When I Don’t Have My “Alone Time”
It has been a long standing tradition in our house: Sunday mornings are my “time to myself.” From the time I wake up until 9:30 a.m., I can do whatever I want.
My husband takes Saturday mornings, and he chooses to sleep in. I get breakfast for our three kids and empty the dishwasher. Then I take the toddler with me to run errands at Target and Trader Joe’s and the two older kids have their Saturday Morning Screen Time. By the time I arrive home, it is 9:30 and my husband wakes and helps me unload the groceries.
Sundays are for me. I am always awake early and go down to my office, but on Sundays I know that I will have hours of time to myself. I always read Brain Pickings and a chapter or two out of a novel, plan my week, send an email to my extended family, get caught up on life.
Of course, it is never completely uninterrupted… if only my office were sound-proof. Usually I will hear a squabble of some kind and a yell for “MOMMY!” Or my husband will be cooking eggs and the toddler will wander off and appear at the French doors of my office, with her nose pressed against the glass. At some point, I’ll usually need to emerge to refill my coffee and without fail, one of the kids will try to rope me in at that point by asking me to look at a picture drawn or telling me that someone ate the last bagel.
Still, I know that I can count on that time in the week. And have learned that if I don’t have that time, I feel out of sorts.
This weekend, my husband planned to take the two older kids on a weekend getaway, which included going to a large arcade and then checking into a hotel for the night. We decided to call it a “Leap Year Treat” so that the kids don’t form an expectation that this would be a regular occurrence.
The plans were nearly thwarted when my husband had a flare-up of gout on Friday. I was sure that they would need to cancel, and braced my kids for disappointment. However, a trip to walk-in care and 24 hours of medication later, my husband insisted that he felt fine. He left with my older two kids on Saturday afternoon, leaving me at home with the toddler.
The house was certainly quieter without my older kids around. The toddler and I went to a play date at a friend’s house on Saturday evening. My husband was sending me photos of the older kids’ smiling faces at the arcade so I knew they were having a blast.
Then Sunday morning rolled around. The toddler was up by 6:00 a.m. And while I was already awake, it was impossible to do any of my normal Sunday routine while watching her. She would stick her hand directly in the peanut butter jar if I wasn’t looking. She demanded the movie Moana, then Up, then Moana again — changing her mind every 10 minutes. She is potty training, so periodically she would strip naked and race to the bathroom.
I could feel my frustration, not in taking care of her, but in the loss of my Sunday morning to myself.
My husband and older children arrived home around noon. My husband was exhausted. I had an inkling that he had been pushing himself to make the weekend happen, and it caught up with him. He went upstairs to take a nap.
My older kids went outside to enjoy the glorious 55 degree day, but the toddler woke from her own nap and wanted to DO THINGS. She wanted to paint. I set her up with brushes, paper, and water, and thought that maybe I would have a chance to do some painting of my own — thereby capturing a little time for myself, even while working parallel to her.
I had barely set up my own painting station when she proclaimed “ALL DONE” and I needed to grab another piece of paper for her and move the completed painting elsewhere to dry. I finally sat down only to have her decide that she was done painting and now wanted markers. I had barely sketched the outline of what I wanted to paint when she abandoned the markers and took off for the living room.
I stayed put, having spent so much time moving all of my art supplies from my own desk to the kitchen table. My 7-year-old came inside and he and the toddler were having a disagreement over blocks. I tried to ignore them, drank a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, and kept working on my painting. Every few minutes I had to get up and break up the ongoing fight in the living room over how to build a “house” for stuffed animals.
While I know that the intent of the weekend was for my husband to spend dedicated time with the older kids, somehow I had mistakenly thought that this would translate into a relaxing weekend for myself. It was anything but.
My husband finally stirred around 3:00 p.m. I informed him that I was not moving from the kitchen table until I was done with the painting. He acknowledged that I had gotten nothing out of the weekend: he had gotten to have fun with the kids, while I had been left to wrangle the toddler.
And so I sat. I wasn’t able to recapture everything I would have done on my Sunday morning, but finishing the painting at least gave me a little bit of peace. I only started working with watercolors about six weeks ago, and a lot of time is spent “waiting for things to dry” before I can decide if I want to do any additional work. I kept tweaking a little house and a pond in my painting before finally proclaiming it was “done.”
Then I felt a little better.