Is it too weird that I'm happy for a break from my preschooler and toddler, one that involves hanging out with a bunch of teenagers? If it is too weird, too bad - that's my definition of a break. I am beyond thrilled that I got to hang out with my youth group this afternoon, without my little monsters.
For those outside of the hippies-who-like-to-congregate-community (aka Unitarian Universalists), YRUU stands for Young Religious Unitarian Universalists. It's the high school youth group. As it says in my bio, I'm the youth advisor at my church. Every year, I try to organize something in the summer, and every year, it fails. Part of this is my fault, though - one summer I was pregnant, the next I had a baby, the next I had a toddler. It really puts a damper on my lifestyle, you know? This pregnancy thing - must be something in the water, I guess. Certainly everyone I know has been pregnant, lately. And we all drink the same water. Don't talk to me about correlative vs. causal data. I'm not interested in your fancy logic at the moment.
Anyway, YRUU had its first meeting of the year, and I'm very excited to report that we'll be accompanying the neighboring UU of Ellsworth on a camping retreat at Ferry Beach during Columbus Day weekend. I am so thrilled, it's unreal. I think there's a part of my brain that's afraid it won't happen, though, so I've got this little nagging fear in the back of my head. I'm trying to simmer down. And then there's the guilt - now there's a familiar feeling.
What am I guilty about this time? I feel guilty for wanting to go away for a three day weekend, without my children. I'm asking my husband to be full-time Dad for an entire weekend, then asking friends to alternate watching the kids that Monday, when Dad has to work. I think I'll be home in time to make dinner?
For anyone who might think that, well, of course I need a break, so much work goes into being the primary caregiver...I ask that you look at me, specifically, rather than any other primary caregiver. I had an epiphany this weekend. What exactly is it that I do? I see other stay-at-home-parents, and I see the work that they do. Not only do they take care of their child or children, cooking, chauffeuring, changing diapers, etc., but they keep a clean house, do the dishes, do the laundry...everything. You want to know who does all of this in my house? My beleaguered husband, that's who, and he works full-time, mows the grass, and feeds the chickens, as well. He's a saint.
So I realized, a couple of days ago, that since about the third trimester of Violet, I had become a complete slug in this department. The only thing I've continued to do is cook, and even that has just been dinner - Warren still does breakfast. And I slap some peanut butter and jelly on bread and call it lunch. We've also eaten more processed food and eaten out more in the past year than perhaps ever before. So I've even been lazy about cooking. This summer, I think, I've been the absolute worst, although we couldn't afford to really eat out...we've eaten a lot of frozen pizza and my house looks like a tornado hit it.
The third trimester is now far behind us. Violet's now 16 months old. She's now autonomous enough for me to start contributing to this family in more positive ways. Not just in the monetary department in my editing business, either. I can take back laundry, first of all. As I folded and put away all of it two days ago, I asked Warren, "How do you do this so much faster?"
"I do it poorly," he responded.
Huh. So that's why I can never find anyone's clothes around here. Now I know where the various piles come from. It's all becoming clear. He's done the best he can, doing practically everything around here, for a year and a half, or more. Me being able to quickly find matching clothes for the kids in the morning has, understandably, not been a high priority.
In order to make some changes in my own behavior, and to resume being more helpful, I looked around me, and then I made a list. My organized friends will be so proud...but seriously, this is the only way I know how to stay on track - have a list. The first thing I did, as mentioned, was laundry, and the next was organizing the pantry. Today I cleaned out and organized the freezer. I also did more laundry. It never ends. Tomorrow I'm going to clean and organize all of the kids' books. They'll stay that way for five minutes; I'm prepared for that. But I now have one organization thing and one cleaning thing to do each day, and that seems manageable. I'm on the upswing. I can do this.
I think that this change in attitude is directly attributable to the fact that I'm looking forward to regular breaks, now, from bi-monthly YRUU meetings and our upcoming YRUU camping trip. Rather than wallowing in despair upon realizing how little I had really done for over a year, I've become interested in getting back into the groove. But here's where the real nail in the guilt coffin comes in: I didn't miss James or Violet, for the two and a half hours I was at the YRUU meeting. I love both of my kiddos to the moon and back, but I didn't miss them or even think much about them while I was meeting with my other "kids." We had an interesting discussion about the concept of race vs. ethnicity as well as the accompanying language, and I didn't wonder about my own little monsters once. They were with Dad, of course, who, being a candidate for sainthood and all, is super capable. Apparently they were on their most angelic behavior, too, so he probably wonders why in the hell I have ever needed a break or why I haven't helped with dishes.
And really, since breastfeeding stopped, why haven't I? I guess it doesn't matter, does it? I love Warren, I love my kids, and they love me. I'm back in gear. And maybe we won't run out of forks or underwear anymore. I don't want to aim too high, though...