Friday, September 30, 2011

What New York Taught Me About Being a Parent

Chad and I just got back from an incredible week-long trip to New York City. Without the kids. While some people may not even be able to fathom being away from their young children for this long period of time, I embraced it with open arms.

The way I look at it is this: There are 8,760 hours in a year. I was away from my children for approximately 175 of these hours. Now I'm not a math genius by any means, but I'm pretty sure that 175 out of 8,760 really isn't that much. In fact, that still leaves 8,585 glorious hours to spend with my children every year. Obviously I'm not with my boys every second of these 8,585 hours, but I think you get my point. Just to put things in perspective, a person working a 40 hour per week job is at their job for just over 2,000 hours each year (2,080 to be exact), not including vacation or sick time.
While I thoroughly enjoyed our week of being Kim and Chad instead of Mommy and Daddy, being away from my boys for this period of time made me realize a few things about being a parent. Actually, I should say that it reinforced a few things that I already knew.

1. I definitely have the wardrobe of a stay-at-home mom. And there's no place better than the Big Apple to show me this. I haven't worked outside the home for over five years, which means I don't have anyone telling me how to dress. And since most of my days are spent on the floor playing with children, fighting with messy diapers, wiping up spills and being spilled on, I can't really justify paying lots of money for good clothes. Because of this, my wardrobe mostly consists of t-shirts, sweatpants, old shorts and sweatshirts. If I absolutely have to go out in public with the kids, I do have some jeans I can throw on at the last minute, and maybe if I'm lucky I can find a shirt without some kind of stain on it. But for the most part I live in comfy, less-than-casual clothes. For the times I actually get to escape the house without kids I have a few nice pants left over from my office days, and I have some nice shirts in the mix, mostly courtesy of my mom. But as I quickly realized when packing for our trip, I barely have enough "nice" outfits to get me through one week. And New York is basically the capital of trendy dressing, so it was pretty obvious I was an outsider.

On the Brooklyn Bridge. Yes, that is a sweatshirt tied around my waist. And I'm sure no one will ever know that my sunglasses were only $5 at Charlotte Russe. Oh, and the shirt? That's a "hand-me-up" from my younger sister who is the queen of shopping and trends.

2. Being a parent is truly a 24-7 job, even when I'm not with my kids. It's amazing how I can be doing something completely unrelated to children or being a parent when all of the sudden I'll think about my boys. In New York I could be sitting in a crowded theater listening to someone sing about Mormons, when all of the sudden my mind would drift to, "I wonder what the boys are doing now." Or I could be watching police cars zooming down the streets of New York, and I would think, "Alec would love seeing those sirens!" And my personal favorite was our first dinner there at a hummus restaurant where there was a little girl about Chase's age who was being incredibly well-behaved. She was there with her mom and dad for at least an hour and a half, and she was just as happy as could be sitting in her high chair. I couldn't help looking at her amongst all the chickpeas and pitas and thinking that Chase would never sit still that long or be that good in a restaurant! So even though my boys weren't physically with us, my mind just couldn't stop being a mom.

3. Being a parent involves making some pretty major sacrifices. This is one of those statements that everyone makes about having children, but I don't think anyone really realizes the full impact of this statement until after having children. At least I didn't. While I love my children immensely and wouldn't trade them for the world, I do have to admit that spending a week in NYC made me miss the freedom of those pre-child days just a little bit. Not so much the little every day freedoms, like actually finishing a magazine during the month that it came out. But more the "big life choices" kind of freedoms. The main decision I made in my life that I feel was a sacrifice for my family was where we live. The Harrisburg, PA area is a great place to live in the sense that it has excellent schools and it's pretty central to lots of day-trip/long weekend type locations like New York, Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia. We also have access to tons of cultural events and family activities just minutes away from us. Plus, most of my husband's family is within 15 miles of us, and my family is about a half-day's drive away. And I guess if you're a fan of the change in seasons it's a pretty good location too (afterall, we do have the four seasons of tornado, hurricane, ice storm and heat wave). But if I were only thinking of myself, Harrisburg would not be where I would want to live. Topping my list of dream places to live are Phoenix, San Diego and (drumroll please) New York City! So I think you can see how "living" in one of my dream cities for a week could make me just a tad envious of those who do live there (and in case you're wondering, spending a week there didn't change my mind about wanting to live there... if anything it made me want it more!). I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with raising a family in New York (or Phoenix or San Diego); it's just not how or where Chad and I decided we wanted to raise our boys. So I took one for the  team and settled down in the school district where Chad and I both graduated from, where we know first-hand the opportunities that are available and the quality of the education that our boys will receive.

Times Square on one of our nightly adventures. What is there NOT to love about this place? Ok, maybe I can think of a few things, but I'd still love to live here!

4. I am very very very lucky to have wonderful family to help me out. As I mentioned earlier, Chad's family lives very close to us, and my family is not super-close but still a day-trip away. Fortunately, all of our parents are very willing to help us out with the boys. Chad's mom or dad will usually watch the boys when we want to go out to dinner or we both have a commitment at the same time. My mom or dad will take the boys for our longer babysitting needs, like this vacation. We are so fortunate that our family is both willing and able to do this for us. It really makes our lives a lot easier! (We always say that the one plus-side to two sets of divorced parents is extra babysitters!)

This was just one of over 20 meals that I got to enjoy completely uninterrupted! Family is the best!

5. Even though I love my boys immensely, I still need time away from them. And I'm not talking time like a lunch out or a trip to the mall. I need an occasional multi-day break. I could sit here and tell you how hard it was for me to be away from my boys for a whole week...but then I would be lying. Sure I missed them. And yes I spent a good amount of time wondering what they were doing and looking at photos of them on my phone just to see them. But I knew they were in good hands with grandparents. I also feel that I am a better mother, wife and person when I have some extended time away from my kids. It really gives me a chance to relax, build up my energy and actually take time for me. Plus, they say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. I guess whoever "they" is actually knew what they were talking about!

The end of our vacation. I look (and feel!) so much more relaxed and less stressed than I did at the beginning (though whether that was the lack of kids or the watermelon martini I just downed is still questionable...)

By the end of the week, I couldn't wait to see my boys and give them both a huge hug. I felt completely rejuvenated and ready to tackle anything. I was ready to be Mommy again.

Chad and I have our tenth wedding anniversary coming up in May, and we're already thinking about taking another kid-free trip to celebrate. Realistically though this won't happen until our eleventh or twelfth least. I'm not ready to leave my boys for another week just yet, but I'm sure by then I will be! And who knows what I will learn about being a parent from that adventure...

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post!

    I agree with you 10000000%. LOL. For what it's worth, I think you love positively lovely (but then, that's coming from another SAHM who can't afford to buy clothes either, and when I do, it's from a local second hand store. I like to tell myself that I like it because it makes me think outside the box....) Luckily, I also have a hunger sister that I get "hand me ups" (hehe! I like that) from. She dresses really cute, so I take everything she gets rid's a bit unfortunate that she's about 3 or 4 sizes bigger than I am. No matter how cute her things are, they still never fit me. LOL. Oh well.

    I really appreciate your admission that you miss your carefree days. I am heavily involved in community theatre in my area, and I face a lot of criticism for it. Many people know that it's one of my dreams to act professionally some day. And as a mom of 4, I get regular lectures from random people about how I need to rearrange my priorities and that when you have kids, you don't matter anymore and that parenthood is about sacrifice. Okay- I LOVE my kids more than anything. I don't regret them for a second. But I have made plenty of sacrifices. I want to be an actress...why is that so different from a mom who wants a carreer? Or go back to school? It's not. But people always praise those goals, so why is my goal so terrible? Anyway, my kids are always in the shows I am, it's a family affair, and I'm not running off to hollywood, I'm in Utah in community plays. They love it. People never get it, until they have their own kids, and then half of them make martyrs of themselves, as though that makes them better moms.

    I can also identify with the 24/7 momhood- every thing I do has to do with my kids. EVERYTHING. Even when what I'm doing has nothing to do with them. LOL. You get it.

    I'm here following your blog on GFC from MBS. I'd love you to visit me back, if you don't mind!