It seems we’re bombarded daily with inspirational quotes and mothering advice columns that encourage us to take time for ourselves by having a bubble bath or a massage. A bubble bath is nice on occasion, but I get bored in about 10 minutes, and personally, I find it comfier to read in bed with my seven pillows than in a slick tub. Also, bubbles make a scummy mess. And massages are great, but I need a LOT more than one hour to recharge. In fact, ever since the kids were born, I have felt guilty about how much time I seem to want (need?) for myself. Those encouraging articles always suggest taking time “every now and then.” But I want a chunk of time to myself DAILY. In fact, I want a regularly repeating bunch of consecutive hours to do what I want without guilt, without questions to answer or obligations to fulfill. And I finally realized why I need so much of this: it appears I have very few consecutive grown-up days in me before I feel myself reverting back to a kid again. I can’t help it. It’s just a fact.
You know what the most exhausting part of being a parent is for me right now? Making decisions. So many ridiculous questions get asked of us! Even when the questions are simple and don’t need any brain power to answer (a resounding “no” would be sufficient), I often find myself giving them serious thought. And when they actually require a decision, I want to cry. The following are real questions I’ve had to consider recently:
- Some day, can I get a chinchilla? (Answer: Yes, when you’re 18 and move out of the house.)
- Are we going to have leftovers for dinner this week? (“I don’t know. Probably.”) But which day? And which leftovers? (“Oh, for God’s sake, how should I know?”) But I need to know which night to eat at my friend’s. (Answer: “OK. How about you eat there every night?”)
- Can I buy this pack of thirty socks? Because I need new socks. (“I don’t know. Do you really need new socks? Or are all your socks just dirty because I haven’t done laundry in ages? Come to think of it, why aren’t you doing your own laundry?” But maybe he really does need new socks. On the other hand, does he need such a big pack of socks? Is it a bargain or just a big bag of socks? Oh God, I’ve been staring at this bag of socks for five minutes. Decision: Throw socks into the shopping cart. Come home, do a load of laundry, find 18 pairs of clean socks.)
- Can I buy this face cleanser? Because my regular face cleanser is not working. (“Your skin is perfect. Plain soap is fine. But wait, maybe it’s too drying. Are you breaking out? Do you need a dermatologist? And why do you need $18 cleanser? Because it smells good?” Decision: “Let me think, let me think, let me think… Sorry, no.” Hah!)
- Can I skip first period tomorrow? Because all we’re doing is watching a movie and I’m exhausted. (Oh, lord! Not this again! School DOES start too early for teens. And with so much homework, they definitely don’t get enough sleep. And what’s so important about watching yet another movie? But they say attendance is important. And since I’m not allowed to give “He was tired” as an excuse for missing school, I’d have to lie and say he was sick. And then I’m showing him that lying is okay. On the other hand, he really IS exhausted. Answer: “Ask your father.”)
So yeah, between answering questions like this and other grown-up activities, I seem to need a lot of time to myself in order to be a kid again, by which I mean I need time to: a) not make decisions and avoid all responsibility for others, and b) to have a ton of fun.
Is your tolerance for being a grown-up pretty low? Can you make it more than four days without reverting to your eight-year-old self? I don’t know if it’s like this for all women my age. I’d assume that some of you (most of you?) are great at being grown-up, being in charge, making quick decisions, living life in an organized sort of way, and doing it day after day after day. But that’s not me. I can go to work and feed the family and kill spiders and make doctor appointments and walk the dog and call the sprinkler people and drive the kids from here to there for about four days — not even a full work week — before losing it. And by “losing it,” I don’t mean exploding in anger or craziness or resentment. I just literally lose the flow of being a grown-up. I forget how. My grown-up no longer works. I find myself falling asleep on the couch at work so I can dream about wandering along a river looking for the best spot to hang my hammock while awaiting a snowstorm. Or I realize at 6:00 pm that there’s no dinner planned and so I grab sandwiches and then call a friend and tell her to meet me immediately at a neighborhood bar so we can sit outside and drink beer and talk about the responsibilities we’re shirking. Or my car heads west instead of turning into my neighborhood, while I sing show tunes and pretend to be oblivious.
This is a fantastic realization! It’s not that I’m selfish for needing so much time to myself! I’m not irresponsible! I simply need plenty of time to let grown-up Jen reappear because after a few days she gets all used up. It’s not my fault. It’s not even my choice. There’s only so much of her, and when she’s gone, I have to let her regenerate herself. If I try to keep doing grown-up things without grown-up Jen in attendance, bad things happen. (Like saying “I love you” to a business associate on the phone because I space out and think I’m talking to my husband.)
So I’ll continue to carve out large chunks of time to read in the bathroom, snuggle my bunny, go out to lunch (often!) with a good book or with friends, take weekend days to go to movies and then go shopping, head to the mountains to hike or snowboard, and yes, occasionally, even take a bubble bath.
I encourage you to do the same. Being grown-up is exhausting. Be a kid and play as often as possible, and smile smugly at anyone who hints you should be more responsible, because you know you’re having a lot more fun licking the frosting off cupcake tops while they’re making paper-mache maps of the former Soviet Union for their kid’s fifth grade history class.
Til next time, friends
PS: Comment and tell me how you’re giving your grown-up a break and what the kid in you is encouraging you to do this week.
- PPS: WordPress is slowing down again, which means I have apparently written enough words. So I thought I’d write more, in this PPS, in order to tell you that I shouldn’t write any more. This is clearly not the grown-up Jen talking.