Let me ask you something, moms. How far would you go to get a little time to yourself? Just a little peace and quiet, some time to sit alone, drink a cup of coffee and do something just for you. Would you kill to get some time for yourself? Because I think that’s what I’m about to do.
This past week has been nothing short of a disaster for me. I’m still struggling with the synopsis of my novel, trying to write it so I can send the novel out the door to a publisher and hopefully get it sold before the end of the year. I’m getting nowhere with this however, because I’m not getting any time to write. My writing and my artwork are secondary to everything else going on in this house. And I’m starting to resent it big time.
I can’t recall most of Saturday, mainly because I ended up being so sleep deprived. I was up all night with Sam, I remember that. She woke up to nurse at around 2AM. By 2:30, she was still wide awake and fussy. Since I’d been up late and was dead tired, I woke Michael up and asked him to take her so I could get some sleep. At about 3:15 I woke to the sound of hacking and sputtering and crying. Seems my genius husband decided Sam needed to fuss it out so he put her in the bassinette on her back, completely forgetting she was still congested from the virus she’d contracted earlier last week. He, of course, was sound asleep in bed, so I got up and tried to nurse Sam back to sleep again. By that point though, she was too congested and so at 3:45AM I ended up standing in the shower with her in my arms, trying to steam the snot out of her. She eventually started breathing easier but still wouldn’t go to sleep, so at 4AM I took her downstairs, put her in her swing, and then I started cleaning.
I cleaned until 5:30AM, when I ran out of things to clean. Sam still wasn’t asleep. So I sat down with my drawing pad and pencil and started to sketch (and here I’ve been complaining about how I never have time to draw anymore. Silly me!). Sam was dozing, but kept waking back up every time she nodded off. By 6:30AM, I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore so I took Sam, who was still fighting sleep, upstairs and tried nursing her again.
At some point, she and I both fell asleep in the bed. Michael got up around 8 AM, I think. Cassie got up shortly after. Then around 8:30, Michael headed out to karate class, leaving Cassie alone downstairs watching TV. I don’t like Cassie being left alone like that, so I crawled out of bed with Sam and went downstairs. Cassie watched Sesame Street. Sam snoozed in her bouncy chair. I lay on the couch nursing a pot of coffee. Not a cup, mind you. A pot.
When Sesame Street was over, I somehow got off the couch and started cleaning house again (because kind person that I am, I only cleaned the downstairs of the house at 4 AM so as not to wake up anybody sleeping upstairs). Michael waltzed in around 10:30 AM and announced he was going upstairs to take a shower. I told him to take a frikkin’ number, because now that he was home, he was going to watch the kids while I took a hot bath.
I vaguely remember the bath. I also vaguely remember dozing in bed for a brief period. I had lunch when I got up. Then Michael took Cassie to the playground so I could work on my synopsis for an hour or so. Only I fell asleep at the computer and dreamed about Elmo instead.
And that’s the punch line to the joke, folks. My darling husband graciously gave me an hour or so to write, but I was so damned tired I couldn’t do it. I think by the time he came home, I had managed to write two or three lines. That was it.
The rest of Saturday was a blur of breastfeeding Sam and managing temper tantrums from Cassie. Underneath it all was an almost overwhelming feeling of resentment. That feeling carried over into Sunday, when I got up early to clean house once again. However, I took my frustrations out on the dusting and when I was done an hour and a half later, I decided things weren’t going so bad after all. Michael took Cassie with him to church, then to the playground and the hardware store. I used the free time to sketch, take a much needed walk, and take care of Sam. It was a nice day, and I was almost starting to feel human again. Cassie was sound asleep when Michael returned from the hardware store, so he put her into her bed and headed out to do more errands. I sat down to work on the synopsis, and then everything went to hell in a hand basket again.
Sam woke up first, fussing and snorting and demanding to be fed. I sat down with her in the glider and continued writing while she attacked my left breast. It was a little distracting since she wouldn’t settle down, but I was determined to work. Then fifteen minutes later Cassie walked in and announced she was done taking a nap. Frustrated, I took both kids downstairs and brought my laptop along. I spent the next two hours trying to write between sessions of bouncing a gassy infant and distracting a cranky preschooler. I think I completed a grand total of three sentences.
You can imagine the rest of the evening. Dinner came and went, accompanied by the now-routine sets of tantrums and fussiness. Then the bedtime routine started, with extra whining and pouting thrown in to top off the day. Somehow, Michael and I managed to get the kids into bed without one of us winding up in jail. Then as he went off to watch the nightly news, I sat down at the dining room table and planned a way to get my work hours back.
Remember my initial question? How far would you go to get a little time to yourself? I made a decision that I’d go pretty damned far. I decided I’d get up at 5 AM if I had to, well before anyone else in the house was awake, and spend the early morning hours either drawing or writing. I plotted my whole day around that idea, and then made a plan to keep Cassie up and moving as much as I could during the day so she’d be worn out come nap time and therefore would actually take a nap instead of pop out of bed to drive me crazy.
I had a plan. I set it in motion. The next morning, I woke up at 5 AM. I showered, got dressed and was downstairs by 5:45. I was running a little late, and I still had to pump breast milk and get the coffee going, but even so, I figured I’d still get in 40 minutes of “me” time. Ha ha. Twenty minutes later, I was still swearing at the coffee maker and the breast pump, both of which had decided to piss me off by refusing to function. The coffee maker was giving me brown-tinted water rather than full-blown java juice, and the breast pump wasn’t giving me any suction. I reran the coffee and futzed with the pump. By 6:15, I had milk and joe, but only fifteen minutes left to work. I sat down with a pad and pencil, determined to use what little time I had left. Then Cassie came bouncing downstairs demanding a sippy cup of milk. A minute later, Sam woke up howling to be nursed.
The rest of the day went pretty much the same way. All my plans and hopes for stealing time to work were constantly fouled up by one child or the other. Nap time, which I had reserved for working on the novel synopsis, was a complete disaster. Cassie had fallen asleep earlier in the car, but as soon as we got home she woke up and wasn’t tired any more. Attempts to get her to lie down devolved into a screaming match. Then Sam woke up from her nap and that was it for work time.
That’s about when I finally hit the end of my rope. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I called Michael up and let him know that the moment he came home, I was packing up my laptop and leaving. Not for good, mind you, but I had to work. He could take the kids for the evening. I was going to the library to write.
I made my escape at 6 PM, the moment Michael walked in the door. I have never felt so free and so guilty at the same time. It was amazing how quickly I could get out the door when I wasn’t saddled with two kids, but I also felt terrible because I’d just abandoned my post and left my darling husband at the mercy of two screaming brats. Good thing my guilt only lasted about five seconds, otherwise I never would have made it to the library where I spent two and a half hours doing some blissfully child-free writing. I managed to complete two pages of my synopsis before the library closed.
I headed home around 8:45 PM. Cassie was screaming in the bath tub. Sam was draped over Michael’s shoulder, spitting up for all she was worth. Michael was struggling to keep calm. I almost choked trying not to laugh at him. I set my laptop up by its rightful place beside the glider, reclaimed Sam and sat back down to nurse. Half an hour later, both kids were in bed. Michael and I sat collapsed on the couch. When he asked me about my evening, I had to admit how good it felt to just leave the house. “Maybe that’s something you should do twice a week,” he suggested. I never loved that man more than I did at that moment. “Once a week,” I replied. “I want at least one evening during the week home with you and the kids.”
I’d like to say things took a dramatic change for the better after that. They haven’t. Over the past couple of days, I’ve continued to struggle with tantrums, diapers overflowing with runny green poop, malfunctioning coffee pots, and a serious lack of work time. None of this is going to change anytime soon. But I’ve made arrangements with Michael to escape to the library again tonight. I figure it’s only fair. Next week he leaves for Colorado on a business trip and I’ll have both kids to myself for six days straight. I want to complete the synopsis before then so I don’t end up going all week with this unfinished project hanging around my neck like a stone. That would just make me want to kill Michael the moment he walks in the door, and I certainly don’t want to do that.
I got up this morning before 5 AM again just to steal a little more work time. But now it’s 7 AM. The kids are up. The grind continues. I’m just holding out until this evening when I can make my escape from the asylum again. I keep telling myself I’ll survive.