For the first time in 2.5 years I am having kid free time. It is a really bittersweet experience. Oakland has never gone to day care or overnight stays with people, so to suddenly find myself alone is so bizarre.
I had my first Oakland-less night recently and it went a bit like this:
In the first half hour after he left I just sat on the couch. I didn’t turn the TV on or touch my phone. I just stared at his toys, strewn around randomly wherever he had decided to drop them when he got bored and found something better. I stared at his half eaten apple on the coffee table, and I cried. After I finally came to terms with the stillness, which may I add was eerily quiet and weird, I started packing his things away. I cried. Putting his things away to not be played with again in a few hours felt almost like I was packing up my deceased child’s belongings for the last time. I cried some more.
I felt myself moving through the stages of grief, and I got angry. Suddenly I was incredibly pissed off at not having my child with me, so I grabbed the whipper snipper out of the garage, and I went to work trimming and edging 2 acres. After over an hour I literally could not lift my arm anymore. I couldn’t physically hold the whipper snipper, so I called it a day. It was still daylight. I had 2 more nights to get through before my baby came back to me.
I ended up at the local tavern with my mum. We have a usual table, which is located right next to the playground. Normally dinners here are stressful, because Oakland will take a bite of his food, run back to the slide and play for 10 minutes, cry at the door to be let back out, eat another single bite and repeat. He never finishes a meal, he gets hyped up and sweaty and I am up and down opening the playground door so often my dinner is cold before I am even half way through. This night was so different. We didn’t sit at our usual table, I didn’t need to constantly watch the playground or the door. I didn’t have to bribe a toddler to take one bite of food. I ate my meal, got to have adult discussion in one conversation, instead of the usual chat, broken up into a million parts as I have to leave the table every few minutes. I felt so sad.
I got home and thought of the advice a single mummy friend gave me which was to just keep busy and do things for myself. Armed with that little gem, I decided to do a face mask and have a hot bath. I made the water as hot as I could take, since normally I have to share a luke warm bath with a little toddler. I filled the water level right to the brim and laid down and read a book. All things I haven’t done in years. I realised that I was actually so relaxed and slightly enjoying the solitude. I also realised I hadn’t thought about Oakland while I was reading.
Then I got hit with a mountain of guilt. I felt insanely guilty at the idea I was actually enjoying time alone. How dare I? What if Oakland was missing me and wanted to be home? Should I be sitting there being miserable and sad, is that expected? Was I a bad mum if I enjoyed the little break?
I kept myself as busy as possible over the coming 2 days. I binge watched shows I couldn’t normally watch. I applied for a tonne of jobs as Oakland doesn’t normally allow me to sit on the laptop. I did my groceries, went to Bunnings, Kmart and even had a sneaky lunch time beer just because I could. I did anything I normally couldn’t or that was really painful to do with a toddler in tow. But the second I stopped doing anything I would just miss him and count down the hours til he was home again.
Over the following weeks we started to slip into our new routine. I won’t say it got easier for me/us, but it is slowly becoming the norm. I am adjusting to life without a toddler 24/7. I miss him immensely when he’s not with me, but it makes me appreciate the time I spend with him all the more. I think I am slowly learning to let go of the guilt I feel when I find myself enjoying my alone time and beginning to accept that as full time mum for almost 3 years, maybe I deserve a break. All mums should be able to take some time for themselves and actually enjoy it. Being a mum/parent/carer is so damn hard. It can be isolating, difficult and at times downright depressing when shit hits the fan. We all need to be able to recharge. The old saying of take care of yourself so you can take care of your children is so accurate. I know I can’t give my son 100% of me when I am run down and exhausted. And he deserves me at my best. I certainly don’t expect complete smooth sailing from here on out, but I am excited for the adventure.