leaving the magical land of alone-time

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My four days sans family are just about at an end. The kids and The Man should be back sometime this after noon. I'm having a small panic attack realizing that almost nothing in this house has even moved, never mind been cleaned up and organized. That's less about being busted as a slacker by The Man (although, the worry does cross my mind) but more about the realization that during this span of days when I have been left to my own devices, something that I have dreamed about since two minutes after girl child was born almost nine years ago, I not only failed to do all those things I screamed about for years that I never had time to get to (house cleaning, decluttering, painting, yard work, re-familiarizing myself with the piano and learning guitar, finding myself, exercising a lot, creating world peace, etc.) but actually ground down to even less than normal productivity.

Instead of all this proposed activity, I pretty much regressed to my habits prior to meeting The Man and starting a family.  I read a lot, wrote a little, putzed around with small craft projects and let the space around me grow dusty with neglect while I slowly receded into my head space. 

It was both glorious and sad.

Being alone and able to observe my true habits, not those wishful thinking sort of ideas I have about what I would do with myself now that the mythical alone-time has come to pass, I realize how much I have invested in some sort of fantasy about how life should be.  These ideas, driven by the Internet and parenting magazines - y'all know what I'm talking about - are nice for some, but I don't think they are my ambitions.  Mine are much more subdued.  I am a minimalist at heart, introverted and cerebral, and if I don't call a friend to go for a cup a tea in cafe or browse the bookstore, I go without talking to anyone for days.  And that will be fine with me.

I do miss my family, particularly the time spent reading together. Quietly.  With a cup of tea.  I also like to take the kids to the library.  You see how none of this should be a shock to me, if I had been paying attention to what was happening rather than what I believed should happen?

I have been humbled by being granted my own wish.  I have done nearly none of the things I had planned.  I failed to paint to paint the bathroom.  Failed to organize the craft things.  Failed, even, to change the sheets on the kids' beds, like I had promised to do so (but I will, as soon as I'm done here).  The only chores I have accomplished are those that immediately apply to the space in which I move day to day, between the kitchen and my bedroom, where I like to read.  In all, it seems I like to make the least amount of impact on my environment as possible.

Do you think I could twist that into something noble, rather than just lazy?

I have kept up on the dishes, although I hardly cooked a meal.  One day I subsisted on rice cakes, hummus and green tea alone.  I have cleaned the cat boxes and taken out the garbage.  I have watered the plants.  I have organized the books on my bedside.  And that's it.

For anyone out there having alone-time fantasies, which is, in my experience, every woman with a family, let me suggest that you edit out that part of the fantasy that involves turning into some sort of super human machine of  productivity (unless you like that sort of stuff and do not have to bribe yourself with moments of reading blogs to get things done).  In its place, picture yourself before you had a family.  What did you do then?  It's probably what you will be inclined to do again, living a few days on your own.  It's not a bad thing.  Families make us more than we are, but who were before we had to be everything for everyone, is still a complete person and was also fine.

I also suggest taking out all the foods in your house that you do not want to eat.  There is no way the chocolate is safe when no one is looking.  Just saying.


  1. Oh, I know what you mean, my kids have a holiday with their grandparents every summer, husband continues to go to work which means from the time I get up until 7.30 at night I'm on my own as all my friends are entertaining their own children!. Sometimes I decorate but that doesn't take long and if I'm brutally honest a lot of time is spent watching TV (I discovered 30 Rock last summer so its not all bad!) and generally being lazy, which as you said was the state of affairs before the children arrived! I look forward to this time although there is an element of self-loathing when I realise the breakfast things are still on the table when husband is due home at night! This year will be different, this year I will decorate small childs bedroom and make a sloper for myself... or I might just watch some more TV!

  2. Sometimes when I am home alone I set an alarm for half an hour before the husband and child are due home . Then I can frantically run around cleaning and when they arrive they think I've spent all day on it.
    I do like a bit of last minute before the deadline pressure to motivate me.

  3. I like to keep expectations low around here so that when I do even the tiniest bit, they're all really impressed.

  4. Ha ha. I'm on my own at the moment (well, have 7 wk old baby, but he hardly counts). I planned to make a nice dinner and do some sewing, but I watched the tennis (wimbledon), ate ricecakes and icecream and had a beer *sigh. I'll do the other stuff (clean, tidy etc) in the morning....

  5. I dream of nice solo time! I do reward chores w/ blog reading and sewing or knitting minutes. Thank you for the post!

  6. Thank you.

    I am approaching 9 years of very few moments of alone time, and do indeed fantasise about what I would do with an alone overnighter (or longer).
    Thank you for reminding me to keep my expectations in perspective, particularly as I'm can be a bit of a lazy bugger at the best of times.

    Maybe I just need to make the most of the quiet moments I can snatch here and there and not yearn so much for the "grass-is-always-greener" land outside of my life.