I’ve started to contemplate my retirement from motherhood. Oh, I know motherhood never ends, but the day-to-day support portion, in which I have been submerged for the past 15 years, will start to vanish. I talk to empty-nesters and they let little tidbits of their lives seep into their conversation with you, the beleaguered parent. I see that dodgy look in their eyes, as they say trite things like “you’ll always worry about them,” but then they try to hide their enormous grins, change the subject abruptly, and hurry off hugging their full wallets.
Once a year, I get a peek at what my life might look like, when the boys head off to overnight camp. Last summer, the stars aligned and both kids were away from home at the same time. The Rational One and I had six nights of uninterrupted (get your mind out of the gutter, folks) dinners at local eateries we had always wanted to try, but hadn’t as they didn’t have chicken fingers on the menu. It was magic. We talked about our lives, not their lives, held hands across the table (ok, maybe not) and we had fun together.
There were subtle changes in the way we lived. For instance, before I leave the house in the morning, I run around after the kids and straighten up. I don’t know why I do this (the Queen is not coming for tea) but do understand where the expression ‘mother hen’ comes from. I peck at this (fluff the pillows in the living room), cluck at that (straighten the shoes in the front hall), squawk at the other (load dishes into the dishwasher)…that sort of thing. When the kids are home, I repeat the entire process at 5:30 p.m. while also putting dinner on and organizing them (yell at them) to be ready for whatever sports event in which they are participating that night. It’s not pretty, but it is my life.
When they were away at camp that week, the week I now refer to as our annual ‘double-income-no-kids-week’, I would return to the house at 5:30 each night to discover that the house looked exactly, and I mean exactly, how I’d left it. It was no less than a miracle.
Similarly, during that week, I went to the ATM, withdrew $100 and had $82.05 left in my wallet at the end of the week. I kept shaking my wallet thinking I was imagining it, and trying to remember how I’d gone to the bank machine again and not remembered it. Then I remembered the miraculous part of ‘double-income-no-kids-week’. I hadn’t bought a single food item at McDonald’s, hadn’t needed to stop for hockey tape, a skate sharpening, a new jock, a lacrosse ball, a boomerang, an ’emergency’ iTunes card, nor a single bottle of Gatorade. My paycheque had gone into the bank and the account had remained full, for the entire week.
I made lunch and sat down with colleagues to eat it – every single day that week. I went to a yoga class, not because I needed to kill an hour waiting for a kid at hockey practice and heck, I really need to relax, but because I WAS relaxed, and thought “Hey, a yoga class would be nice today.” I contemplated painting a room. I cleaned out a closet. I considered taking up a hobby. I noticed the contents of my refrigerator were completely predictable from one day to the next. What I put in one day was still there the next.
Now, I’m not a fool. I realize that my retirement from motherhood won’t be that fun all the time. I will have to learn to communicate with other adults again while actually looking at their face, instead of just talking standing side by side in a freezing rink in February in some god-forsaken small town in upstate Michigan. I will have to come up with legitimate excuses to bail out of work, as no one will believe that I have to care for a child with the flu when I’m an empty-nester. I will have to find another excuse for the dark circles under my eyes, and perhaps admit that I’m addicted to trashy romance novels that I can’t put down until 2 a.m.
In the meantime, I’m seeing the sand run through the hourglass, and find I’m becoming almost nostalgic as I get closer to my retirement. For now, I’m almost savouring the “what time is dinner?” moments and even the shuttling to and from their sports and social events. Soon, I’ll be on the outside of their life looking in, retired from my days as the centre of their childish universe. I do know motherhood never ends, but I won’t mind it winding down, just a little bit.