or never find my children irritating. (I'll give you 10 minutes in a car with the Boy making one of his shrill mouth noises and I challenge you to not feel like duct taping his mouth shut before the end of it. It can't be done.)
But it is to say that I feel like I'm a minority sometimes. I see a lot of moms who, it seems, can't wait to get away from their kids. I feel like they expect me to feel the same.
It seems everything in our culture is geared to tell moms they should want to go places without their children. "Moms should prefer expensive dinners in fancy restaurants to homemade cakes and potluck buffets with all the kids joining in on the fun. Moms should prefer immaculate living rooms with carefully arranged decorator trays to threadbare couches, and finger printed walls, and always a tiny Lego that escaped the broom nestled in some corner. Moms should long for adult conversation and intellectual stimulation rather than that whole body tingling moment when you watch a 16-month-old put the puzzle piece in the right place for the first time ever, or see a proud 2-year-old put everything away in the right place because they've been watching, so carefully, to learn where it goes. Moms should want to go out with the girls for cocktails instead of staying home and kissing freshly bathed chubby feet and tucking everyone in for the night."
Maybe some women who are moms do want those things. I can honestly tell you I don't, not if it means losing time with my kids. Oh, I may dream out loud on occasion, or say that sounds nice. I may make jokes that give the impression I'm just like everyone else. But with the actual choice in front of me, all that, or being here for my kids, I choose my kids. Every time. (Now, if I can work it out that they are hanging out with an elusive daddy who is often out of town and he is getting time to just be there for them then sure, I'm up for a few hours of me time. But that's pretty rare around here, and they still don't go to sleep until I get home to give them kisses, even if they are all in bed. But even then, I will probably hesitate and mentally weigh time at home with husband I miss and kids I love against whatever it is I'm thinking of doing.)
I remember when the Boy was still a baby and my 2 best/oldest/practically sisters friends came for a visit. They wanted to take a night to get away, just the 3 of us for a while and I just couldn't wrap my head around it. "Sure we can go out. Let me just get the diaper bag and the car seat and the baby sling all packed up first and get him dressed", which is what I did, and he came along. It's caused a lot of awkward moments over the years -- this thing I feel, this choice I make. But I don't really know how to do it differently.
I know my friend who is having the birthday party will understand, because I know she gets that about me. She is very much the same.
I may come off as very weird to some of you, and that's ok. I'm not going to tell you how to be a mom. But maybe it will give some the courage to choose staying home with their kids when that is what they really want to do, even though others are urging them to just go away for the weekend. Because it's ok to choose to put your kids first, it really is. And I can't be the only one who feels this way. Am I?
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