I want alone time so badly, I’d rather sit in traffic than be with my kids

My husband works all the way across town, which means he spends more than an hour a day driving. He hates the traffic on the freeway, hates the long waste of time when he would rather be home or be at work already. I understand why his commute is something he doesn’t enjoy, but sometimes I want to tell him he doesn’t know how good he has it. The truth is, I’m jealous of my husband’s commute.

I wish I could have that sort of alone time, even if it meant sitting in rush-hour traffic five days a week.

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It’s unnerving how jealous I get thinking about the alone time my husband gets during his commute — and how much I long for that sort of quiet contemplative time. It seems silly, frivolous… that is, until I’m peeing with the door open while my two preschool-aged children fight over who gets to flush the toilet. Alone time of any sort, even in the mundane context of driving to and from work, is a need that goes largely unfulfilled these days.

On the hard days when I’m clock-watching, waiting for my husband to come home, I imagine how I would spend that time, perhaps listening to a favorite podcast without cries from the back seat over a dropped sippy cup or taunting over who got bigger apple slices for snack (NO ONE! I CUT THEM EXACTLY THE SAME!). Maybe I would blast my favorite song, or listen to Missy Elliott without turning down the volume to zero every time a bad word popped up. Maybe I would sing along with the obscenities. Loudly.

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Sometimes I’ll get the rare chance to drive to the store and back alone, and I won’t even turn on the radio, I’ll just bask in the silence. I’m hyper-aware of what precious little time I have alone, and I try my best to take advantage of it. I’ll stay in the shower just a few extra minutes listening to the hum of my own thoughts, uninterrupted. I’ll wake up in the middle of the night for a glass of water and stand in the dark, quiet living room for a moment, taking it all in.

My husband doesn’t realize how these little moments of solitude are luxuries to me, because his life involves so much unnoticed alone time. He has a whole life that is clearly separated from fatherhood, and all the noise that comes with it. I, on the other hand, am always coupled with our children. He doesn’t understand the loudness wrapped up in the constancy of motherhood, because he does not live it.

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There is no quiet time built into this job. Yet for all my jealousy, I know I would not switch places with my husband if given the chance. On a hard day? Maybe. But on the whole, I chose this life for myself because it’s what I wanted — in spite of the volume, in spite of how hard it is.

I’ll long for these days when the house is quiet. So I’ll take the noise for now, and enjoy the small voices in the backseat during my commutes.