"This isn't really relevant," he said, "but softball starts this week." He maintained, in front of our audience, that we had spoken about this before. I maintain that he probably wouldn't have brought it up in front of our audience if that were the case. The details aren't really important. Suffice it to say, he is playing softball on Thursday nights, as he has most of the years we've been together. It's not that the softball is new; it's that everything else is. Since last season, we've started attending a small group on Thursdays with other couples from church. They have become like family. And, of course, now Daniel travels. Half the time, in fact. Occasionally, I am crazy enough to brave small group without him, but usually that means I am tending to my small and noisy children, trying to keep them from keeping everyone else from enjoying the time. Attempting this feat after work is a challenge, and past bedtime it's impossible. Then I drive six blocks home (it's not a safe six blocks to walk in the dark alone) and drive around for about 20 minutes looking for parking. This part can be alleviated, thanks to a wonderful friend who is willing to give us a ride. The point is that with Daniel gone half the time and at softball the other half, that doesn't really leave much room for small group.
Well, that's one point. The other is the larger subject of free time. What it is, who gets it, and how often. We have a standing misunderstanding on this subject. Daniel is convinced I believe traveling for work is living a life of leisure. I know this isn't true, mostly. But here's what I also know: it involves sleeping in a hotel. Alone. With lots of pillows and not even the remote possibility of being awakened by screaming children. It involves absolutely no cooking or cleaning, no keeping anything alive, no laundry or ironing. It is eating in restaurants, conversations with grownups, and free glasses of wine. It is caring for oneself. Going to the bathroom alone. These are luxuries mothers do not have.
I adore being a mother. I love caring for my little girls. But to say that the role, lately, hasn't been a challenge would be silly. It just has. And I long for some time-- any time-- alone. I have been asking for this since last fall, and Daniel has wholeheartedly supported it, but I haven't lobbied. When it comes down to it, I cave.
I remember fifth-grade Social Studies with Mr. Davis, he of the chinstrap beard and rimless, octagonal glasses. He taught us about opportunity cost. I think of it every day. I don't make time for time alone. I don't demand it. And even when it's offered, often I find "more useful" ways to spend it. There is always shopping that could be done, or bath time, or a project I was meaning to finish, or bedtime stories, or cleaning, or even spending time with that husband of mine. I defer to the family.
When softball was sprung on me, part of why I exploded was that I knew it would make me resentful. But how can I be resentful if, when afforded the opportunity for time alone, I don't take it? Yesterday Daniel sent me an Outlook calendar invite for Christina's Time (location: anywhere you want to be). Since then I've been thinking-- how would I use the time? I felt pressure to use it wisely, to make the most of it. Should I have a drink with a friend? Should I go shopping for spring clothes? Should I return the pair of shoes that broke today? Should I stay home and do Pilates?
I should not stay home, this I know. When the girls and I got home tonight, Daniel started to cook dinner. I didn't know what to do, so I attempted to do a Masala Bangra (Indian dance) DVD with toddlers at my clumsy feet. Needless advice: don't try that at home. After we ate, I sat bribing Mirabella to finish her taco and scolding Emerie for pulling hair.
"Baby. Just go," Daniel said.
So I did. I put on an unnecessary scarf and boots, and I am sitting at Starbucks. Just me, my laptop and my cheap girl's mocha (order a coffee, add sweetener and cream, then dump a bunch of chocolate powder in. I unscrew the cap. For real.). When I left, I had to pry Emerie from my leg and tell Mirabella not to cry. It didn't feel good. But sitting here, I feel a little like the girl I used to be. The one who recharged by being alone; the one with a head full of words and the time to put them to paper. That's the girl I've always been and that Daniel fell in love with. I have to believe my kids deserve to know her too.