Too Much Togetherness

Once you’ve become a mom, whenever you try to say that you are tired or overwhelmed by the demands of your kids, someone will rush to inform you, “Be grateful and enjoy it! One day they will be all grown up, and you will wish for this time to be back!”

I am sure I will wish my kids were small once they are all grown-up and gone, but I hate this implication that I must crave to be all but glued to them, cheerfully catering to their every need 24/7, for decades; that any desire on my part for bodily autonomy or sleep should be greeted with reproach, because it is a grave sin to enjoy any less than 100% of all the moments that my kids are young and living in my house.

As cute as they are and as completely as I adore them, I am an introvert. I need the time where I am completely alone and where nobody, no matter how cute, wants things from me, even if all they want is to nuzzle their adorable little faces against my neck.

As magical, precious, and elusive as the childhoods of my kids are, I cannot be in there with them non-stop, even if we were to forget (as grownups often do) that kids are people and don’t necessarily want a parent perpetually hovering either.  Perhaps humans are only ever meant to be exposed to a certain amount of cuteness in a lifetime, and my need for alone time keeps me from exploding. There is such a thing as too much preciousness.

***

My mom has been here a little over three weeks, and it’s been going well. She’s been nice and unobtrusive, and I feel like I should be spending as much time as I can with her, because who knows when I will get to see her again. The exposure to an aging parent is quite sad, and I must admit that I am on some level grateful to be away and not have to witness the decline. My mom is still quite healthy and vital, so I hope she’ll still be around for many years. But the truth is, her future now feels finite, rather than being so just on an intellectual level.

It’s all the more reason to want to spend every moment of her visit together, right? Except that it’s really hard. There is such a thing as too much togetherness. She and I were out of town last week with Middle Boy and Smurf, and while it was fun, I was completely spent by the time we came back. I was in a really foul mood and would have killed for some free time.  I desperately needed to go to work yesterday, where I could finally be alone and in peace. This introvert felt much better by the afternoon, as it was time to pick up the kids. Man, I love my office. I have the best office.

House guests are hard. Long-term house guests are even harder, because you can’t or won’t put your life on hold for very long. I can take time off work for a few days or a week, and I can put up with another person in my space for that long, but this protracted perturbation is really taxing. I feel guilty over wanting to avoid her, because I just cannot interact that much, yet I know that she won’t be around forever, in my house or on the blue ball that’s on an elliptical orbit around the Sun. Having a limited time together puts a lot of pressure to make all the moments count, to make them all special… But I don’t think it’s possible to have a continuum of special moments.

The best I can do is take some more time off work, talk to her for a few hours or take her out shopping, then run and hide in my home-office cave to recuperate. And maybe blog.

5 comments

  1. Do you know if your mom ever feels the same way? I mean, if you flip the situation, maybe *she’s* feeling the pressure to make every moment with her kid special, especially since she doesn’t see you that often, but maybe she also wants some alone time while she’s visiting (although maybe she doesn’t want to mention it and hurt your feelings). If that’s the situation, no harm in giving it to her!

    Watching your parents get older and more frail is scary and weird. I have a disabled dad, so he’s been a bit frail my whole life, but I notice him going downhill these days and I think… he’s really not going to get any better, ever. As you say, it’s one thing to know it on an intellectual level, and quite another to see the evidence before your eyes and feel it in your bones.

    I’m glad the visit is going reasonably well! I’m home with a sick kid this week (triple punch… virus followed by ear infection followed by rash from antibiotics), so I’m definitely feeling the whole “I want to be by my kid and not miss a minute of his babyhood” followed rapidly by “omg, clingy baby all week, need some space.” My office is also pretty great.

  2. I feel the same way. I love my children, but I absolutely need to get away from them too. I would never have been happy being a SAHM, since it just isn’t in my personality to be OK with having other people need me so many hours a day. And honestly, I was really happy when the ProdigalKids got more independent. I know we aren’t supposed to say things like “I don’t really like babies, and it wasn’t so different with my own babies”, but that is mostly true for me. I don’t miss babyhood at all.

    I am glad that your visit is going so well so far. I think your strategy of taking some time to be with your Mom and then some time alone is a good one. Both of you will enjoy the visit more if you get your alone time, and your Mom is more likely to be cool with it after spending some pleasant time with you. Try not to feel guilty about having your needs met too, though I know that is better said than done when it come to family, especially aging parents.

  3. oh, please blog! it’s like my own journal, just much much better written. Mom is visiting for a few weeks, from afar, and it seems that she is from another planet, regardless of how much I love her. I’d absorb every single thing and word and gesture about her for the first two days, and then it goes deep downhill before slowly, slowly getting better to the point that we will all want her around and miss her again by the time she has to leave. But as you say, there is always the wonderful office, and the deadlines. please blog.

  4. Yes, this, exactly. With the kids, with my parents, with life. I know it won’t last, I want to soak it up and enjoy it, yet the sheer PRESSURE of that is overwhelming sometimes. Because I need my space to decompress—to get away from the kids, the parents, sometimes just EVERYTHING and just chill for a bit. My office kind of sucks, but I can close the door and be alone, so there is that.

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