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This is the first week in 31 months where I’ve had to make myself look presentable before 7 a.m. Three days in a row. And counting. So now you know it’s true: I’ve made the leap back into paid employment.

KidsVT, that esteemed magazine whose editors kindly publish words I’ve written, printed an essay where I did some reflecting. On my life. And the lessons I’ve learned recently. Follow this link to read it: From Working Mom to Stay-at-Home Mom… and Back Again.

To prepare myself for the shock of reentering the workforce, I spent the last 30 days of my “mommy sabbatical” focused not so much on my family but on myself. I hosted and went to mommy coffees, sweated liters of water during Body Combat, lunched out, went skiing, practiced taekwondo, attempted yoga, caught a few shows, ran a 5K, went on a Downton Abbey sleepover, and otherwise thoroughly enjoyed the company of an amazingly wide circle of women (and a few men) who I am so incredibly fortunate to call “friends.” It was an amazing month. Thank you all!

Oh, don’t worry. I hardly neglected my family. I also made elaborate dinners (a departure from my usual scrounging around in the fridge for edibles), scrubbed the house, hoed out the kids’ rooms and spent quality time with the OINKdaddy. On three Wednesdays in a row, I let Small, Medium and Large play hooky (One child at a time – I’m not totally insane!). We spent our days together doing whatever they wanted to do (snowboarding, arts and crafts and skeet ball – guess who wanted what). We had a ball and I hope they will forever remember our “Mommy Days.”

Because they weren’t just these last three Wednesdays.

We spent the weekend in Boston with the kids—packing in the memories like sardines in a can. The Children’s Museum. The Barking Crab. Nantasket Beach. The Red Parrot. U2 at Gillette Stadium (this last was only for Liam and Brendan). We stopped fifty miles from home to return the borrowed stroller to my in-laws and to pick up our other car. I offered to drive the sedan in a selfish ploy for an hour of peace and quiet.

“Anyone coming with?” I called, hurling myself from the still moving vehicle. “No? See you at home!”

I was opening the car’s door when I heard the van pull in behind me. It had been too good to be true.

“Medium and Large are coming with you,” my husband announced, gripping the steering wheel with one hand and his Blackberry with the other. He continued perusing his email inbox and didn’t notice the glare I gave him.

“Are you kidding?”

“Nope. They want to be with you.”

I am almost never alone. This is one of the hard truths I have faced while morphing from Woman-With-A-Career to OINK. I am constantly accompanied by, or in the company of, others. Usually very small others. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a people person. I like people and I like to believe that they like me. But there are times when I pause to think longingly about closing the door to my office and sending the calls to voicemail; about the rental cars where I listened to whatever caught my fancy on the radio; about the airports where I sat blanketed in anonymity—just a speck in the endlessly amusing spectacle of humanity.

In those spaces, no little voices were ordering me to turn up the volume on “Crazy Frog,” whining about needing a snack ten minutes after we finished breakfast, sobbing that someone had poked them. And while I had other voices in my head—the ones reminding me to finish this proposal or that brief, nagging me to return phone calls and emails, chastising me for being the parent who was always late picking up her kids from daycare—they were all my own.

I miss my own company.

My husband interrupted my reverie. “Liam didn’t want you to be lonely.” The side of the van slid open and Liam jumped out, followed closely by his sister. In spite of myself, I was touched by my son’s thoughtfulness. He gave me an awkward, one-armed hug and ducked his head. He and Nora scurried off.

“Well, that was sweet of them.” I tried to sound positive.

My husband chuckled. “Nora is only coming with you because she wants to be with Liam. When Liam worried you’d be lonely, she told us, ‘Mommy’s not lonely–she’s fine! Liam, you stay with me!’”

Either she knows me better than I realize or she is more like me than I know.

I love my kids, but what I need is a Fortress of Solitude.

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