11 July 2008

Weekend Plans

Confession: I don't really look forward to the weekend. This hasn't always been the case, of course. When John was alive, weekends were the highlights of the week, as they are for many people. But since John died, I find weekends really hard.

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?"
"Yes. Snuggle."
[long, delicious, cuddly snuggle]

[Maddie, from the backseat of the car]
"Mama go bank. Maddie have own bank."
"Where is your bank?"
"Over there."
"What's in your bank?"

[Riley, who has been awake for close to an hour, just chatting in his crib]

[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!


Juicebox Mom said...

You are doing all the right things: 1) enjoying their adorable-ness (it goes by soooo fast, i wish mine could go back to that age), 2) loving them, 3) spending time with lots of friends (most don't have as many), and 4) taking care of YOU. It will get better and as they get older you will get more and more time.

christie said...

Hi there. I found you via Indigo Girl, I think... just wanted to say thanks for your honesty and your efforts here. Be well.

Anonymous said...

Have a grand weekend, fun night out with your friend AND a party! Yipee! I'm starting to like weekends more too:)

Mark said...

The resentment and exhaustion are perfectly normal and I know exactly how you feel. As someone who always saw work as nothing but a means to an end, to find myself looking forward to going to work on Monday to escape the constant parenting on the week-end is very strange. As you aptly point out though, there are the occasional amazing moments that can erase all the stress in one fell swoop. Parenting, as I've experienced it, is lurching from moment to moment and somehow retaining a tenuous grip on your sanity. Be well.

moo said...

I'm so excited about your date! Even if it IS only with another married woman! Have a BLAST.

Jamie said...

This is so strange -- but I was thinking about your weekends this morning when I woke up. (I told you it was strange!) You're thoughts are the same as I thought they would be. :)

Lala said...

Hell yeah! Weekends are like the fourth leg of a relay you run all by yourself.

Anonymous said...

I could have written this post. I work full time during the week and feel the same way about the weekends - just more intense and emotional work. Fun, yes. But hard, hard work. My husband doesn't help very much, so I'm left holding the bag most weekends. I'd say being resentful that I *have* a partner and am *still* doing it all by myself is nearly as bad as the resentment you must feel for actually being on your own and missing what you know would have been a real partnership.

While this time in our kids' lives is a lot of work, there is so much joy as well. It goes by so fast (so I hear) but that doesn't erase the fact that sometimes, it also just sucks.

Annagrace said...

Did you have to include that part about the crossword puzzle and coffee?!! It's stuff like that I miss the most, and that's WITH a partner. A definite upside to twins, I'm realizing, is that they will be older at the same time...your freedom, in other words, will hit all at once. (just so you know that jealousy runs both ways :) ) I love the IDEA of weekends, but it seems like we always cram so much into them that by Sunday I'm more than ready for naps that actually happen some measure of predictability...

Tiffany said...

Weekends with kids are totally different than weekends prior to kids. I love my babies just as much as you love yours but I do enjoy going to work on Monday because boy do they take a lot out of you.

Jolene said...

*sigh* just wanted to let you know I'm still reading and thinking of you...enjoy your weekend.

Sandi said...

I could have written this post about weekends myself.

kim said...

In the past year, I've totally come to dislike most weekends myself. The hubby is most often too busy to play (either holed up in the library, or doing a school thing, or out of town) and the weekend just becomes an extension of the week but with 2 big cons: I don't want to bug my other SAHM friends to hang out because I know that they DO get their significant others AND every mall, park, or fun place is PACKED by big happy families doing their thing. It's so much easier to get out and enjoy ourselves on a quiet Monday morning, you know?

Anonymous said...

Hi - I just wanted to say I just found your blog. I sat here, drank 3 Harp beers and read the whole thing over the last several hours. You see I am also a mom of twins. I didn't lose my hubby to pancreatic cancer, but on July 16th 2007 I lost my father in law to pancreatic cancer. Just want to say cheers from a North Carolina friend. You are inspirational.

Anonymous said...

I so relate to this post, as the mom to two active twin toddler boys, the weekends can be never ending. I am one of those people who loves to "relax", nothing better than lounging in bed, reading a book, sitting in a beach chair chatting with friends. Those days are long gone, days now are go, go, go. I used to dread Mondays at work, now most days I cant wait, just for the break to go at my pace. I am also now jealous that your kids are good in stores, mine are the ones running up and down the aisle screaming "catch me!". Have a great weekend.

Julia said...

The conversations are just delicious.
And I am glad this weekend is so promising. Hope the party is everything you need, with lots and lots of good booze.

Prophecy Girl said...

I love this post. I feel the exact same way as you about weekdays/weekends, and I'm married with a husband that helps out on the weekends! Sometimes, I feel guilty for enjoying the work week more... but then when my toddler says something cute or does something fun, I realize how good I have it.

Thanks for this post - it made me feel less alone!

iris said...

Amen, sister. When my husband died, I dreaded weekends because I didn't have work to distract myself from grief and and loneliness. After I adopted my daughter last year, like you and others have said, it often feels like an exhausting marathon for 2 days. Going back to work on Mondays is a relief. And seeing the Dads at close range at the park, at the swimming pool and church is sometimes gut wrenching. I can't help thinking about what my Shortie is missing, and what it might have been like if my husband was alive. It's great that you are doing some fun things and spending time with friends. Have a good weekend. You deserve it.

Holly said...

if I still lived in Boston, I'd totally babysit for you this weekend, free of charge :)

(and I'm good; I used to charge a lot when I lived there!)

A said...

As mom of two very close in age, I think part of what is making your weekends more enjoyable is that the twins are getting older. The tremendous drudgery of young toddlers begins to lift and I am totally enjoying having fun with my kids these days. I hope you continue to enjoy, and have a great weekend!

teki said...

I realize my situation is different. I am a single mom, not by my choice but by his. I, too feel the resentment and jealousy of seeing the dads with the kids alone, thinking the moms are just having one single solitary moment to themselves. I do understand this may not be the case but it sure feels like it. I adore my daughter, but there are some days I just wish I had someone to share it all with. The good and the bad, just to feel as though the load has been halved somehow. You are doing an amazing job, and I admire the fact you able to realize and express your joys and sorrows. Oh! Don't 'cha LOVE the Wii fit???

Ginevra said...

If it makes you feel any better, I think I *was* made to be a SAHM and I still feel anger and frustration at times. :-) Love the cute comments, particularly the one about the panties. Enjoy your busy weekend, and hopefully we will see each other next week!

Threeundertwo said...

I think it takes another SAHM to really understand how much I love Mondays. I can't imagine what it's like in your situation, except now I understand a little better. Hope your "date" is fabulous!

Anonymous said...

I have a question unrelated to your post. Since I recently lost my lovely wife several months ago, I have been pretty depressed. I was on a business trip/vacation last week and had my first suicidial thoughts. They have receeded to the back of my mind and I don't think I will ever act on them. Did you, in the wake of your husband's death, ever experience those types of thoughts?



gwendomama said...

oops. i meant to say that on this post.
anyway, welcome to the network.
i love you. if that's too forward, then tough shit. ignore me from now on.

Diane said...

Snick, the Sunday crossword over coffee may not be all it's cracked up to be.

My husband of 12 years dumped me unexpectedly over that same warm, comforting ritual, comfy in our bed even.

I finished raising my very angry last kid at home, grieved and angered and lonely. I grew and moved on and became very happy and fulfilled. When I got to that point after forgiving (but not forgetting), I found a great man and am going to live happily ever after.

You go girl, but you'll go when you're ready. You're growing immensely already.

Diane, a lurker but rare poster.

Strawberry_Lamb said...

I love your writing, you are so honest and real. I wish I could help you out even if it's just to run errands for you. I wish you happiness all the way from Cape Town, South Africa.

OTRgirl said...

I love the snippets of what they say and do, they sound like great kids. I glad the balance is shifting toward fun. That makes me really happy for you.

robin said...

de-lurking to join the chorus acknowledging difficult weekends, and general ambivalence about parenting. my little guy is 21 months and i'm still suprised by how much i love him, want to hold him and never let him go, and then seconds later how much i want to drive away really really fast. i really enjoy your blog, thanks for the honesty.

Anonymous said...

I've forgotten what it meant to have relaxing weekends, too. I think that freedom disappears with kids. It's OK for it to be hard, and tiresome, and to hold dear those snuggles and the moments of joy.

Anonymous said...

Believe it or not - When I'm feeling like I want a husband to take the kid away on weekday mornings, I take a few minutes that evening and light the candle from John's memorial. And I feel a bit like I'm not alone. I know I'm a lesbian single mom by choice - and I really don't want a husband, of course...and I realize he was YOUR husband, to boot. But it's still nice to have an imaginary husband in those moments.

I hope that doesn't sound creepy. It's not. I thought you'd like to know the candle is getting use chez moi.

(And, frankly, I believe those happy families at the park are quietly resentful for all their own reasons.)


Keen said...

I know weekends can often be harder than weekdays. And while when P takes the boys to the park by himself it's most often because I'm at home working on a translation project, the simple math is: 2 parents = easier than one. Your relaxed weekends sound like just the ticket, and I'm glad you take it easy when you can.

Your date sounded like fun!

Also, I can't believe the stuff your kids say. I love it.

amy said...

I'm not trying to downplay your situation, but I just wanted to let you know that I had a husband available and I STILL felt that anger and frustration with dealing with the kids on the weekend, and the bliss of release/relief to head off to work on Monday morning. It's their age... my kids are older now and I LOVE IT with every fibre of my being. There is no 'easy' age, but it does get easi-er.

Katherine said...

I can totally related to this. I'm a widow (my husband also died as a result of pancreatic cancer) and my two children are much older than yours, 10 and 13. After working fulltime all week, I am exhausted on the weekends but I want to do things with my children. Unfortunately, the things we do together are laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping and other errands. That's the only time I have to do those things. I'm trying to simplify and, believe me, I've lowered my standards about housekeeping and laundry quality. But it is still hard. I now despise Saturday nights. That's the loneliest I feel all week. I am sometimes able to manage an evening out with one of my divorced or single friends, and that certainly helps. One thing that's happening though is that my kids are getting active social lives--they get invited places on Friday and Saturday evenings and I have to be available for chauffeur duties. I'm just trying to enjoy the fleeting time I have with the kids and not rush them into growing up just because I need the ability for some more adult time. But, in the meantime, it is very lonely . . .

I do sometimes hang with my married friends and most are very supportive. I am still stunned though, almost daily, by things people will say, meaning well, I know . . . A married friend of mine, who works 15 hours a week and whose husband is a successful banker, recently said to me, "I was just thinking how lucky I am that I don't have to be the primary breadwinner for our family. My sister and I were talking about how that must be very stressful for our husbands." HELLO!! I know exactly how stressful it is because I'm not just the primary breadwinner but the ONLY breadwinner for our family. I THINK that she was trying to say that she understood what a stressful place I'm in. But a part of me thought "are you trying to prove how much LUCKIER you've been than I have? Because I'm already painfully aware of that. . . "

Thanks for letting me vent. Hope you enjoy your "date"!

Crash Course Widow said...

Ditto to all of what you said here, Snickollet. And thanks for helping to clarify and remind me again part of why I've been going so crazy the last year or so--I've been a full-time SAHM to Anna since the day after Charley died...which means I've been home with her for 3 years and 1 day now. I never intended to be a full-time SAHM, but I chose to quit outright and officially stay home with Anna when my job was eliminated about 7 months after Charley died. I never really went back to work at all after he died, and it was easy staying home with her when she was a baby and toddler. But then she turned 2 yrs and 3 mos and it all went to hell. 'Course, that was also when I *really* started to slide, grief-wise (it was about 18 months after Charley died)...so nasty grief + Terrible Twos (and you poor, poor thing that you have two of them to have to manage in grief! =)) is a really hard combination. You deserve some extra pats on the back for all you're doing.

I've always said and felt that it's far harder staying home with her full-time than it was to work full-time. Thanks for explaining so clearly and eloquently exactly why. There's never any break, any down time or time for a "me," staying home with her.

You're doing a great job with the twins, with yourself, and with surviving and handling your grief and widowhood. Hang in there!


Fairlington Blade said...

I'm a happy parent of twin toddlers and am lucky to have a loving wife. There are occasional weekends when I'm alone with the guys as my better half is away on work. Even if the missus is away for three weeks, the looongest time is Friday afternoon to Monday morning. It's gotten easier with time--the first was when my twins were one year old and I was too foolish not to make an ambitious meal after they went to bed. I was a wreck by the end of the weekend. Now, it's keep it simple and conserve energy.

Well, hoping all goes well. You're an inspiration!