For starters, weekends aren't much of a break for me. In fact, I find the weekends more tiring than the work week in some ways. My job is the definition of sedentary, and lately it hasn't even been mentally taxing. On weekdays, I have time to take a stroll up the street for a coffee, pay my bills online, return phone calls and e-mails, and catch up on the news. Even my commute can feel like an escape; I turn on NPR and remember that the world extends beyond the I95 loop. If I had a rough morning—up too early with the twins, or tantrums, or what have you—I can let the stress of that slip away as I ride in the slow lane and sip my latte.
Weekends, however, are a different story. Maddie and Riley require constant care and attention. They don't sleep in because it's Saturday. I do get my latte, but I usually drink at least half of it cold. Any chores that need to get done must happen either while Maddie and Riley sleep or with their "help." We are usually quite busy, with errands to run, friends to see, and parks to visit. It's utterly exhausting.
I'm a parent. I know that Frenzied Weekends are part of the parenting gig in many households. And truth be told, I don't mind the running around and I accept the early mornings (even if I don't like them). What I find so hard to bear on the weekend are the constant reminders that I'm doing all of this without John. We usually go to the park on Saturday mornings. A large percentage of our fellow park-goers are dads there with their kids. When I look at them, all I can think about is how much John is missing, how much I miss him, and how jealous I am that the moms of some of those kids are at home, getting a break, taking the morning off.* I'm often surrounded by couples on the weekend. I love seeing our friends, and I almost never feel actively envious of the fact that most of them are happily coupled. But when we're home and the kids are tucked in bed and I'm sitting on the couch by myself, I think about whoever we saw that day and what they might be doing together, and it makes me miss John that much more. It's one thing to sit home alone on a Monday. It feels different to do it on a Friday or a Saturday.
The truth of it is that I'm not made to be a stay-at-home parent. I've been astounded by how hard it's been for me to settle in to my role as a mom. Weekends are a real test of my patience and stamina. Of course I love Maddie and Riley with a ferocious intensity, but that intense love is accompanied sometimes by intense anger, resentment, and frustration. When we spend from 5:00 p.m. on Friday to 9:00 a.m. on Monday together, there are lots of opportunities for me to be reminded of the highs and lows of my emotional range.
As Maddie and Riley get older, as I get more confident as a mother, and as I work through my grief, I'm starting to like the weekends more. Slowly and steadily, the ratio between fun and tedium in my Saturdays and Sundays is shifting in favor of fun. Sure, we don't sleep in, but we do take our time getting dressed. We goof off and make pancakes. I used to get up and shower before the twins got up, even on the weekends. What was I thinking? Now I wait, and they watch me shower, which they find fascinating (I won't share their running shower commentary). Sometimes I lure them in the shower with me. "It's like the sprinkler park!" Maddie is pro; in Riley's words, "I watchin'." We cook together. They love to run errands and are remarkably patient and well behaved in stores. We have tickle-fests on my bed. We turn on the Red Sox ("Guy throwin'! Guy hittin' Guy runnin'!") Sure, we have tantrums. We get cranky. We refuse to eat and we throw crayons. But we move on.
This weekend bodes quite promising. Tonight, we're meeting friends for a pizza picnic at our town's reservoir beach. Maddie, Riley, and I will trundle over there in our wagon after work, and I imagine that we'll get home just in time for the usual bedtime. I'm hopeful that my Fit will be waiting for us, and I plan to ski jump and hula hoop the night away. We've got park dates both Saturday and Sunday mornings, and friends coming over both afternoons. I even have a date on Saturday night!** My grocery list is ready, full of ingredients for a couple of new recipes this week.
I miss that feeling of freedom that I used to get when I walked out of work on Friday. But while my weekend time might now be largely dictated by the needs and whims of two toddlers, it's also peppered with some really good stuff:
[Maddie pauses as she walks down our front stairs; she pats herself gently on the crotch]
"Maddie wear panties someday."
[naked, squirmy, post-bath Riley suddenly calms in my arms and tightens his arms around my neck]
"I love you too, babe. Can you get down so that I can dry you off?"
"No. Mama ho-be Riley."
"You want to snuggle?"
[long, delicious, cuddly snuggle]
[Maddie, from the backseat of the car]
"Mama go bank. Maddie have own bank."
"Where is your bank?"
"What's in your bank?"
[Riley, who has been awake for close to an hour, just chatting in his crib]
"I NO SLEEPIN' I WANNA GET UP!! GET UP!!!!!"
[Maddie is observing Riley's diaper change]
"Oh, Mads, I forgot the wipes. Can you go get Mama two wipes?"
[Maddie trundles over to the drawer where the wipes are, gets it open, carefully pulls out two wipes, and brings them to me]
"Here you go, Mama."
Have a great weekend, everyone.
*Of course, I'm sure that some of the dads are single dads or dads who have their kids for a divorce visitation, and I'm sure that some of the moms are not sleeping in but are doing chores, or taking care of another kid(s) or running errands. But in my jealous mind, they are all happily married and the spouses are all sleeping, or doing a lazy crossword with the help of a cup of hot coffee.
**With a married former coworker. A woman, to boot. But still! A babysitter will put the twins to bed and I'm going to dinner and a party!