Yesterday I dropped E off for the first time at a playgroup where I didn’t have to stay. As I was driving home, it just felt so wrong. It was literally the first time ever that I had left him with someone and didn’t then have to race to another appointment or try to cram as many errands as possible into a tiny chunk of time. I had nothing planned. I don’t think I had really wrapped my brain around the fact that I was going to drive away without him. It was thoroughly unsettling. And it occurs to me that my brain has slowly warped itself into permanent martyr mode. I need to always be doing something to warrant having time on my own without the kids. I’m not allowed to just be Me for two hours, not Mom Me. I mean, I should at least be vacuuming right now, right, Or folding laundry? Those are both things I could be doing.
But I’m not.
I’m lying in bed writing a blog post while E naps.
And I’m forcing myself to not feel guilty about it.
Which is FUCKED UP.
Human being deserve time on their own, to do as they please. At most jobs, you get a lunch break, where you can read the internet as you shove an overpriced Panera sandwich into your mouth over the course of a half hour. If you smoke, you can even take cigarette breaks! Ahhhhh, cigarette breaks. I think I smoked at least four years longer than I otherwise would have just so I could take cigarette breaks.
Stay-at-home moms don’t really get those things. We get to hide in the kitchen and eat as quickly and quietly as possible so the kids don’t come ask you to share. Because you would have to share; you’re trying to teach them to share. But you’re an ADULT and sometimes you just want to eat an entire slice of reheated pizza all by yourself in 90 seconds flat.
Stay-at-home moms get to read the internet for two minutes while the water in the shower warms up and your kids cry and scream on the other side of the door. They don’t actually need anything, they just want to be able to see you; you have dared to leave their field of vision.
Stay-at-home moms get to tiptoe around the house during naptime, watching an episode of Top Chef from three weeks ago on your computer with headphones on, while your cat, your poor neglected cat, starved for attention, settles onto you lap and frantically licks and nuzzles your arm. My cat likes to knead my chest, like my boobs are made of bread dough. Knead, knead, knead. Need, need, need.
Summer feels like it has only just started, and already I’m getting requests from all D’s therapists to tell me her availability in the fall. I’ve recently started joking (not-joking) that being D’s mom is like being the Executive Assistant to the CEO of a major multinational corporation. She has school, she has occupational therapy, she has speech therapy, she has in-home behavioral therapy, she has in-clinic behavioral therapy, she has yoga, she has swimming, she has gymnastics. Half of her behavioral therapy has to be before 3 on weekdays, and I have to be sure to account for travel time since all the clinics are almost a half hour away from our house/her school. So I started putting together a prospective schedule in my phone and suddenly realized there’s a new wrinkle: E is starting preschool in the fall. And my head basically exploded trying to conceptualize all the pick-ups and drop-offs, and how to effectively utilize those two glorious mornings where I will be free between 9 and 10:30. Because that’s really hardly any time at all, but it’s more than I have now. And it just seems mindblowing. Again, should I use that time to rest, to do what I know is best for both my physical and mental health? Or do I use it to dig through the mountain of laundry in the basement or pick up all the crumbs of Play-Doh hidden in various corners and nooks in the playroom?
I finally broke down the other day and called the Respite Center in town. I kept hearing that word from various parents and professionals who deal with autistic kids. Respite. Respite. But D is so high-functioning! Aren’t there other parents who need it more than I do? But then last week, I slipped on a wet spot on the floor at Super Target and felt my back go TWANG, like a spring in a mattress popping off, and I knew I was totally boned. It took a couple days before my whole spine finally caved in, but sure enough it did, and I hobbled off to the chiropractor like a wizened crone for their absolute latest appointment of the day so my husband would be home in time and I wouldn’t have to take my kids with me.
Because my kids always come with me.
Because I’m not allowed to be alone. If I’m alone, I’m slacking off somehow.
That’s what my head says. And it’s bullshit.
(I blame all my middle school teachers who said I wasn’t living up to my potential, and all my high school teachers who said I was lazy and a liar when I was actually manic depressive. For the record, any teachers reading this — don’t say things like this to kids. You may think you’re motivating them. You’re not. You’re breaking them.)
I called the respite center and introduced myself and said, “I have a four year old with Aspergers and ADHD and an almost-two-year old and I was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia,” and I heard a sharp intake of breath on the other end of the line and the social worker said, “Ooooh, yeah, you sound like you probably need a break.”
I need a break.
Moms don’t get a break.
I’m not allowed a break.
I don’t deserve a break.
E is waking up now…