Having a husband who has worked rotating shifts for all of our married life, I’ve learned to deal with managing on my own. His work schedule pays no mind to weekends, evenings, special occasions or holidays. We consider it a bonus when he gets to be around for these things. Our family and friends know the routine. When he’s not there, the question is always the same. “Mark working?”
His “weekends” often happen during the week. His off-time can happen during the day, when most of the rest of us are at work. We spend so much time dealing with life without each other, that when we retire someday, we’ll have to relearn how to deal with each other.
I remember when the kids were little, trying to manage the house on my own while also being solely responsible for diaper changes and feedings. A few years later, I was trying to navigate play dates and game schedules for the three kids while trying to figure out how to get the grocery shopping done. I remember wondering if I’d ever experience quiet again or have time to sit down and read a book to my heart’s content. Of course there were perks to his crazy schedule, like having him around during the days when I ran a home daycare. It was nice to have the support of another adult while living amongst all those little ones!
Now I sometimes wonder why I was in such a hurry to have life all to myself again. Sure, it’s nice to wake up on the weekends and have the luxury of sitting with a cup of coffee, reading, or having time to write. But more often than not, I find myself missing each moment when I’d hear the sound of a bedroom door opening and a sleepy-headed, pajama-attired little body would come greet me with a morning hug. I miss making hot breakfasts and watching them eat together at the table. I miss hearing the dialogue of The Sandlot as it played on the living room television for the hundredth time. I miss having a little one cuddle on my lap and twirl my hair in a little finger. I miss being needed.
They’re off living their own lives now. Two of them are out on their own, a couple of hours or more from “home.” One of them is still under the same roof, but living his own life just the same. The moments of pride that were once about an impressive play on the baseball diamond, are now focused on things like Brad’s job promotion that was earned only months after starting his first “real” job after college graduation. It’s knowing that he’s building a life that allows him to balance responsibility with the things he loves to do in his free time.
I used to marvel over the fact that eight year-old Jake could tell you the name of every NASCAR driver and the number and sponsor of his car. I used to beam when others would comment on how fast he could run from one end of a soccer field to the other. Now I find happiness in the fact that he’s found a job that he loves, one that fits his personality and makes him proud. He works with his hands and gets to drive to different job sites from one week to the next and he loves it. And I guess I don’t mind too much that he still “lets” me wash his dirty, smelly work clothes.
Kacey was a little girl with what seemed like a million baby dolls and Barbie dolls. She was constantly invited to sleepovers with her little girlfriends. She loved making art projects and had a personality that was a combination of athlete, social butterfly and scholar, making her just a really well-rounded kid. Now she’s in her third year of college already, and not surprisingly, embracing it to the fullest.
Now, another holiday weekend is upon us. Mark is at work for this one. The “away” kids didn’t come home this time. The quiet feels strange. Years ago, even if Mark was working, the kids and I would find something to do; whether it was a gathering with extended family, or a trip to our favorite beach and park. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself this weekend. My sister, my friends… they all have spouses with “normal” work schedules or still have younger kids at home. I wasn’t up for hosting a party with extended family without help from Mark or the kids. Besides, our extended family get-togethers have kind of fizzled out recently, unless it’s a major holiday. And I’m okay with that.
I had all this time on my hands and no obligations. So when Kacey said, “You should come visit me,” I readily agreed. The drive is less than two hours. There were still a few things here at home that she decided she needed for her new apartment near school. I could bring those to her. I could bring her some of the leftover kebabs I’d made on Friday night. I could bring her some fresh garden tomatoes and cucumbers, and the favorite tank-top that somehow ended up in my stack of clean laundry before she left.
So I took her up on the offer. I woke up early on Saturday morning and packed the car with things to bring to her. I tossed in a case of bottled water that I’d bought for her. She’s a college kid without a car and as yet, still without a job. As her mom, I love to help her with the little things like that. I arrived just before 11:00 and took her and a hungry Connor out for breakfast/lunch. Then we went to the mall where they introduced me to Scheels, a store with a huge variety of athletic clothing, fan gear, shoes and outdoor equipment. We browsed around and found things that caught our attention but didn’t buy anything. Then we went to Target to pick up a few things, including some light-blocking curtains to hang over the window and mini-blinds in Kacey’s bedroom. Apparently, this was one of her most pressing needs so far.
The domestic activities were too boring for Connor. He went back to his house while Kacey and I got creative with some Command hooks and a tension rod back at the apartment. She’s not sure her lease allows her to screw things into the walls, so we played it safe. And I have to say, the end result was aesthetically appealing as well as highly functional. “Now I can sleep in past sunrise,” Kacey happily announced.
Afterwards, I treated my girl to groceries and some kitchen supplies. She and her roommates have realized how difficult it is to function in the kitchen without a liquid measuring cup, measuring spoons and a colander.
Kacey was so gracious and grateful for the purchases. She’s so responsible and careful with her money, but I remember living on a shoestring budget. It wasn’t fun. As her mom, I was the one who was grateful that I could do these small things for her.
They’re all growing up. They need me less and less, which ultimately, was the real goal. But I’ll always want to do things for them when I can. It helps me to feel that I’m still part of their lives, even as they learn to fly on their own.
My day with my daughter went by too fast, but I’m happy we had it. The remainder of the weekend stretches ahead and I’ll fill it with chores of my own, and some relaxing activities too. Maybe I’ll finally paint that old water pump and milk can I’ve been wanting to put out in one of the gardens. Yep, this stage in life has its perks too!