16.4.12

I choose being here

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 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 with 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?

20 comments:

  1. I totally understand but am sad nonetheless.  :) You will be missed but I'd rather it be us missing you than you missing your children and your children missing you.  Le sigh...

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  2. Can't you wait until next year to turn 40? He'll be fine over night by then. ;)

    But I'm making you cake and taking you somewhere fun in celebration anyway, just FYI

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  3. Brenda said it well. Of course we'll miss you, but we'd rather be missing you than knowing Bam Bam was crying at home missing you. :-)

    If I didn't half-expect that Elliora will be weaned by then, and if she weren't so independent and willing to be put to bed by her dad and Gramaw, I probably wouldn't be coming either, since in August she will only be 21 months old.

    I do need a little time away by myself from EVERYONE occasionally, not just my kids. But once I've had an hour or two to recharge, then I'm usually ready to jump back into the chaos. I have a couple of good friends who are forever scheming ways to get out and do things without their kids or husbands, even though their kids are in school and activities 40 hours a week and their husbands work that much or more. Right now I can barely bring myself to go to the store when my husband is at home, because he's working such long hours away from home these days, and I school my kids at home because right now I can and I might not always be able to.

    So, no. You're not the only one.

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  4. Ellen Bragdon5:48 AM

    Nope, you're not weird. I usually choose my kids and my husband, too. I pick and choose carefully what I'm going to do out of the house without my hubby and kids. I only have one friend that I make a regular point to get up with for a girl's night out, but we both only get away for dinner once every couple of months or so. There are some catch up conversations that I can't have with three boys under the age of 5. 
    BUT, If I leave, I'm leaving my kids with my husband most of the time, and it is good for him to spend time with them without me. He's not traveling or working odd hours right now. A weekend away from my hubby and kids doesn't usually appeal to me.A little time away can be restorative, and I think you should find some of it for a little change of scenery or select friends. But I understand it feeling weird or you not being sure at first that it's worth it. Too much of it isn't... but there is a balance.  Ok, I'm wandering. Time to get the kids up. =)

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  5. You are most definitely not the only one. But yes, lots of people I know act as though their main goal, after feeding and clothing their children is only to escape them at every opportunity. I have been one of them sometimes too. Just recently I had the startling experience of someone saying "after all week with them off school I just NEEDED a break!" and I, rather than wholeheartedly agreeing, thought to myself "But a whole week off, with nowhere to go and tons of time to just hang out is soooo nice." We get that a lot from families with kids in lots of activities too, because ours are in exactly none most of the time. Family time is just something I guard so jealously, because they'll all grow up so soon and be wanting to do things without us and not running up every minute saying 'Mama look!" Children are a blessing(always, even when they make me crazy:) from a loving God, and it does my soul much much good to remember this is true. And then live like their presence is the gift I know it to be.

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  6.  I find there are definitely seasons, depending on ages and personalities. I know that in a few years, when I have no one under 3 anymore that I'll be more comfortable with overnight trips and longer excursions because they will be better equipped to deal with it.

    I take my gauge from them, and how they are doing.

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  7. I know when the weekend comes I'm going to be so bummed to be at home instead of seeing your lovely face. But I know I'd be a wreck if I went so, yeah. :)

    I hope you all have a wonderful time.

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  8. To echo the other ladies, you are not the only one!  This time is brief and fleeting.  I remember turning down invitations for about seven years straight -- but I would always say, "But don't forget about me...please keep inviting me, because one of these years, it will be the right time!"  And it will be. 

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  9. Lauren11:48 AM

    Well said, as usual!  I feel the same and although I do enjoy a break, I miss them like crazy and wander aimlessly sometimes!  You are a huge encouragement Carrien!  Thanks!

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  10. I don't think you are the only one. But even if you feel like you are, it's okay to be different.

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  11. Annmarie5:31 PM

    My husband is our stay at home Dad and he could have written this (except the nursing part LOL). He feels that way too. Unfortunately, I don't, but we get that about each other so when ther are errands Nutmeg almost always goes with him and I almost always go alone. It's easier now that she's older (7) for me, but....

    But this is also one of the reasons I work outside the home and DH is a SAHD. He loves it; I couldn't do it without a lot of help!

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  12. julie harless8:12 PM

    Carrien, we havent seen each other in awhile (which is super lame and I blame myself). I havent seen your parenting style nearly enough or lately, your being a mother "in action"  to comment. However,  I really appreciated your post (Im revisiting your wonderful blog for the first time in...too long). I was 16 when Adam was my baby, and he is going to turn 16 this week. I had SO many experiences where people could not understand why I wouldn't "just find a babysitter" and just get the *$^# out of there. I did both. Sometimes, I needed a weekend to go act like a young person, and not a mother,  I occasionally had my mom watch Adam, sometimes I felt guilty and wished Id stayed home. Sometimes I felt like "oh thank GOD!!! I SOOOOO needed this" Sometimes....actually, most of the time, I stayed home watching and listening to his little breath , feeling his little body twitches as he fell asleep. Cuddled up with him in our bed (yeah, I got a lot of flack for that too, our bed, not my bed). What I thought when I read your post is this- we need to stick together and support each other. Your feelings as a mother may not be the same as mine. Does that mean that you or I are a superior mother? Absolutely not, it means that we are all being the best moms we can be and that might look differently and change..... ALOT. I believe that mothers don't give enough grace to one another, and seriously.....who more equipped to give that??? I know moms who work more than I would have, are away from their children more than I would have been,  or spend "too much" time with their kids, but does that mean that they arent good mothers and dont love their children? NO! I read your post and felt your conflict, to deliver to your friends and "be" a way you are expected to be by society. You are being exactly who you are supposed to be for YOU and your children. I think that moms need to stick together and support each others decisions and not worry that we arent being how we're supposed to be. 
     Theres a stereotype that war buddies have a certain loyalty towards one another that gives them a "free pass" one war buddy to another will tell them something so *%&$-ed up and its automatically OK, because...well, theyve been to war together and theyve bonded, and seen the other ones true character. Thats how I think mothers should be to one another, even if we really dont know  what the other one is going through. We all know, whether you work, home school , or somewhere in between that our limits have been pushed further than we ever thought they couldve been (vomit in the face, sleep deprivation, etc., maybe water boarding in some situations? :) )  and we love every minute of it , and wouldnt trade a single second of it. 
    Stay home with your toddler, love it and regret it, thats what we all do! 

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  13. Julie! I miss you!

    Thank-you for this. I totally agree.

    When are we going to get together again?

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  14. Brad Salomons7:23 AM

    I agree with you -- nearly -- completely.  As a doting dad I can hardly reconcile that very odd societal pressure to get away from your kids at every opportunity with the personal desire to spend every moment I can with my daughter.  We plan our free time and vacations as 100% family time.  

    Where we probably differ in our opinions is in a kind of rational, practical need to actually pull away occasionally and live one's own life as a parent. I deeply believe that the only way I'll ever be the role model I want to be for my daughter is to be someone that does live my life, develops my own hobbies and interests external to her existence, and helps her understand that she is not the centre of any universe (while still understanding that she has her parents' unconditional love no matter what she does or who she becomes.)  It's tough -- harder than just being there in some ways, and I'd be upset if someone called it lazy or shirking on my part.

    But that's just my 2c.  Cheers!

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  15. Hi Brad,

    I didn't mean to say I only do things for my kids. I don't. I may be here all day with them but I work as the CFO of The Charis Project while I'm at home with them, I usually find time for writing and blogging while I'm here with them, I drag them along on things I want to do. Unless it's a massage, kids are no good to take to a massage, or when you need dental work done. ;)
    We have a few hours every day when I kick them to their rooms and tel them they have to be quiet so mommy can work. But it is really important for me to be around to help them sleep when they are little, and to be only a room away even when I'm working, because I value the connection that produces and it's where my heart wants to be.

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  16. Brad Salomons9:27 AM

    Oh for sure.  I think like many things its probably about balance, and the fact you're writing about it and thinking about it proves very well you've got it more figured out than most of us.  We all give a lot of ourselves to become parents, and I've just struggled with watching some people close to me give absolutely everything to become parents...which is admirable to a point, but no one who does that is really doing their kids a favour in my wee little humble opinion. They lose themselves in the process but then as kids grow up they really need people who are more found than lost to be their moms and dads.  

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  17. I understand this. It's rare around here too, moms who don't have the desire to leave their kids. I love putting my boys to bed and have only ever left one over night to have the other. I am still nursing my 23 month old and the thought of forcing him to wean makes me want to weep.  I've enjoyed a few hours out with girlfriends when my husband was home to have some time with the boys but other than that, I get very sad when I don't spend the time I have with them.

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  18. dul mad5:10 PM

    hey interesting to see different perspective. From the cultures(i'm a south indian) i came from ,we have grandparents to help around. infact 3 months before delivery my mom was with me ,helping me and pampering me. After my kid is born ,she was there for another 3 months.then my inlaws.   Its said that for first 3 months its only  new mom and baby.  i was told sleep when your kid sleeps  etc .In olden days it was like -new mom should not do any chores till baby is 3 months old. So no stress etc. and after 3 months we have so many ceremonies  like  naming , if you put kid in cradle for first time  ,if you are going to give solids  first time etc. Its more of fun time at home with kids.

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  19. You are not the only one.  Beautiful post.  I'm linking to you on my blog today.

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