Having an adults-only event/party/date/whatever to attend on the weekends you have your kids. Sometimes, it's a no-brainer. A concert that you've been looking forward to for months, a wedding, a special event that only comes around once (like 40th birthday parties). Sometimes you have to weigh the pros and cons.
And sometimes you just have to go with your gut.
My gut almost always says, "Stay with the kids." It's been like this since day one for me.
The kid free weekends? Bring it on. Those are mine to do with what I please. If I want to go out with my friends, I will. If I want to sit on my couch and watch movies, I will. If I want to go over to my friend's house, drink wine with her and laugh my ass off until 2 a.m., I will. In divorce, you have to get your silver linings somewhere, and I discovered mine on those 4 days every month when I found myself alone with absolute freedom for the first time in years.
But...those other four days? The two weekends they're with me? I found myself protecting those, guarding them like a cat guards her kittens. Invitations would come, and I'd almost immediately turn them down without a second's hesitation. "Nope. Got my kids. Sorry, can't." If it was something super special, like the aforementioned big birthday parties, or an evening wedding, I'd think long and hard about it. Procure child care, arrange sleepovers, and always, always dealt with the guilt that would come with the decision to be away from my kids on "our" weekends.
However, now that the kids are getting older, that clear black and white division between Kids and No Kids weekends is starting to soften into gray. The kids spend more time away from home, hanging out with friends, doing their own thing.
This weekend was a Kid weekend, and it was also the weekend I had an event to attend. An event I was so excited about, something I was looking forward to attending for the past month. The second Minnesota Blogger Conference. Tickets go fast, and I was thrilled to have nabbed two of them; one for me, one for a friend. When I got the tickets, I was fully aware that the conference fell on a kid weekend, and when that nagging guilt started to creep its way into my brain, I pushed it into a dark corner, shushing it.
The conference was going to be held in downtown Minneapolis, attended by a few hundred fellow bloggers. They had several speakers, several different sessions we would be able to attend. I was looking forward to two of them in particular: a session regarding the legalities of blogging (because even though I've been given the all-clear on mine, sometimes I worry about my truths being held against me) and one about finding a novel already written in your blog. And there was also free lunch, which thrills me down to my core anytime.
The guilt stayed put in that dark corner, up until a few days ago. I started thinking about the kids being home without me for that whole day, from 8:00 a.m. until about 5:00. No different than a mom leaving her kids by themselves to go to work, I rationalized. But...this wasn't work. This was something that was solely for ME, something that didn't get me paid, something that didn't benefit anyone else but ME.
I started feeling selfish. And guilty. The guilt? That's nothing new. I have felt that one so many times, and for so long, it's like feeling the arms of a long time love wrap around you in your sleep.
Selfish? That's a relatively new one. I felt it a while ago, when I finally got my hair cut. It was at a "salon" rather than "my deck" and was done by someone who is certified to cut and style curly hair rather than a good friend who used to be a stylist. And it cost some money. More money than I have spent on myself in years. As the woman cut my Duggar hair, I felt guilt moving over to make room for that new feeling, selfishness. I thought to myself, "How dare you spend even a cent on something as stupid as a haircut?" "Don't you know there are a million other things you could use this money for? Starting with your KIDS?" and on and on.
Now, I may be called many things. Lots of things. Like, maybe flaky. Awkward. Goofy. Semi-whorish. But selfish? That's a new one. Even when we did have a healthy income, my needs and wants were taken care of only after theirs. Even when I was married, it was extremely rare for me to do anything just for me. I realize now, typing this out, that it sounds a little more like martyrdom than selflessness, but that's how I rolled. And obviously, as our finances thinned out, I did a great job of putting myself last.
But that hasn't proven to be a winning technique. I am in dire need of some attending, in just about every area a person can be attended to. One of the things I want to change is this woeful, pathetic pattern of neglecting myself.
And that's hard for me to do.
Which brings me back to the conference, which happened today. Last night the guilt was suffocating. I was at my friend's house, I'd helped her with an after school project and we were sitting back and relaxing for the first time all week. I kept thinking about waking up early, going downtown and then about my four children, stumbling around the house without any supervision. I started thinking about how long it had been since I'd shopped for groceries, if any of them would remember to feed the dog or let him out, what would happen if something started on fire or broke or flooded.
The guilt won. I made arrangements with my friend so she could get into the conference and I decided to skip it.
Today I'm feeling mixed emotions. We slept in until 10:30, so obviously that first week of school had left all of us needing some extra zzz's. The kids did nothing spectacularly different today, we didn't weave pot holders as a family or pull weeds for the elderly neighbor. They all hung out, some with friends, some solo. I did the usual glamorous things I always do: laundry, picking up, complaining about picking up, cleaning the kitchen, making meals, loving my children.
Every now and then I've thought about the conference. All of those grownups, having adult conversations, learning new things, bettering their blogs and maybe making some connections that would help them realize their goals as writers. I thought about the free lunch, and wondered if they had cans of Diet Coke available.
And once, when one of my kids had a fit about something super important like a video game or me not buying a new one for him, I felt pissed at myself for chickening out. "This was worth missing it?" I thought after the tantruming child swore his way down the stairs to the mancave.
Then, we made plans for the evening. We laughed, a couple of them started helping clean the house. One of them wanted to curl up next to me on the couch and talk about stuff. One ran in and out of the house all day long with various members of his posse trailing along behind him.
It was a kid weekend.
I am left feeling ok about my decision to stay home. I'm certain that as feedback about the conference comes streaming through facebook, Twitter and my fellow Minnesotan's blogs, I will feel small tides of regret washing up, but for now, I'm ok with what I did.
Next weekend, there will be ME time. A friend's 40th birthday party and a potential
This was, after all, a kid weekend. And I am glad I spent it with my kids.