What's a Stay-at-Home Mom to Do with Free Time?
As mothers, we devote our life to our children. Often times our hobbies, interests and once favorite pastimes are placed on the back burner so that we can give our complete attention to the family. Having four children -- in five years -- meant that I didn't have to be concerned with free time. I had an infant or a toddler (or multiple toddlers), so all of my time was spent trying to stay on top of the things that needed to be done. This year my youngest started preschool. And just like that, I had two days a week, a few hours per day, when no little person was following me around, asking for things or demanding my attention. It was a strange feeling.
Suddenly I couldn't remember what I even did before I had kids. I started feeling guilty about my new found freedom. I am a stay-at-home mother after all. I should have someone with me at all times or why am I home?
My first thought was: It is time to take care of me. Like most mothers, I had been so caught up in the kids' health that I completely forgot about mine. I filled my first few weeks with all of the things that I had let slide. I had a check-up, dentist appointment, mammogram and the dreaded eye doctor exam (whew! no bifocals yet). I walked into waiting rooms and there were no toys or parenting magazines. So this is where the civilized people hang out? I figured I had a Cheerio stuck on me somewhere but I managed to blend in.
With the essentials out of the way, I then knocked out the things that I once did to make me to feel like a million bucks. I had my hair done, a manicure, pedicure and a massage. I felt like a new woman. I was looking pretty fly I must say. Then the next week rolled around. I had MORE days to fill.
Next I took the dogs for overdue vet visits, planted some new bushes, and went shopping to find things to freshen up the home decor. The vertical blinds over the sliding glass doors went out of style in 1990, not to mention that only half of them were still hanging (toddler collateral damage). I bought little odds and ends that really made the house look almost like four kids didn't live with me. You remember that day when you realized that your kids were old enough and you could put out decorative items again? The house was looking like something out of a magazine. I may actually invite people over. Hmmmm... except those baseboards are disturbing.
For the next few days, I embarked on a massive cleaning session. I cleaned closets, baseboards, ceiling fans and fixtures. I organized the already organized out-of-season-clothing containers. I conditioned all of the wood cabinets. I dusted all of the picture frames that had been neglected for so long. I refolded all of the clothes in the dresser drawers. I threw myself into it and before I realized, my house was show room ready. Then, the next week rolled around and I had MORE days.
What is this madness? I cannot keep finding ways to pacify my mind, just to feel like I am being a good mom. Finally it hit me, I don't have to feel guilty. It is actually okay if I have two days a week alone. I should take it one day at a time. Some days I will do housework without a child begging me to draw pictures with her. Other days I will go to the grocery store... by myself and actually leave with exactly what I came for. Some days I can donate my time to a good cause and help others. But on the other days? I can do whatever selfish, non-productive, empty, shallow guilty pleasure that I want! It is okay to enjoy being alone. I mean how many times have you locked yourself in a dark closet just to get five minutes?
What to do first! Shall I read one of the 20 books that I have collected with the intention of starting them the day I brought them home? I used to enjoy reading all types of books. I would curl up on my sofa and read without interruption. There were instances when I finished an entire book in one day. Post children, I don't even attempt to crack a book until all four kids are fast asleep. I curl up, exhausted, in my bed and turn to page one. Next thing I know it is 3 AM, I have to pee, and the book is lying on the floor. I am not even sure that I made it to page two.
Or maybe I will go to the MALL! Not to look at athletic shoes or leggings, but I will go into a store... for WOMEN! I will try on swanky pants, scarves and high heel shoes. I will go into dressing rooms without having to take kids with me and listen to them ask why my stomach is so lumpy or make fun of all the weird karate moves I am making, trying to get into those designer jeans. I will enjoy a leisurely lunch in the food court and not have to stand around and scout out a table for 6. Maybe I will even read my book as I eat.
Either choice sounds amazing! But today? I think I will sit down (yes I said sit down, normally forbidden for moms) in the recliner (yes I said the recliner, usually reserved for dads) and watch television! I will watch Direct TV, Netflix AND Amazon. I will not pause it 100 times to see why I have a little face in front of me trying to block my line of vision. I will not feel guilty because the washing machine is not running, or supper is not in the crock pot. I am going to sit here and catch up on every series that I missed while I was watching Caillou or Team Umizoomi. I will set my drink on the end table without worries that a little person will walk by and knock it off (it is the smallest things). I will eat my chips, right out of the bag, out in the open, without worrying that I am setting a bad example. I may even take a cat nap in between episodes of Downton Abbey. If someone unexpectedly drops by, I will not panic and act like I was actually doing something productive, but instead, offer them an afghan and ask them to join me. You are safe here.
You see I have made it through a battle. I have survived night feedings, teething, diaper rash, terrible twos and the Teletubbies. I believe that raising children, just like life, is all about the seasons. I am fully aware that as they grow, our time together will become less and less. I will one day long for the time when they were all tiny, and here with me. But for this moment, at this time in my life, I will celebrate. It is time for a new season, time to be their mom, in the ways that they need me now. There must be no greater feeling than knowing that you raised independent, well adjusted members of society.
Now if you don't mind, I am trying to watch a show.