• Fri, Jan 18 2013

SAHM No More: My Ex Is Giving Me A Vacation From The Kids, So I Can Do More Work

balancing work and familySAHM No More explores the the ups-and-downs of navigating a new world of parenting, transitioning from married stay-at-home motherhood to a full-time working, divorced motherhood. And there are a lot of adjustments being made—a lot of adjustments and not a lot of sleep.

Back to balancing work and family. I know that winter vacation just ended, but I’m really looking forward to the next one. I mean, by the end of the holidays, I already felt like I needed another vacation. But instead of getting a few days to myself, the regular routine started up again. Early morning alarms went off, I walked the dog even though I was still half-asleep, made breakfasts, packed lunches, signed permission slips, did school drop-offs, did school pick-ups, checked homework, made dinner, and went to sleep way too late. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Which is all fine, of course. Parenting isn’t always those moments on the weekends when you can hang out in pajamas with your kids all morning, eating pancakes and bacon before going on a long bike ride or playing an incredibly competitive game of Monopoly. I wish it was sometimes, but I know it’s not.

However, when my ex-husband let me know that he would be taking the kids away on vacation soon, I felt like a huge burden was lifted off my shoulders. To be more precise, two huge burdens. It will be such a relief to have a little break from the daily banalities of caring for two other people. I feel like I’m sort of crawling my way through the next few weeks to get to this vacation time. And, for once, the guilt that I always feel when I’m not paying basically undivided attention to my kids is gone because I know for sure that they’ll have an amazing time with their father. So, this should be great, right? A week to myself knowing that my kids are having a blast. What kinds of things do I want to do?

In a word: work. Yes. Work. I should maybe clarify by saying that I was never the kind of mother who was able to do things like nap when my baby napped or even, really, catch up on missed sleep at all. I always took the opportunity for free time to do a million different things that would definitely be classified as productive rather than relaxing. My mother used to gently admonish me to rest and would remind me that it was just as important to care for myself as it was to care for my children. I would always pretend to agree with her while secretly thinking, “What is she even talking about? I have so much to do!”

Well, it seems that time hasn’t changed much. Even though I should maybe take my own little vacation while my kids are away, or at least schedule some relaxing activities or something (even though, frankly, I don’t even know what those would be) all that I am looking forward to doing is having more time to work.

I’m looking forward to getting to my office early and to working at home late into the night without having to worry about getting the kids to school in the morning. I’m excited not to have to cook a well-balanced dinner for anyone and to instead eat at my computer so that I can have as many productive hours during the day as possible. It’s like I feel that the only thing getting in the way of me reaching peak-productivity is the fact that I will still have to take care of my dog. Other than that, though, I am looking forward to immersing myself in my work.

The thing is, writing this all out has made me wonder if I might have some sort of addiction. In my daily life, since I am always balancing work and family—with some purely personal time thrown in—I never feel like I’m doing anything perfectly. If I had to choose between my kids and work, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second before focusing on my kids. But now that I will have some time where the juggling act is paused, I’m pretty sure I’m going to just focus 100% on work and make up for what I feel like I don’t do well enough on a regular basis. This is a Sisyphean task, I realize.

I can’t help but think back to one of the few times in my sons’ infancies when I couldn’t help myself—I would get so tired that I would fall asleep right next to them and we would nap together. I would always wake up a little disoriented—I am not a napper—but certainly feeling better for it. Maybe that’s what I need to do this time when my kids go on vacation. Force myself to step back and not do anything. It might be a little disorienting at first, but it can’t hurt.

(photo: Big Pants Production / Shutterstock)

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  • Rebecca

    I’m a SAHM but I still feel the struggle to “power down” during the day. Thankfully I have family about 2 hours away so we do a lot of meeting halfway so they can take the kids for a few days. Whenever I get a break I try to give myself one free day todo whatever I want (even if it’s laying on the couch watching movies on HBO all day:) and then the rest of the time I spend catching up on cleaning or doing whatever has been driving me crazy lately, until my husband gets home from work. Then it’s relax time again:) it’s so nice to be able to spend an entire day just putzing around. The freedom of being able to decide “I want to go to target” and then just getting your coat and leaving feels like heaven!