Day #286 Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Yes, we all survived the storm-once-known-as-Hurricane Ophelia, though the disruption to the whole country has been fairly massive, even in areas where there was little more than a few downed trees from the wind. Schools were once again closed across the country today from an overabundance of caution, to allow for checking of any potential structural damage, but thankfully Dublin creches, including ours, reopened and this cheeky monkey was back in school today.

And you know what? I was over the moon. I practically skipped to work (ok, more like ran to get there in a hurry) and reveled in feeling like an ADULT when there.

The truth is Monday was hard. I really needed a day off from being a parent. Actually, I need a couple. Things have gotten so chaotic that the house has sunk into a pretty deep mess and I need to tidy everything around me in order to diminish my own internal chaos and re-balance myself. Monday was meant to be a start on that. Instead it was a lazy-yet-stressful day of trying to figure out how to entertain an exuberant toddler at home without losing sanity. Because I am not a good stay-at-home mom. Instead of being energised by my kid’s happiness, I find myself drained the more time I spend with him without a break to myself. I get more and more distracted and snappy and short-tempered and eventually resentful. And, of course, guilty. Because it’s pretty much one of the worst things in the world to resent your own kid for “stealing” your day off because of a hurricane passing through.

When I collected him from creche this evening he was in the highest of spirits, all sparkle and smiles and dimples. He declared to me that he wanted to sing a song, and then proceeded to sing several, making those bypassers not sporting headphones in their ears smile when they heard him repeat the refrain to “Puff the Magic Dragon” on an endless loop.  He was such a joy that I stopped him in our driveway before we got to our front door just to give him a big hug and to tell him how happy he made me.

And he does. As much as he sometimes summons forth a swell of resentment, he equally makes my heart burst with happiness to the point that I can’t ever imagine expressing its fullness. And I know that in order to feel more of the latter and less of the former, I need time away from him regularly in order to refresh my fraying surpluses of patience, sanity, concentration, fortitude, and imagination. Absence makes me a better parent.

This might not be the case with everyone. I have no way of putting myself in another person’s shoes in this regard. I am mystified by the herculean resilience of those parents who choose to stay at home with their kids day after day. Mystified and overawed. Also, a little bit pissed off at them just for being able to do that. But the root cause of that tiny spark of anger isn’t really because other parents manage to stay at home. It’s because I know that I can’t ever be that kind of mother and a small part of me chafes at my own limitations.

Does this make me selfish? Almost certainly to a degree. But at the same time I have learned those limitations the hard way and I have learned to respect them in order to achieve a good balance in my life. I am, by nature, an introvert. I find constant socialising and large crowds to be exhausting. I crave frequent silence and retreat. It doesn’t mean  that I don’t enjoy being around people, it just means that I need to balance that with time to myself. And as my husband occasionally reminds me, it goes two ways. Just as I have to remind myself that it’s ok to take regular time away from my own child to re-invigorate myself, it is equally important to step away from my work and focus my energy elsewhere. Because as much as I need to remind myself that the feelings of guilt and resentment are perfectly normal reactions (within reason), my tendency to overcompensate by indulging my inner workaholic needs to be reined in from time to time, even if it’s against my own wishes.

So yes, yesterday was hard despite also being a special day. But today was good. Great, even. And I will find a way to eke out those couple of days to myself, sooner or later. In the meantime, the house will just have to stay disorganised for a little while longer.

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