When kids are gone overnight: ‘What did we do before we had kids?’
My parents recently asked if they could keep all three kids for two nights. Given that we are in the throes of summer — with the big kids home from school all day and the little one just being his usual, clingy self — I jumped at the chance for a short break.
I packed their clothes, jammies, swimsuits and toothbrushes, while also remembering diapers, wipes and a sippy cup for Vincent. Cecilia insisted on taking a random assortment of LOL Dolls, Shopkins and hair and makeup accessories. And Elliot grabbed a book and his Kindle. They were set and so excited for two nights at Mimi and Pap’s house.
When my husband and I returned home in the evening after leaving the kids with my parents, we immediately noticed the quiet. It was glorious. We could watch whatever we wanted on Netflix and eat ice cream without being discovered.
“What do you want to do tomorrow?” I asked him.
He replied with a confident answer: “Sleep in.”
So we did. Thanks to a day off work for Mike, we started our morning at 9:30, a time that often feels like the middle of the day when the baby is up at 5 or 6 a.m. Mike made me breakfast — huevos rancheros, a delicious dish that the big kids would never eat. I leisurely drank my coffee without anyone climbing on me. I did not miss hearing the sounds of annoying YouTube videos where people open mystery toys or episodes of My Little Pony in the background. I walked the dog without having to push a stroller, too.
I had planned to spend a few hours working on emails and writing tasks. It was amazing how much I got done. I thought about doing some cleaning, but that urge passed and I continued relaxing on the couch.
Mike and I went to a new restaurant in town for dinner. It wasn’t super fancy, but it was definitely more enjoyable without three children, one of whom hates sitting still. And in a highchair? Forget it!
After we got back home and the evening wore on, the quiet became less glorious and more unsettling. I looked at the spotless living room floor, I saw empty laundry baskets and I noticed how the dishwasher had only a few lonely plates and glasses in it.
“What in the world did we do with all these hours before we had kids?” I asked my husband.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Especially three kids.”
As much as I tried to savor the alone time, I found myself feeling sad. My heart was aching for my little people. I had FaceTimed with them earlier in the day, and my mom had texted me several pictures of the day’s activities: Taking a walk, snacking, swimming, roasting marshmallows. I knew they were having fun. Still, through tears, I got lost in the question, “Do they know how much I love them?” I wanted to squeeze them and remind them how much they mean to me.
The next morning, Mike went to work. I got to sleep in again. I drank my coffee alone again. I walked the dog alone again. I foolishly decided to watch an old episode of Call the Midwife, which left me a weepy mess. I mean, it’s not unusual for birth scenes to do that to me, but on that day, as I was missing the children I had birthed, the show had a profound impact on me.
As a drove to pick up the kids that afternoon, I envisioned hugging them and telling them I missed them. I got my hugs, and it turns out, they were happy to see me and recount all the fun they had with their grandparents.
And just like real life, the baby cried all the way home, despite my best efforts to woo him with Elmo songs. The big kids argued about toys they found in the van and who got to play with what. It rained so hard that I could barely see the road and cars in front of me; I wanted to cry!
I wish I could say that we had a lovely evening full of hugs and inside voices, but that is not how motherhood goes. Meltdowns and hangry episodes and occasional attitude just come with having kids in the house. My two-night break helped me be a little more patient with my kids and made me extra grateful for a toy-covered living room floor, overflowing laundry baskets and a full dishwasher.