As I was preparing for my third solo getaway of any significant amount of time since becoming a mom almost seven years ago, I reflected on what this man had said. What does it mean for a parent to have “me time?” Is it necessary? By his count, I might be on my 20th retreat, holiday or otherwise personal adventure, not my third! What a decadent notion that was.
Neither of my first two trips were all-out vacations. In fact, the first was planned in a fit of desperation to cop a few nights of much-needed sleep and I jumped at a cheap airfare that took me to Las Vegas (honestly) to visit some friends and take up temporary residence in their guest room. I went to the one show they both performed in and otherwise slept the entire time I was there.
As I write this, I am in the metropolis of Montreal, having just returned from an incredible weekend in New York City. The road trip took a gal pal and me there and back within 48 hours. I am amazed at what we were able to wedge into such a short amount of time. I had few expectations aside from the obvious: experience the bustle of the Big Apple, take in a Broadway show if the opportunity presented itself, eat some incredible food and catch up with an old friend. Whatever shape that took and in whichever manner was fine with me. I had a blast, ultimately because I was in the moment.
Transferring this notion to daily life at home isn’t a big stretch. We mustn’t spend our time looking forward to next week, tomorrow or even five minutes from now. Granted, when you are taking care of children this can be a tough row to hoe. Fantasizing about a warm bath and a glass of wine in the midst of lost backpacks, unmade lunches, and stepping on toys that could simply take up residence on a nearby shelf is easy to do.
I suppose the point isn’t that this is easy work; it’s merely necessary work. As the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn recommends: “When you wash the dishes, just wash the dishes.”
The same can be applied to parenting. We must enjoy the time we are given: time to embrace that little child who is offering a hug, to live in that story we are reading, or to get down on the floor and play with the trains.
As of Day 5 of my week away, I feel myself “coming back” and have experienced many gifts that have given me pause and a renewed sense of purpose. I can now say I know the meaning of what it is to have breathing space from the daily routine of kids and family, house and work. It’s not that I didn’t understand it intellectually before, but I can now feel it in my being. And I’m certain I will go home better for it, and be able to parent better for it, too — for a while.
Then I may just have to do it all over again.