Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Bliss of Being Selfish

I love the word 'selfish'- don't you?  For one thing, words with the -ish suffix are usually cool with me.  Plus, if you're really angry, like, spitting mad, and yell at someone for being selfish, it often comes out as 'shellfish' instead.  That's always funny.  Also, when you say it over and over in your head, the 'fish' part of the word stands out.  Then you can imagine yourself as a beautiful, colorful, terribly vain and self-centered fish.  The self fish.
Turns out, there was already a name for the self fish.  Betta fish are very keen on themselves. Thank you, Google!
There.  Now that we've had a proper digression, you know you're on the right blog.

Everyone in my fishbowl world just celebrated Mother's Day; my third-no, fourth-fifth!-favorite holiday.  (It's cool that we live in a country where we celebrate so much that people can have fifth favorite holidays, huh?) I was the substitute teacher for a 3rd grade class the Friday before Mother's Day, which meant that I was to help the kids work on gifts for their moms.  They were tasked with writing a few sentences from the prompt: "My Mom is my hero because..." Walking around the classroom and trying to keep all the students engaged, I noticed some trends.  Moms are nice.  Moms take care of their kids.  Moms are helpful.  I started asking the kids to think a little deeper.  "Does your mom have another job beside being your mom?"  "Yeah, she's a probation officer.  She has a gun that she never lets me see."  "So, your mom must be pretty tough and brave, then."  "Yeaaaahhh...Yeah.  Yeah!  She is tough!"  "How about your mom?  What is she good at?" "Um.  Cooking.  And, um.............She's not good at cartwheels."  "Ok.  Moving on. I see you wrote that your mom plays with you.  What do you guys play together?" "Well, she helps me practice baseball.  But really, it's just me practicing and her playing.  She's not even on a baseball team, and I am." "Does your mom work while you're at school?"  "Oh. Um. Yeah. She's a nurse."  "My mom is a doctor!" "My mom throws the best birthday parties!" "My mom is bad at cartwheels, too!" "My mom gave birth to me!" "My mom potty trained me!"

Available on Amazon. Yes, for real.

The thing is, it was pretty difficult for the kids to think of anything unique or special about their moms.  Later, I asked Rip Claw how he would have answered some questions about me.  "Can you think of anything about me that is different from other moms?" Long think break. "No."  Sigh.  "Do you know what I like to do?"  "Um.......no.  Wait! Yes. You like to use the computer." Siiiiiggggghhhhh.  "What about running?  Have you ever seen me run?  Read books?  Play with you and Cupcake?  Go to the park?  Do I ever make you laugh?  How about our conversations?  Our bike rides?  I like to play games.  I like to go to the beach.  I like to do crafts."  He seemed surprised, but more than that, he seemed totally disinterested.  I'm pretty sure I was about 10 years old before I ever noticed that my mom did anything other than take care of me and my siblings, so I guess I shouldn't be too upset with my 7-year-old for still thinking of himself before me.

Which led me to thinking of this post.  (We always come back around to the point eventually.)

The fact of the matter is simple: Mom is a title, not a description.  Women who have children were women way before the children came along.  Obviously, kids are going to take a while to get to the realization that their moms are actually people with thoughts and needs and wants.  Rip Claw seems genuinely shocked when I say things like, "I was so bored." or "I'm so excited about going to this concert.  (Most) moms are, in a word, selfless.  That's what their children see, and that's about all they see.  Their moms give of themselves pretty much every minute that the kids are awake.  Even for a kid as thoughtful and sweet as my son, it's difficult to see past that selflessness and realize that there is sacrifice taking place.

I'm friends with some very smart women.  We have college degrees, insight, experience, and wit.  We're driven, successful, happy, and, yes, selfless.  Well, most of the time, anyway.  We've learned that we are all better when we take some time to be selfish.  By 'better' I mean in every way.  We're better moms, better wives, better at our jobs, better at being happy.  We even look better!  Almost 5 years ago, we started talking about planning a weekend away, just us girls.  After 10 or so months of emails, travel site visiting, and conversations with our husbands preparing them for what was going to happen, the Girls' Weekend tradition was born.
I'm pretty sure moms invented the "selfie" in order to get out from behind the camera once in a while. 

Our destination qualifications are pretty simple.  We want a pool.  We want a quiet room with a full kitchen.  We don't want to have to drive very far.  We want flat surfaces on which to lie down whenever we feel so inclined (or should I say, reclined).  Last year, we found a pretty perfect spot, about an hour's drive away, but the weather was horrible.  Totally hurricaneish.  We had to stay in the room watching movies, catching up on our magazine reading, and napping for many hours.  This year, we decided to go back to the same place, and were blessed with postcard-perfect weather the entire time.

We shopped for groceries beforehand, and we each brought a typical mom amount (1-3 grocery bags full) of snacks to share.  I ate every meal on our 10th floor balcony, looking out at this view.  We spent hours in the sunshine, switching between the private beach, one of many pools on the property, and the lazy river.  We went for quiet runs in the mornings after not setting an alarm or having a child crawl into bed to wake us.  Well, some of us did.
One of our number was forced to spend her time on crutches or a wheeled knee cart.  Great conversation starter, at least!
We missed our kids.  We missed our husbands.  It's always hard, being away from our families, even though it's only for a few days.  Rip Claw was very upset before I left.  When he asked me why I would even want to go somewhere without them, though, I had what I think is a pretty good answer.  "Well, son, the job of a parent is never, never done.  You know how I'm here all the time?  I get your breakfast, pack your lunch, make your dinner, help you with your homework, wash your clothes, and give you back tickles.  I wake up if you or Cupcake cries in the middle of the night.  I bring you to football practice and teach you new things and play with you and make sure you're behaving and growing up well.  I notice if your neck is dirty or your socks are stinky.  I find your shoes.  And you know what else?  Even when you're not around, or the house is clean or the laundry is done and I'm just sitting on the computer, I am ALWAYS worrying about, thinking of, and planning to make sure you and your sister are safe and happy.  I don't get weekends off from being your mom.  I don't even get hours off.  You know how much I love you, and I am so happy that I get to be your mom, but that doesn't mean I don't need a break sometimes.  It's like when you try to figure out a difficult problem.  Sometimes, if you give your brain a break from thinking about it, even just for a few minutes, you come back refreshed and with a new view, and that helps."  Okay, so that probably isn't the exact, word-for-word transcription of what I said, but it's pretty close.  He seemed to get it.  I was worried that he would still think that I wanted a break from him, but he didn't ask again about my reasons for wanting to go.  I told him that we would be having fun, relaxing, and having lots of naps, which he seemed okay with.

I spent about 20 minutes staring at the darkened elevator shaft, watching the bright cars zoom up and down, only to be bathed in darkness again as soon as the passengers stepped out.  It was oddly beautiful.

Less odd, more beautiful.  Midway through my beach run, I sat on a chunk of coquina like this and had myself a long Think and Stare at Water break.  Utterly blissful.
Every time I would settle in on a sunny lounge chair and take a deep breath of the fresh, salty air, I got a little choked up.  I felt such overwhelming appreciation and love for Charming, for our kids, for our lives, for the fact that despite all my imperfections and shortfalls, I have a husband who loves me and takes care of things so that I can lay in the sun and relax without worries for a few days.  It was absolutely marvelous.

I hope it's obvious that I would love and appreciate my Charming and my children even if I didn't get away from them for 52 hours a year; of course I would.  But I also think it's obvious that selflessness needs to take a holiday sometimes, and the colorful, unique, fun, exhausted person inside the Mom needs to be let loose to stare at elevators, dance, sit on rocks, try whiskey, keep the balcony doors open without concern about losing a toddler, finish a book, zoom down a water slide, paint her toenails, put on lipstick, sleep late, talk about Athleta's clothes for hours, laugh until we cry, and take a post-dinner nap.

If you don't believe me about the benefits of temporary selfishness, ask any one of these brilliant ladies.

What is your favorite way to spend your "me" time?

1 comment:

  1. Good for you gals; definitely a necessity! I have a weekend away coming up that despite being a bachelorette party, is at least at a cabin up north on a quiet lake...beats going to a club! Hoping for much of the same...