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Solitude: The Ultimate Parental Luxury

It was super-interesting (and reassuring) to read your responses to my last post about Not Leaving The House Ever (and being sort-of lamely okay with that). I was happy to see that I am among many other homebodies who just can’t be bothered — especially in the winter, and especially in the winter with a packload of small children with a tendency to spread out in a dozen different directions at once. I was happy to see that I’m not the only one who not-so-secretly DREADS the five whole minutes of human interaction and small talk I endure at preschool pick-up and at the neighborhood bus stop with a couple other cheery, chatty adults. I don’t want to talk about the weather! Can’t I just check the Internet on my phone in peace?

THE INTERNET GETS ME.

However, just a few days later — after a descent into illness and stomach ailments and head lice and karmic retribution for I CAN’T EVEN IMAGINE WHAT, as I have never murdered anybody or flung a sack of puppies into a river or ANYTHING — I put on my big-girl non-elastic-waist pants and left the house. By myself, for a non-kid-related mental health break. I wrote about it already, but I’m not sure I managed to fully underscore what a completely transformative experience it was. Oh, my lands, did I ever need that lunch out in the worst possible way.

The thing is, I have always enjoyed solitude. I’m actually quite extroverted (for a blogger, anyway), but I’m also a person who has always been more than capable of keeping myself entertained. (One of those semi-only-child benefits, perhaps?) Sitting at a sushi restaurant alone with a book was hardly a big revolutionary thing that I had NEVER done before, or something I could “only” appreciate after having kids.

Before having kids, I used to make it a point to get home from work at least a half hour to an hour before my husband did, just so I could sit on the couch with a snack and watch Simpsons reruns. And that’s it. That’s all I did, every day after work. After Noah was born and I went back to work, I would nurse him while trying to watch my Simpsons reruns, but he would finish eating and want to be entertained or changed or fed some cereal and then Jason started coming home earlier so he could spend time with Noah. And then I started working from home and I’m not sure I’ve seen a Simpsons rerun since.

And it’s not that I actually miss watching The Simpsons, specifically. And it’s not that I never get to eat sushi or feel a burning desire to take myself out to restaurants all the time. I just miss…downtime. Solitude. A set little chunk of it every day. Where I can just…be. Without feeling a work deadline breathing down my neck, or compelled to use any bonus nap time to try to get a head start on tomorrow’s columns just in case nobody naps then. Without fretting about the housework or feeling guilty because oh I should do some laundry, and without constantly watching the clock because I have to pick Child A up in 15 minutes and then take Child B somewhere 10 minutes after that so I should set out snacks now and find my shoes and his karate uniform and check that there’s an extra diaper in the bag.

I feel like I’m always trying to just barely stay ahead of the day — all in the name of making things run “smoothly.”

I love my noisy, crazy family and the joy that comes from being surrounded by all these hilarious, precious, unpredictable little people. I laugh when I think about my pre-baby worries about not being able to afford “things” for myself like handbags and expensive shoes and spa days, because I simply don’t care about stuff like that anymore, and I’m okay with not caring.

But I still had no idea that I would one day consider 30 minutes on the couch watching Simpsons reruns by myself to be the ultimate luxury wish-list item.

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