Monday, April 07, 2008

Story of an Hour

Last Thursday, it was determined that BD would pick the three older kids up from school because of various after-school activities, leaving me with a rare hour and a half between leaving work and picking the baby up from Montessori school. I offered to come down and have a late lunch with the husband, but was told it was silly to come downtown on the one day I didn't have to. I thought about going to the gym, but it's also downtown. Then I figured I'd just go home, but I was scolded that I'd just feel like I should clean or something.

"Go do something fun," I was told. "You always complain about not having time for yourself. Here's some time." I do not in fact always complain about not having time for myself, but I do occasionally chafe at the fact that BD has more freedom of movement than I do. It's not his fault; it's a result of our differing work situations. He owns his own business downtown, so he has some flexibility in when he comes and goes (although he works an insane number of hours) and can leave for lunch or to run errands and can have friends hang out at the shop. When he leaves work, it's just him, since he usually fulfills his child-related duties in the morning with the huge task of getting them all ready and to school. I don't begrudge him any small freedom he may have, I just envy it. I work shorter hours, but they start at 7:15 so it's all I can do to get myself up and to work on time. Approximately. I finish work at 2:30 if I don't have a meeting and pick the older kids up at 3:15. I squeeze in 30 minutes of gym time about three times a week, when I'm motivated enough, but that's about it. For all practical purposes, if I'm not at work, I have four kids with me. Even running errands can be a challenge.

BD wants me to have time to myself, and it's a source of frustration for him that I won't always jump at the chance to "do something for myself" when he suggests that I can or should. I think this is very sweet of him, and I appreciate the fact that he cares about my mental well being. But Thursday was a perfect example of why we aren't able to communicate well about this issue. He suggested I go to a new coffee shop that he has already visited a few times. Everyone is talking about this place, and he has enjoyed sitting with a cup of coffee and writing when he has an hour here and there. But while I did want to try the cafe, I do not like going to restaurant-type places alone. It's not because I'm embarrassed or uncomfortable about being seen alone; it's just not fun to me. Who am I supposed to talk to? He suggested I have tea and read (I don't drink coffee), which sounded lovely, but if it's just going to be me, I'd rather do it at home. And you know, maybe on another day, I would feel like sitting at the cafe alone, but that day I didn't, and that's where the whole issue of general freedom of movement comes in. Having one hour on one day and being encouraged to make the most of it just puts too much pressure on that one puny little hour.

So, I went anyway. I grabbed a book off my classroom shelf that I've been eyeing lately and headed over to Cafe Eclectic. I ordered the Charlie Brown, an ice cream sundae involving peanut butter and hot fudge, and a much-hyped Mexican Coke with the real sugar instead of corn syrup. I read my book. Sounds nice, doesn't it? And it was nice, really, except that I felt strangely agitated the whole time. I felt like I was wasting something rare and valuable doing something that wasn't really what I wanted to do. That's the whole trouble. An hour to myself shouldn't be so rare and valuable that the way I spend it matters so much. And again, it's no one's fault that it is this way. It's just the way it is. I ended up leaving before 3:30, even though I technically have until 4:00 to get Genevieve from preschool. That also irritated me, because if I'd gone home, I would have stretched the time as far as it would go. And I don't think I would have cleaned. I would have plopped down in my bed and read.

I knew that what BD wanted was to hear me say how nice it was to sit there on my own with no kids to chase or fetch for and just read. I know that time alone in a cafe is something he savors, and he wanted that experience for me because he loves me and he wants me to have time to recharge. But I just couldn't do it, so I didn't really say anything about it. He asked if I read and I said yes. I could feel his frustration with me so I tried to explain, but it's a hard thing to communicate that I just feel like my time is never my own, and one hour of one day can not fix that. And also that I crave time with him even more than I crave time to myself, so sitting alone someplace I know we would enjoy together is frustrating to me. When was the last time we were able to sit at a coffee shop with no kids and just talk? It never happens.

I know that things will not always be this way. I already feel like our kids are growing up so quickly. Most of the time, that's enough to help me bide this time that is never my own. Sometimes it's not, but that's just part of life as I know it.


katherine said...

I think I would've spent my hour at home alone. In 10 1/2 months, I've been alone in my house twice for about 20 minutes each time. I would imagine you've probably had about the same amount of time home alone in 10 1/2 years.

RJA said...

Your husband seems nice.

Kristy said...

He is very nice.

Rita.the.bookworm said...

What I would do is just go home for that hour and sit and enjoy reading or drinking your tea. My husband takes the kids OUT of the house for a couple of hours 3 or 4 times a week (to their TKD classes) and that's perfect for me. I literally get about 1 hour and 45 minutes and I do not care if the house looks like a tornado just swept through it, I will just grab an armful of whatever bothers me and move it to another room and dump it on the floor (or bed) to be dealt with later, so the room I am occupying looks clean enough. I read, I listen to my beloved iPod, I write, whatever. I do NOT clean or write out bills or balance the checkbook or anything that I consider work.

As you get more time to yourself, you'll feel less like you're squandering it. But, for ME to leave the house is just unpleasant, I'd rather enjoy my peace in the comfort of my own home. So, if you can, just go home for that hour and maybe don't even tell anyone you're home, it'll be your secret at-home-alone hour.

Kristy said...

It's nice to see I'm not the only one who would rather just go home for my alone time.

Stacey Greenberg said...

i would have napped. definitely.

or if it was nice, maybe i would have sat on the porch and talked on the phone. i hardly ever get to have an uninterrupted phone conversation.

Karen MEG said...

I think your husband is a sweetheart; obviously he wanted you to experience something he so much enjoyed. And I think it's even sweeter that you would have preferred to spend that time alone with him.

What a lovely post. It's funny isn't it, once you have kids, you think about all that you would want to do if you only had some real "me" time, and then when you do, you're almost at a loss!

Maria said...

Boy, I'm a SAHM and still never have time to myself in the afternoon. I have to wait for my hubby to come home to shop or run by myself. I liked you blog and will stop by again! Thanks for stopping by mine:)

BTW, you said you didn't like Pride and Prejudice? I actually haven't read the book, but the A&E version on DVD is THE BEST! It's like 6 hours long and not boring for a sec! Even my 14-year old daughter said it's the best movie ever. Watch it over a weekend!


All Adither said...

It would be total role reversal for us. My favorite thing to do is sit in a coffee house reading or writing, while my husband would feel odd and wasteful doing the same thing.