Before I get to the meat of this post–this last week has been a busy one at my house! Saturday was spent cleaning out gutters, and I still have the gutters in the front to do. I discovered the section that was clogged when I bought the house is going to need to be replaced, because it is sagging just enough from an unknown length of time holding a metric ton of crud that water stands in it rather than running to the downspout.
You guys–the former owners of my house glued on the gutter screens! Those flimsy, cheap, plastic screens from the hardware store…glued on! I had to peel off adhesive to remove the screens so I could clean all of the gutters. There are some fancy, expensive gutter guards out there that permanently protect your gutters, but these sure aren’t it! Even with these screens on, the gutters need to be cleaned out every couple of years because grit from the shingles and tiny bits of tree trash still fall through the holes. My gutters were about halfway full of compost, no lie!
Since I put the front gutters on hold, I finished early and was able to make it out Saturday evening for dinner to celebrate my friend Kate’s birthday downtown at The Bar. If you’ve ever seen the movie Gone Girl, you would recognize this bar as “The Bar” from the movie, which was filmed in my town. My friend Trevor also had a birthday on Tuesday, so we had another outing to Broadway Biergarten. My friends Matt and Alyssa also have birthdays coming up at the end of the month, which serves as my annual reminder that summer is just around the corner.
Which Brings Me to the Subject of this Post
My mom-schedule is a bit different from the traditional divorced parenting schedule. My ex husband lives nearly 200 miles away, and while we do keep the traditional every-other-weekend schedule (yeah…totally fun drive every other weekend!), in order to have joint custody we have to adhere to a school year vs. summer schedule. So during the school year they’re with me full time and their dad every other weekend. In the summer, they’re with their dad full time and with me every other weekend. Which means this coming Monday, their last half-day of school, they will be leaving in the evening to spend the summer with their dad.
It’s always a tough transition. I’m used to having them around, and when they leave I drift around my silent house for a while, almost lost at what to do with myself without dinner to cook every night, laundry to wash every other day, and constant busy work and activities that comes with being a parent. This year, however, I’m kind of looking forward to it. My boys have hit that adolescent stage, and the first teen/pre-teen challenges have taken place in the last couple of months (see Parenting a Teen Part 1 & Part 2), leaving me stressed and mommed-out. I need a break!
I don’t have family in my town, their dad lives far away, and I’m the only adult in the home. Which means my help with the kids is basically at zero. It’s just me, myself and I…and they say parenting takes a village. Well friends, I don’t have a village! I have a tiny little commune on a hill where I am the sole leader and my two little half-grown’s are beginning to challenge me for the crown. I think this summer, no matter how much I miss having them around every day, I’m going to need the time to recover from battle and prepare for another nine months of keeping my would-be rebels in check!
The problem I’m facing is–I feel guilty. I always dread them leaving every year, but this year I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to the quiet. To having a house that stays clean for more than 30 minutes so I can do something besides constantly pick up clutter, cook, wash dishes and laundry, and go around the house turning lights off every 10 minutes. To not having three people to get out the door in the morning instead of just one. And to having some adult time to spend with friends.
I’m a mom. But I’m also a single woman. Those two roles are like oil and water, which means I usually have to pick one or the other. So during the school year, I pick mom because my kids are home and they are always my number one priority. But in the summer, I have 10-12 weeks that I get to pick single woman, and it’s so nice to get to explore that part of who I am as well.
Therein lies why I feel guilty. I’m a mom 24/7 and will be for the rest of my life, and I wear that badge proudly. So when I find myself enjoying the fact that I get to take a break from that role for a little while, I feel like I’m somehow saying that I’m glad my kids are gone, or that they’re a burden on me, or that I don’t like being a mom. That couldn’t possibly be farther from the truth! But these two conflicting roles keep me at odds with myself nonetheless.
In spite of the guilt, I can’t help looking forward to the summer. Over the course of this last year, a new friend group has formed and bonded. None of us are married, and all of us are usually up for just about anything at any given time. When someone suggests an activity in the group text, there’s always at least one or two of us, although more often than not at least four of us, that are available to go. It’s almost foreign to me, because when I was growing up my parents quit doing things with friends except for on the rare occasion. I never knew the importance of having friends as an adult, but now that I do I feel really lucky to have all of these people in my life.
Last summer I spent a lot of time on my own to recover from a chaotic winter and spring. I sold a house, bought a house, my grandparents lost their house to a tornado, we moved them into a temporary apartment, and then I moved–all in the span of about six weeks. And then a couple of months after that we moved my grandparents into the new house they bought. I was beat, and I wanted my solitude. I hid out for most of the summer. This year, I’m looking forward to doing the opposite.
While we were out for Trevor’s birthday Tuesday we were talking about all of the different things we want to do, from chilling on a beach, to hiking, to even traveling overseas. There are so many things I want to do, and now I know that I have people to do them with and that is SO much better than doing them all alone. This is the part of my life I get to experience as a single woman, without the mom identity attached. While being a mom is unquestionably the most significant part of my life, it’s these moments that remind me that I am still very much my own, individual person, and that Mom isn’t all that I am.
This is something that I think we easily lose sight of as mothers…whether it’s because we get so consumed with being moms that we forget who we are underneath of it all, or because any time we try to think of ourselves as separate beings we feel consumed with guilt at the thought of detaching ourselves from our children. I’m forced to face it because every summer, like it or not, I do have to detach from my children. And this sometimes leaves me feeling like I’m living two separate lives, as two separate people, because I haven’t yet figured out how to let the two exist together as one.
Even when violently shaken, oil and water only mix for a short while before separating again, the oil of motherhood rising to the top and the water of womanhood sinking down into the depths.