For years, I have had a recurring dream. It’s one where I am at the pool, sitting underneath a shadowy tree on a lounge chair with a good book and a tall, cold drink in my hand.
In this dream, my kids are old enough to fend for themselves in the water, as they have finally learned how to swim with strength and confidence. As I sit quietly reading in the shade of the overgrown greenery, I am lost in my novel, sipping my drink and basking in the sheer joy of the silent moments alone. My kids have run off, giddy with excitement, to dive into the pool and do their own thing. They are old enough that they aren’t constantly clamoring for my attention or calling for my help.
It’s a beautiful dream.
You see, for years I was wading in the water, holding my babies with their soaked swimmers and layered sun block slipping off their skin. For years I was wanting — no, needing your company, your help and your support as we spent hours in those waters together with our kids in tow, always reaching for arms and scooping up bodies as they waddled their way around the slick cement, oblivious to any dangers we saw. For years, I was the mom with the babes, the toddlers, the preschoolers, wanting to hang with all you mom friends, keeping each other company in the heat of the summer sun.
Those years were spent chasing our kids, playing with them, changing them, feeding them, assisting them with pretty much everything, while teaching them how to surely stay above water. Every summer, every day, I would venture to the pool, looking forward to meeting up with you to make our swim time more enjoyable, and often, more bearable. Our fragmented interactions, often interrupted by frequent splashing and “MOMMY! LOOK AT ME!” was our sole source of social nourishment. I was always so grateful for it, for you, for us to be in it together.
Those were the years I longed for your conversation, your company. Spending lonely days with little ones can drive any human being into isolation and drown a mom in a deep parenting pit. We were united in our mission: To help each other crawl out of that pit and create a safe and fun time for our kids while strategizing bathroom breaks, feeding times, and naptimes for all.
Moms need other moms. Especially at the pool.
Years have passed and our kids have grown. Both of my kids recently became more independent, and I am finally able to drop them off at the pool — and leave. It is, quite honestly, the most liberating and exhilarating step into freedom I have ever known.
I am now freed of the responsibilities in keeping and caring for my kids for hours, ensuring their safety and being in constant reach of them at all times. I now have a choice whether to stay or go. I often go, because those few quiet hours are sacred and necessary to get any work done at home or run any errands without two rambunctious souls to cater to and keep in control.
But there are days I long to stay and live the dream.
There are those beautiful sunny days I want to actually be at the pool, sipping on my tall, cold drink and feeling the light, warm breeze hit my face while I bask in the sweet summer haze. It’s my summer, too, and after years of the demands of motherhood sweeping through all my summer seasons, I’m ready for a small piece of these glorious few months to myself.
And here’s where it gets…
As I enter the pool, I see you. You’re often there with your younger kids, still in that season of needing connection. We cheerfully say hello and conversation is started about this and that. It’s wonderful to see you, because I truly value our friendship. I don’t deny that I am glad to see your smiling face, and I always enjoy our time together. It’s just…
I feel this overwhelming obligation to sit with you on the side of the pool, at the picnic table, or with the rest of our friends and be social. But this time spent in small talk eliminates the opportunity I have to live that dream. I fear I will appear rude and uninterested if I walk away and go find my spot in the shade apart from you. I love connecting as much as any other woman, and yet…
I want so badly to be alone and read this book I’ve been dying to read. I want to be at the pool, in the midst of the summer fun, near my kids so I can look up from my book once in a while and celebrate the joy I see in their beaming, chlorine-soaked eyes. I want to take breaks and walk over to watch my kid do that front flip off the diving board or plunge into the refreshing cool water when the heat gets to be too much. I want to head over to the lap pool and get some much needed exercise, too.
And then I want to go back to my respite, my refuge, my private place… Alone.
Please don’t mistake my behavior for anything but a mom living the dream.
We’ll catch up again soon, okay?
And hey, if you’re looking for a good book to read, I’ll lend you mine when I’m done.
Oh wait, you don't have time just yet-
But I promise friend, someday you'll live the dream too.
By Christine Carter of TheMomCafe.com
Originally published on SammichesPsychMeds.com.