Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Blessing Of A Little "Me" Time

When you're a late blooming mom, as much as you adore your kids and are thankful for having them, you also have moments when you long for those pre-kid days.

I miss those long, leisurely Saturdays, when my husband and I would sleep in, curl up reading the paper in bed (or do other things best done in bed ... you get the idea) ... and then go out for a hot breakfast somebody else had to cook and clean up. Then there were the those days when I'd bid the husband a happy "see ya later" and amble out the door for a bike ride up and down the beach, without worrying about when I'd be back. Saturday night, we could eat at a civilized, grown-up restaurant, and linger over dessert. We didn't have to wolf down our food to get out before the toddler restaurant clock went off because somebody couldn't stand to sit still another second, or leave half the food behind unfinished, let alone leave a hefty tip to clean up the mess we left. We could hit a late movie or hit a bookstore before it closed, go our separate ways inside it and browse to our heart's content, then reunite to drive home and snuggle back into bed.

Of course it's still possible to do some of those things, if we've got an available babysitter.

But the stuff I did all by myself -- like that leisurely bike ride -- has pretty much gone by the wayside. So have the hour-long catch-up phone calls to friends on the other coast; the afternoons spent shopping for clothes or shoes or kitchen equipment; the ambling Sunday morning visits to farmers' markets where I could bum around sampling the produce, and planning that night's dinner based on what looked good. Reading for pleasure has been reduced to ten minutes in bed before turning out the light. And God forbid I need to make time to get a haircut.

I think late blooming moms miss this kind of "me" time more than younger moms, because we had more of it, and we had it for more years. "Me" time is largely a relic of our pre-mom pasts. Damn, damn, damn, damn -- to paraphrase MY FAIR LADY lyricist Alan Jay Lerner -- we'd grown accustomed to its face. Or more precisely, to its place -- in our daily lives, and especially our weekends.

Of course, some late blooming moms manage to squeeze it in. It's easier if they have just one kid, so they can palm off the childcare on dad sometimes, or trade shifts. But when you've got two, this becomes a bit more problematic. And if they're both toddlers, like we have, then it's rare that dad -- or late blooming mom, for that matter -- is willing to take them on solo for more than a very short time or manageable excursion. (With two three year-olds, often even the grocery store is not a manageable excursion.)

But late this afternoon -- bliss! Dad decided, of his own accord, to take Thing 1 AND Thing 2 out for an hour or so, letting Late Blooming Mom do one of the things I do in my now precious slack time: blog. (Mind you, the temptation to do something useful with this time, like sort their books and hide those we can give up to a friend's baby, is great: just because I have slack time doesn't mean I stop being a Virgo. But I'm going to resist.) After blogging, I might just call a friend from college, back east ... take a bath ... read a book ... or luxuriate in the late afternoon sun with the cat on the bed.

Of course I have to keep an ear tuned to the phone, just in case Dad needs a rescue. He's taken the kids to what they refer to as The Pillow Store, known to the rest of us as Bed, Bath And Beyond, to buy new plastic cups for juice, since their old ones cracked ... and to observe the wonder that is the shopping cart escalator, which takes your shopping cart up or down alongside you on the escalator. (They could probably get away with charging parents of toddlers admission just to witness this mesmerizing phenomenon.)

But for the moment, it's oddly, beautifully quiet at home, a Zen-like bubble of peace and tranquility, and a reminder of those days when "me" time wasn't a luxury, but a regular part of the day.

Of course, I recognize that the reason I'm able to appreciate the quiet so much -- in a way I never could before -- is that later, the house is going to be filled with the sometimes happy, sometimes chaotic noise of family life: giggles and whines, cries of protest, bursts of laughter, and later, tiny snores.

But for now, here's to me, doing nothing but hanging out ... with me.

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