I’m always a mother, first of all. Always. But sometimes, my son goes to visit other people to whom he’s related, and there’s no one calling me mama for a couple days. I’m going to share a very-little of what my life is like during those days, because it’s too strange and conflicted a feeling to not consider on a blog about single mom-ing.
First, it should be noted that there are really only two things I ever WANT to do when my son isn’t around, if you don’t count going to pick him up and bring him home. I want to write and sleep. That’s it. If I could sleep until 11, rise, move through some sun salutation poses, make my coffee just the way I like it (thick as motor oil, with cream and chocolate syrup), and write in pajamas until time to sleep again, I would do it. But I can’t.
See, mom mode doesn’t stop when your child isn’t around. It doesn’t stop for me. If it does for you, please think about writing to me and throwing me an advice bone.
For two days out of a month, two Sundays, I don’t have to wake up for work OR a hungry, bouncing preschooler. (I do have to work, just not until later on Sundays. My online writing courses run on a Sunday through Thursday schedule, instead of Monday through Friday. I start responding to students’ submitted assignments some time Sunday PM). I wish I could say I take full advantage and sleep late, but I usually can’t sleep past 9 AM even if I stay up partying the night before. By party, of course I mean, a glass of red and Netflix, or a campfire with some special people and a sixer of craft beer that I’ll drink two from. If I’m in bed at my normal time the night before, I’m usually up shortly after 8. I always, always, caffeinate and write.
I write until my ADD kicks in. I don’t really have ADD, but some odd, mom-induced version of it that renders me incapable of not doing 700 things per day, a little here and there with urgency but no truly efficient pattern, without feeling like a slacker. So I throw a load of laundry in and check the weather. If there’s no sign of rain, this someone (that’s all you get) and I will go for a bike ride. And by bike ride, of course I mean, we get leathered and helmeted up and zip through state forests on his motorcycle. It’s the unadulterated best. Someone recently chastised me for riding a motorcycle because “it’s dangerous.” I said, I’m not afraid of motorcycles; I’m a little afraid of cars when I’m on a motorcycle. Watch out for bikers, people. Bikes are fun, incredibly economical when it comes to fuel, and not more dangerous than, and here’s a random example, living with an abusive rage freak or hating your life so much you want to die. Sayin. Live a little.
Once I comb the knots out of my biker hair and my ass isn’t numb anymore, I’m usually starving. When my son isn’t home, I like to make extravagant meals full of exotic vegetables he won’t eat (yet). Think artichokes, leeks, and sprouts. Think sushi. Think anything but French fries.
By the end of the first day without my son, I’m usually a little lost. I often tiptoe past his bedroom even when he isn’t there, or “hear him” stirring from a nap he isn’t taking across the hall from where I’m listening to the new Chris Cornell solo album at a lower volume than I really need to. I always miss him when I’m folding his clean little clothes.
And when I wake up early for work on the second day without him, I can’t even appreciate the 20 extra minutes I have because I don’t have to wake him up, make his chocolate milk with vitamins, pick through his corkscrew curls, and drop his adorable butt off at daycare for the morning. I can’t be grateful for a leisurely lunch or time for an appointment instead of the mad daily dash from work to daycare to home (where my family watches him in the afternoons while he naps—not in a creepy way; they’re just home) and back to work.
I try to pencil in a happy hour on these days, not as a blissed-out mom with an evening of freedom, but as an adult missing her favorite limb but still trying to adult a little. Those evenings, I dive into teaching work, eat cereal and peanut butter toast suppers, and do something indulgently nest-y, like clean my jewelry or rearrange my closet. Settle down, I know.
On the third day, it’s just counting the hours until it’s time to go get him. I’m even ready to read the Little Blue Truck book again, by this point.
I write a lot about being insanely busy, trying to fit everything into this life I both did and didn’t choose. The truth is, I wouldn’t trade it. My son complicates the crap out of every single day, but he’s also the best part of the day because he gives everything I do more purpose. That might sound like a cliché, but maybe all moms are cliché in their wild love of their kids. That’s the true and “normal” part of this post. The strangeness intrudes on those days that boy isn’t attached to my leg, when I feel uncomfortably light and unencumbered. When I’m left alone to consider what life would be like now, after all I’ve been through, if I were truly alone.
And when I finally scoop him up and take his kisses, it sounds trite to say, mama missed you. It was someone else, some not-mama, who smelled your blanket yesterday in the odd late-night lamplight of your room. She had knotted hair like yours, and smelled of wine and leeks. She was trying to remember what life was like before you, and couldn’t.