“Did you have a good summer?” clusters of military moms in school parking lots asked each other last week. In response, we simultaneously gave the nurturing, motherly pat answer, “Yeah we had fun, but I only wish I had more time with the kids.” We waved good-bye to our children, then headed home, appearing ready for a full and productive day.
But once our minivan doors closed, back-to-school reality hit us like a runaway school bus.
“I’m free,” I muttered to myself, my eyes wide and unblinking, my caffeine-affected fingers trembling against the steering wheel. “Finally … free.” In the time it took for me to round the circle and exit the school property, I’d thought of a million things I could do with my day now that there were no witnesses.
Over two decades of taking our three kids back to school at the end of each summer, I always found the feeling of being completely alone — unfettered by parental responsibilities, social mores, ethical codes and rules of human decency — quite liberating.
Seized with a pang of hunger in my minivan, I realized that there was no one to stop me from opening the neglected bag of cheese curls in the center console and pouring them directly into my upturned mouth. I switched the radio from the pop music station my girls insisted on to my favorite — the ’80s channel — and bellowed “Karma Chameleon” as I negotiated traffic. At one stop light, I flossed my teeth. At the next, I plucked my eyebrows. As I approached the Navy base gate guard, I flipped off the radio and wiped my cheese powder-stained mouth on my sleeve.
Leave no witnesses, I thought.
At home, I spent a good 20 minutes on the floor snuggling with our dog, Moby, before planning my day. There was no one home to hear me talking to Moby out loud or to see him licking my face. There was no one there to balk, demand my attention or roll their eyes. There was no one to embarrass, shame or disgust.
It was just me. And it was wonderful.
Sure, we moms feel pangs of guilt at deceiving our children in this way every year. Here they are, off at school, thinking that Mom is home jotting down new sandwich ideas, organizing their homework spaces, and thinking nothing but nurturing thoughts. When in reality, we are leading a secret double life.
With the freedom that the school year affords, we moms can mop our kitchen floors while singing the entire “Sound of Music” soundtrack, complete with “Lonely Goatherd” yodeling and “Climb Every Mountain” contralto vibrato. We can fold laundry while binge-watching DVRed episodes of “Bachelor in Paradise.” We can meet our work friends out for long lunches, or stay home and eat logs of cookie dough all alone. We can join base bowling leagues, or teach ourselves to play the ukulele from YouTube videos. We can take a yoga classes, or take a nap wearing yoga pants.
Whatever we moms decide to do with our time, it’s our little secret.
Our kids would be wise to keep up our little charade, by the way. After all, there’s no sense in revealing that the fried chicken on the table was cooked by Colonel Sanders. Our intentions are good, but we may have run out of time to cook dinner between spin class and that sale at the outlet mall. So just say, “This meal is delicious, Mom!” and be thankful that we had time to hit the drive-thru. Also, don’t complain if Mom shows up late for practice pick-ups. You have no idea how hard it is to attend a friend’s jewelry party and “like” all the funny cat videos on Facebook in one afternoon. Lastly, don’t comment on new hairstyles, funky outfits or sudden tattoos. Mom may be finding herself, or recovering from a girls’ night out — either way, it’s her business.
Moms spend most of their time attending to their families’ and children’s needs. So, once the kids are back in school, they deserve alone time to do whatever they darned well please.
Shhhhh … mum’s the word.
Read more at themeatandpotatoesoflife.com, and in Lisa’s book, The Meat and Potatoes of Life: My True Lit Com. Email: email@example.com.
Read More:Leave no witnesses: The Secret Life of Mom