I love the moment that Lily comes out of kindergarten every day; she runs across the schoolyard with an ear-to-ear smile and holds out her arms for our customary hug. It’s one of those sugary-sweet mommy moments that I cherish on a daily basis. But lately, I’ve found that the lovefest ends there; the subsequent trip home is often no walk in the park.
It would seem that my five-year-old daughter has taken it upon herself to monitor the time I spend socializing. Today, as we turned to walk across the schoolyard, I made eye contact with a fellow mom and new friend who I knew had recently taken her son for a doctor’s appointment. Since my eldest daughter, Elissa, has a similar medical history to her child, I was keen to follow up on how the hospital visit had gone. Although our conversation was very brief – my friend things up pretty concisely – I felt a constant pull on my parka the entire time (which I skilfully ignored).
Then, as we continued in our 10-minute walk home, Lily started to whine about how she didn’t like it when I “talked to people.” Her rationale was that our kitten, Buster, would be missing her and she needed to get home quickly so that he wouldn’t be sad. I good-naturedly humoured her theory at first, but as we approached our chatty crossing guard I received another sharp warning about not stopping to talk. Teasingly, I told Lily that I would just explain to the crossing guard that I needed to get my little ‘Crust-a-saurus’ home as soon as possible. This comment was apparently so hurtful that my preschooler proceeded to throw a full-on fit on the sidewalk.
At this point, I had to resist the strong urge to leave my insolent daughter – fussing and writhing – on the sidewalk to cool off. After a tense exchange, I helped her up (to expediate the process) and we continued on our way home. Of course, once the purring kitten was in her lap, she was a happy camper again. But I wasn’t quite ready to let it go.
I called Lily over to the couch and told her that we needed to have a talk. Then, I explained to her that it was “not cool” for her to yank on my clothing while I was having a conversation. I imitated her by pulling on her clothes, and asked if she would like me to do that while she played with her friends. I then found myself telling her that – on some days – my snippets of conversation with fellow moms in the schoolyard might be one of the few chances I get to talk to another adult during the course of my day.
Upon further reflection, I’ve realized that I sometimes go through stretches where I let my social life slide a little bit. Life happens, and lately ours has included lots of work travel for my husband, followed by colds for the whole family and – most recently – the stomach flu. The result has been a little bit too much time home alone with the kids, and not enough social time for Mommy. Which needs to be fixed.
I firmly believe that a happy mom is a good mom. While I’m willing to make a ton of sacrifices for my family, I think it’s important not to cross the line into martyrdom and end up short-changing my own personal needs. I know I’m not the only mom who has gone grocery shopping solo and considered it to be “a treat.” Granted, during the toddler years it can sometimes be tough to avoid those intense stretches of time with the kids – particularly for moms like me that don’t have dedicated childcare, or even any family members living in the same time zone.
But these days – with my youngest in school for two and a half hours every day – I think it’s important carve out some social time, whether it’s going for a coffee, Skyping with a dear friend overseas or even chatting on the phone. So who’s ready to hit Starbucks?