I politely weave through the throng of emotional moms dropping off their kids for the first time as I desperately try to catch up with my youngest son, who is happily walking hand-in-hand with his friend down the hall to their classroom.
"Goodbye cutie. Have a wonderful day," I exclaim as he's already settled into a miniature chair at the table, captivated by a colorful puzzle.
I turn to his teacher and say, "Ok... so... what should I do?" As it was Day 3 of his nursery school career, I wasn't quite sure what the protocol was.
"We've got your cell," she replied, which I think was her attempt to comfort me but actually her way of saying, "Lady, please leave. He's fine."
So, I left.
I slowly walked to my car, opened the door, sat down and paused.
For the first time in more than four years, I was by myself. Not because I was at work and my nanny and son were at the playground. Not because I had a doctor's appointment and my Mom came to watch the kids so I could get in and out at a human pace. And not even because it was my weekend day to have an hour of peace (aka get my nails done) while my husband sat downstairs and both children napped in their rooms. (To be fair, he was almost certainly watching the baseball game, so he had an hour of peace too.)
No, both of my kids were at school, and I was by myself. It was 9:15 on Monday. And I didn't have the slightest idea what to do.
Granted, I had only an hour (don't get me started on the 2's phase-in program), but still. It was a whole, uninterrupted hour for me. Just me.
My mind quickly raced. What can I do? What should I do? What am I supposed to do? For the past four years, my life has been ruled by the omnipresent schedule, as my father-in-law jokes. Without meticulously planning these 60 minutes, I was lost.
Shouldn't I be more excited?
While these four years have surpassed even my highest hopes, they have also presented their fair share of challenges. I have lost sleep -- actual REM sleep and much more time worrying.
For the first four months of each of my boys' lives (that's eight months total), we were awake. ALL THE TIME. When our first son was about three months old and experiencing intense sleep regression, it was not uncommon for him to be up at 2AM crying for his pacifier. My husband was famously great at soothing him back to sleep through the "rock and dance" (our very own sleep training method combining elongated cradle-rocking motions with graceful bouncing and gliding). However, to further complicate matters, our little guy was in an "I hate all appropriate sleep furniture" phase so we had to ever so carefully master the transfer into his stroller. Imagine: A grown man waltzing with this little boy in his arms as he smoothly slides this bundle into the car seat which was attached to the snap-and-go, where I effortlessly take over and immediately swivel the contraption in figure eights around our 800 square foot apartment to ensure the transfer is effective. Then we roll the car seat next to our bed and collapse. So yeah. Sleep lost.
Then there's the constant worry. Mostly about completely inane things that seem critically important at that moment but are clearly ridiculous when revisited. Like, are my kids ok because they haven't touched a vegetable in months? Are reading, math, guitar and soccer too many activities? Not enough?
Which leads me to "the mom list" that cycles endlessly through my head all day, every day. In the notes section of my phone, I have a to do list for each of my sons, a general to do list, an allergist question list, a landscaper concern list, and a house to do list (because when you buy a delightfully charming 100 year old house, there's shit to do).
So, with all of this and more, why am I finding it so hard to take this hour to just relax?
It's funny how life can change in such a short period of time. Not so long ago, I would casually wake up at 10AM on a weekend morning and leisurely traverse the city with my husband, without a care in the world. Now, four years later, life revolves around schedules: school schedules, activity schedules, feeding schedules, nap schedules, bedtime schedules. So perhaps I have been rewired. My old self who could plop in front of the TV and watch Friends re-runs for six straight hours is no longer. But, it seems, this type A mom I've become must also adjust.
Perhaps I'll take this newfound time to pull a Kim Kardashian post-baby boot camp and attempt to regain my pre-baby body (though I'm about 4 years late, and I'll be using Jillian Michaels' 30 minute DVD instead of Jillian Michaels herself). Or, perhaps it's time to throw myself back into work. But whatever I decide, this will be for me.
So - here it is. My first free hour was spent in the following way. I sat in my car for 15 minutes, wondering what exactly I would do with this hour. Great start. This left me just enough time to hit up the Starbucks drive-thru (what a godsend) and run to Modell's to get a size 3 soccer ball because apparently soccer around here is BYOB (yes, I have the same questions and concerns as you). Clearly, I still have some work to do on this whole "me" thing.
My identity has morphed from being just a person to becoming mommy first, person second. I can honestly say being a mom is the best role in the world, and despite my trials and tribulations, I actually think I'm getting pretty good at it too. But now, the balance is shifting. I know I will always be mom first, but there doesn't need to be quite so large of a gap between that and me. It has been easy to throw myself into motherhood and forget my sense of self; now seems like just the right time to step back, recalibrate and figure out me.