As I was luxuriating in my hot shower yesterday I was pressed to ponder my life as it is right now. This was at about 10:30 am on a Sunday morning after I had a lovely late wake-up and a nice coffee in bed brought to me by my husband of almost 23 years. Said bed was blessedly empty save the rumpled duvet and a sweeet doggie sleeping peacefully in her Daddy’s recently vacated spot.
I stepped out of the shower and revelled in the peace and quiet. I wrapped myself in a terry robe and walked to my youngest child’s room. Fast asleep. Dead to the world. My daughter’s room was still empty as she was returning that very afternoon from a 10-day jaunt to Los Angeles that she’d paid for herself. Our (hopefully) doctor-one-day was far away, either studying or sleeping some kind of student party fun off.
And then I realized that it wasn’t just quiet. And it wasn’t just peaceful. It was silent. And empty.
There was nobody around and I had nothing specific to do for anyone nor anywhere I had to be, really. There was no pressing reason to doff my robe and get dressed in a stain proof outfit, no snacks to make, no parties to attend or buttons to do, or spills to mop up or squabbles to defuse.
I could do what I wanted, when I wanted, on my own schedule. All day. If I wanted to get back into bed I could, even though I’d just had a dream-filled uninterrupted 8 hours . If I’d wanted to sleep later I could have too. If I wanted to run a follow-up bubble bath, that option was available. I could eat whatever I wished for breakfast and not have tiny fingers pilfering my last bite of toast or egg or fruit. I could read a book or binge-watch Mr. Selfridge on Netflix. I could go to the gym or a yoga class. I could do just about anything.
Even though the child born of delusion is 16 and it’s been this way for a while, I still struggle with these thoughts. When the kids were younger I felt pressured most of the time. The minutes to myself were so few and far between and some of our most virulent spousal arguments were of the ‘whose turn was it to _____’ variety.
Now, I have different pressure. The pressure is worry and wonder. What are my children doing and who are they with and are they happy and will they succeed or achieve or find life satisfaction. ARE THEY GOING TO LEAVE ME FOREVER (they will) and WHEN WILL THAT BE (not soon, I hope) and HOW WILL I COPE (I don’t really know)?
There’s so much pressure to make the most of my time now that it’s all my own, since for so long I craved that time to myself. You know, the mystical me-time or down-time or quiet time those with small children dream about. Except now that I’ve got what I want, I don’t know if I want it. It’s just so easy to waste a day away.
I’m not that old but I’m getting older every day and I don’t want to waste my precious minutes. But when there’s no schedule and I go to so used to being driven by a parenting-driven one, it’s easy to step out of that shower at 10:30 in the morning and look at the clock and it’s 5 pm already and I haven’t really done anything at all except beat 5 levels in Candy Crush soda.
I’ve written before about how the time just seems to go by so fast and that I don’t know if I really appreciated the moments because they were stressful. It’s such a cliche but it’s so true: time flies even if you’re not having fun. Just like I don’t think I appreciated the privilege of being at university when I was there; or having my mother get the dinner on the table every night when I lived at home; or knowing if I didn’t have any money my dad would give me some when I was unmarried; I don’t think I appreciated what it was like to have little kids as much as I could have when they were that way.
I miss the morning cuddles, even though they were at 6 am.
I miss the pick-me-up and can you carry me and I have a boo boo can you kiss it and the hugs and the unbridled affection even though sometimes I just felt too pressed or too busy to receive or give it back.
I miss socializing with other moms at birthday parties even though there was also rushing to 4 in one day and yelling to put your shoes on and chaos.
I miss the before and after school moments even though they weren’t always peaceful but there were always hugs.
I miss having wee ones steal my dinner because it looks better than theirs even though I often didn’t want to share.
I miss the carpooling as a convenient venue for eavesdropping even though carpooling is the worst thing ever invented.
I miss picking out the morning outfits and helping them get dressed even though they sometimes didn’t want to wear what was clean.
I miss making the lunches and knowing what they were eating was healthy and was giving them energy for the day even though I always hated making lunches.
I miss having my shower interrupted because there’s something SO important that I need to know right now even though my showers are sacred and I hate having them interrupted.
I miss parent teacher interviews and homework and signing tests because then I really knew how they were doing even though homework was the worst and parent-teacher interviews were short and sometimes a waste of time.
I miss being the most important person in their lives even though I know that I shouldn’t care about that at all.
I miss having to stay home on Saturday night because we didn’t have a babysitter even though that really was irritating when what I needed was a night out.
I miss having the trade-off conversations with my husband like “You get up tomorrow morning and I’ll do Sunday and would you mind picking up from dance so that I can help B with his homework and you deal with the kids right now because I can’t take it anymore…” even though they distracted us from our relationship they did teach us to compromise.
I miss all these things. At least I think I do.
I do like having my time to myself and being able to be selfish. And even a bit bored.
I’m so confused.
Being an imminent empty nester is hard y’all.
Help me out here. What do you think? How do you cope with big changes like your children forsaking you in the name of growing up?