My name is Amber and I have no life. I haven’t seen a play in living memory. The last movie I saw in the theatre was Wall-E, with my then 3-year-old. I occasionally brave lunch in a restaurant when I have only one kid with me, and I eat more take-out than I’d like, but I’ve had precisely one dinner in a restaurant in the past 14 months. And, during that lone dinner, someone complained about being seated near my children. In short, I live a very typical lifestyle as the mom of two small kids.
I didn’t plan it this way. When I was pregnant with my first child I had visions of how I would retain my independence. I would start by leaving the baby for half an hour to run out on a quick errand. Gradually, I would work up from there, until I could do something really crazy like take a class in the evenings. In my mind I thought that the time apart would be good for both of us. It would give my child a chance to bond with Jon or the grandparents, and it would give me a chance to have some time to myself. Win-win, right?
Real life didn’t work out the way I’d planned. When I was a brand-new mom I kept thinking that I would take my child out more ‘later’, when I was less nervous. Only, by the time ‘later’ came she was mobile and sort of loud. Plus, she screamed if I was out of her sight, at all, ever. And then I went back to work, and the time that I wasn’t working was spent with my kiddo. Along the way I found that previously straightforward activities like getting my teeth cleaned require Herculean feats of planning. And even when you finally get the plans in place your child cries through the whole appointment while your husband desperately tries to entertain the little angel in the waiting room. It just all adds up to not much in the way of ‘me time’.
When Hannah was a toddler the whole situation reached a point where it really started to grate on my nerves. Someone would invite me out for coffee and I would have to decline because I couldn’t leave my kid. And if I brought my kid I couldn’t enjoy the outing while my 2-year-old was bent on destroying everything in sight. I really missed my freedom. I missed the way I could just pick up and go at a moment’s notice without a diaper bag and a change of clothes and 15 snacks and the right music for the car. And I didn’t see how I would ever get that freedom back.
But you know what? In spite of my doubts, my first kid got older. She eventually reached the stage where she pushed me out the door when we dropped her off for sleepovers at her grandparents. These days, my husband handles bedtime, and I just kiss her goodnight. She handles her own bathroom trips and she prints her own name. Sure, I’m still her mom, but she doesn’t have the same intense need for me at 4 1/2 that she did at 1 1/2.
Jacob is now 14 months old and I am once again in the thick of it. If my toddler can’t see me he wails so pitifully the very heavens weep. Once again I receive invitations that I must decline because I can’t bring my kid, and I can’t enjoy myself if I know he will be at home crying for me the whole time. Sometimes I’m disappointed that I have to turn down something fun, I’ll admit it. But overall it’s much easier for me this time through, because I know it will end. Soon enough Jacob will also be pushing me out the door so he can enjoy some quality time with someone much more fun than me.
So if you invite me out someplace and I decline, you can rest assured that it is not you or your event. It is simply the space that I am in right now, and I would love to take a raincheck for another year or two from now. Hopefully the world will still be out there waiting for me sometime in 2011.