This Fourth of July weekend has been a bit incongruous for me. Amid talk of liberty, freedom, independence, and whatever other synonyms might be out there, I was at home with three small children while my husband journeyed to Chicago to see the “Treyful Dead” perform. Let me be very clear, this post is not meant to be a diatribe against my husband. I fully support his escape back to his old stomping grounds- in fact, I’m ditching him next weekend for a friend’s wedding, leaving him with all three kids and no boobs for the baby. So we’re even.
In the meantime, though, I didn’t feel free at all. I felt tethered. I felt stuck, and I mean that in the most loving way possible. Seriously, where could I have taken three kids ages four and under on the Fourth of July and have any fun at all without someone getting lost or maimed? So we stayed home, mostly inside, and they trailed toys from room to room, followed me around asking, “Mom, what can I do?”, and asked me for a snack about every fifteen minutes. I felt like a huge meanie putting them in bed before the rest of the town was even warming up for fireworks, but 36 hours into my solo weekend, mommy needed a little time to herself (well, with Baby Alex, who basically just nurses, sleeps, and gazes at me adorably).
My husband’s weekend of freedom was a bit of an eye-opener as I realized how dependent I am on him and the help he provides at home. Mark my words, we are never EVER getting a divorce (and not just because he folds laundry, changes diapers, and makes a mean shrimp and grits). It also led me to come up with my own, revised, Declaration of Independence: Parents Edition. And since I’m not sure what the rules are when it comes to plagiarizing historical documents, here’s where I stole the wording from: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html
I hold these truths to be self-evident, that all parents are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness… so let’s break those down.
Life: Parents have the right to have a life that extends beyond their parental responsibilities. They should not lose their identity as spouse, sibling, friend, etc., just because they also happen to have children. This means that the children will occasionally be left with babysitters or shipped off to grandma and grandpa’s house so that said parents can do something decidedly un-parenty like attend a Flaming Lips concert or go to a beer festival or, I don’t know, watch 16 hours straight of “The Walking Dead”.
Liberty: Parents have the right to saddle the other parent with the kids for an hour or a weekend in order to experience that blessed realization that, wait! I’m not carrying my child’s 20-pound car seat in the crook of my arm! I can walk faster than .05 miles per hour! I can order a coffee at Starbucks without having to explain to my child why she can’t have one too! I’m free, free at last! And since we are all created equal, that means that parents should be equitable in providing this time for one another.
The Pursuit of Happiness: Parents have the right to do the things that keep them happy and sane. It might be working out, serving on a church committee, taking a photography class, blogging. If there’s something they need to do in order to feel like a person and not just a parent, they have the right to take a little guilt-free time and attention away from their children. And besides, shouldn’t our children see us pursuing our interests and broadening our horizons? Isn’t that the example we want to set?
I love my kids, and I want to spend time with them, but I find that I am the best version of myself as a mom when given a little freedom. Absence does, after all, make the heart grow fonder. I should know: my oldest two are currently having a sleepover at my in-laws, and words can’t even express how fond I am of them right now.