There was a time that a headache would strike at 4pm and I’d go into the corporate bathroom, two doors between me and the bright, loud, engaged world. I’d sit, disengaged, and I’d close my eyes for up to two minutes. Dark, cool, quiet. And if the headache didn’t resolve I’d know that in two hours there’d be peace and quiet at home. Solitude. Food.
Now when a headache hits at 4pm there is no dark, cool, quiet. There aren’t two doors between me and anything. There is no closing my eyes. There is no solitude (and often no food). Because two small people will get hurt and sad if I close two doors and my eyes. Now there are at least four hours before bedtime separates me and the bright, loud, engaged workplace. And those four hours will not be easygoing or peaceful. Those four hours will be escalating screaming and demands and hot, frantic, noisy unceasing tasks.
No sitting for four hours. No breathing or relaxing or closing eyes. That’s a lot of unfettered headache time.
Dinner comes much later, quiet comes much later. Cool, dark, quiet long blinks come much later.
Working is not a picnic. It’s rare to find an ideal work environment, and even when I do there are hard days. There are annoying people or clients or computers or projects. But there are bathrooms. And doors. And closed eyes. And a way to separate at the end of the day.
For people who leave work and come home to small, needy, loud, helpless creatures, it’s a jarring transition. And there are several hours before bedtime for them, too, after a long day of sometimes awful colleagues and awful bosses and awful projects and awful clients.
There’s nothing for me to leave. No “gee, today one job seems easier than the other and I’m glad I have work/home on days like these”. No closing some doors or opening others; no transition except bedtime—that sometimes relaxed and delightful, but usually dramatic and daunting cataclysm.
So 4pm headaches seem as though they’re a much bigger deal than they used to be. And when corporate bathrooms seem a dreamy vacation spot from my current world, maybe I need to reevaluate a few things in my life.
Where’s your dark, cool, quiet, disengaged happen? Is it hourly or daily or weekly? Is your dark, cool, and quiet at the mercy of others? Do you have a room of your own? Do you sit and blink and eat and go to the bathroom as you see fit?
How do you do that?
You know what I’d like to do? Go back in time to child free weekends and kick my own ass, or you know shake old me and tell old me to enjoy every single solitary moment…ah solitary…solitude..solo..ALONE…sorry where was I?
Every hour I go into the basement and cuddle up with my valium salt lick, and days are bliss.
My husband has an hour and a half commute each way (when you calculate door-to-door) to work. Two hours of that are on a train. Most people would think this is awful, but I am SO JEALOUS of those two train hours. I would love to be there, with my iPod on (cued to MY music, not someone else’s Disney crap), reading a book without guilt, no one pulling on my arm saying heymomheymomheymomheymom. I know that sounds terrible. But there it is. I envy my husband’s ridiculous, time-wasting commute!
It took 5 years but I’ve finally found my quiet. I wish someone had just told me to hold on tight, that my time would come. Maybe it would have made those years when I felt like a tree being pecked at 24/7 easier to stomach. Maybe not. But it would have been nice to have been told. It would have comforted me to know I wasn’t so alone.
Did I say 5 years? That’s funny. It was more like 9 years. Here’s proof that I have a tendency to forget disturbing events.
I have migraines. I have migraine medication. I cannot take my medication because I have three children.
I, too, would like to kick the much younger and better rested, child free version of who I was until she stops complaining that she was tired.
Because I am tired now. All the time. And my “relaxing” work days involve teaching third graders how not to freak out when they take the state mandated test. And then I come home to my children.
And an “easy” afternoon like today involved an emergency trip to the dentist for x-rays for the middle child, followed by the pediatricians office for the remaining two. And by the way, it’s viral. And I made dinner. From scratch.
At least you might have an attic or a basement. My kids follow me to work, back home, and to the bathroom. Hindsight is a bitch, yo.
My silent, blinking moments come through tears in the garden as I rip at weeds by the light of daylight savings or a head torch, furiously slapping at mosquitos whose whines are better than those going on inside.
I often wonder if this was in the fine print when I signed up…
Okay. I am a voice from your future. It will get easier. Right now it sometimes feels like wading through mud while wearing boots made of cement and it’s so hard to foresee a time when it will be any different. But it will. And you will find yourself reading posts like this one and feeling a little nostalgic for this time. The time when their fists are still chubby and their speech lispy and the way they say and do things that become part of your family folklore and shared history.
Someone will say to you one day “How did you do this?” and you might think to answer that it was something you have been doing since they first drew breath, because you will be looking at two amazing teenagers who are, at times, at large in the world, without you, making the right choices, being funnier and smarter than you could ever have imagined, giving you cause to remember this time and how every bit of exhaustion you experienced was worth it.
It will be sooner than you can imagine. Anyone who says they loved every minute of it is full of shit (sorry, Australianism).
And then you will be here, in your future, a soggy mix of gratitude, nostalgia and sentiment. And really, really proud of yourself.
But if the kitchen witch is selling valium salt licks, you should definitely some.
Get some. I meant.
I take a shower – tell my spouse I’m taking a shower and he’s in charge of the kids. Or I go to the grocery store by myself, and wander slowly through the aisles getting the stuff that’s always on the list (there’s always a grocery list, because we’re always running out of the things we use every day). If spouse has inconveniently gone to the store on his way home from work, I invent an errand. I go into the back yard and sit on the deck, or into the garage and sit in the rocker that doesn’t fit in the living room.
A baby or toddler or preschooler can be loved and made to feel safe by either parent. A pre-schooler is old enough to begin to understand that sometimes moms and dads need the quiet.
I’m making a big assumption here. I’m assuming that you’re not parenting solo. If you’re not, then your spouse needs to have your back.
Pre-kids I worked in NYC. If I got one of my headaches, I’d pop out of the office and within 5 minutes I’d be getting a $10, 10-minute neck & shoulder massage while I let the meds I just washed down with my free bottle of water from the office kick in. Then I’d step outside, get on the bus and ride in silence to finish my commute home. Take a hot shower, lay down til I feel all better.
Now my life is relentless with Motherhood. Whether or not I have a migraine.
My quiet time is 8pm, after both kids are tucked in I go right into a quiet, dark shower and wash away my day of responsibilities. Hubby knows I need this time, so it doesn’t get interrupted.
I also grab a bit of Quiet in the mornings. I get up an hour before everyone else so I can have that quiet cup of coffee and shower without interruption. Then I feel like ME again. And yes, I use the bathroom in peace at that time.
Otherwise, if I have needs during the day? I tell my kids what’s wrong, and remind them that if they are quiet/play nice/etc far far away from me (like, go in the basement) they can do whatever they want (movie, games, make a mess I promise not to bitch about).
My quiet time is once my two darling monsters are asleep, my husband has left the house to walk the dog, and I can finally crawl into bed unmolested by the needs of staff, of bosses, or of boys at home. Then I can check in to see how you are holding up. Hang in. You’re not alone. And you’re doing great.
Yuliya, I’m so glad I enjoyed every moment back in the day. I have lovely memories about curling up with a book and a bag of Twizzlers. All morning. In bed. Those memories are delicious.
Kitch, you lie. I know better. But if the fantasy of escaping to the Everclear drinking fountain gets you through, lie away.
Gibby, I was stuck in the Washington DC airport once. For four hours. Alone. And I was the only one smiling, nay, giddy, the whole time. I had a book and nobody talked to me. It was heaven. Every single minute.
MacDougal, it’s hard not to laugh when your supportive and sage advice is subverted by your stunted memory. Sorry to chortle at your child-affected brain. But it is kind of funny.
Maria, I wish the simple act of refusing to take those tate mandated tests would help. But it doesn’t get dinner prepped, made, served, or cleaned. Please tell them to stop testing third graders. And please tell the other them to make a migraine med that doesn’t knock you out. Or at least takes your kids for you while it knocks you out. That would be the best pharmaceutical advance EVER: a drug that takes your kids some where to play while you relax and close your eyes. Rx for babysitter tablets. Or capsules. Or even poultice. Heck, I’d use a babysitter suppository if it worked.
Nadine, you are not the only one who races to the desk and rips out the contract, scanning furiously to see if this bullshit was in there. It’s not in mine. Not sure about yours.
Alpha Betti, that is the most calming, centering thing I’ve read or heard all month. I worry, because it is my wont, that our reality will be more hell. Hell in elementary, hell in middle, and hell in high school. Dropping out or wrong crowd or dangerous choices or other irrecoverable behavior. I’m going to print out your response and make it the reality that chills my ass out. Thank you, future. And congratulations to you.
Leslie, I need to do more of that. We were trying to do a lot of that on the weekends (Spouse’s work schedule doesn’t always allow daily choices of solitude); but his impending knee surgery is making leaving problematic. Too bad. If Leslie says so, I’m doing it.
letmestart, showers make the whole world right, don’t they? Really bad days or days that allow self care often include several showers. Planet be damned. (Sorry.)
Kate, thank you. I hesitate to go to bed for my quiet time because I fall asleep and then don’t notice that I’m finally alone. ;-) I do love post-kid-bedtime, though. Whew.
You have to finally make a line and hold it. I hate to make it sound so adversarial; it’s more a matter of recognizing that one’s needs–for quiet, for private time (in the bathroom or not), for time to think or read–are as valid as one’s partner’s needs for the same. And in my situation, we both work, so it finally came to me that it is even less just for the bulk of the morning and evening childcare to fall to me, particularly since this year I’ve been the one who cuts my workday short for childcare pickup. I get my work done–every day is carefully scheduled–but there’s no room for screw-ups and I’m always a hair’s breadth from being behind.
There were a number of defining moments:
Getting tired of having eldest call across the house for me to do something for her when her dad is sitting closer, in plain sight. It wasn’t just the illogic of it, it was also that it really bugged my husband, in a way that was leading to tension between us.
Realizing that feeling resentment when my husband got the flu or whatever was not a healthy response. That I had to model myself on him and allow myself to be sick (doesn’t mean completely bailing on the kids – can’t, with a nursing toddler – but it does mean giving up the “I can power through even if I feel like crap” routine, asking him to deal with dinner and bath time, and going to bed early if I need to). In the upcoming knee-rehab scenario, I really think you have to figure out what your husband can do instead of thinking about what he won’t be able to do.
We had some big fights that were, on the surface, about mealtime and food. I still do most of the dinner preparation, but I don’t let him hide in the back any more–some of it’s work at home, other just fooling around. His argument was always that I could also spend time on the computer (well, except for the constant interruptions); mine is that it’s wasting valuable family time to spend the whole evening chilling elsewhere. First line of offense is to call him in every evening when it’s time to set the table (and to disappear when it’s time to do the dishes, but to his credit, he’s always been way better at keeping up with dishes and laundry than I am).
If I had continued as I was–in the I can handle everything mode–I would have cracked, or my marriage would have.
My kids are just turned six and 22-1/2 months.
Agree with Alpha Betti. It will get easier. When you need those two hours later, when they’re older, you can get it without having to rearrange the universe. Promise.
Hope you’re feeling better, sweets. Huggage…lots of it.