I remember it like it was yesterday. The shriek of my alarm going off at 6:15 am like the start of some second-rate dog race.
With a rat’s nest of hair and the same yoga pants I’d worn the day before, I was off and running: making beds, toasting waffles, packing lunches, dropping off, sorting laundry, picking up, flipping nuggets, filling tubs, reading stories, tucking in.
Other than 20 minutes spent wolfing down a turkey on wheat for lunch at our kitchen island between wash cycles, the closest thing I had to “free time” was falling asleep on the couch while clipping peanut butter coupons in front of the television after the kids went to bed.
And when my Navy husband was deployed, my daily routine was a total blur, teetering somewhere between precarious sanity and certifiable madness.
Thank the Good Lord those days are over.
After a couple of decades spent fulfilling the needs of our three kids, I’m finally free! With our oldest now off at college, our two girls in high school, and my husband on shore duty, no one is depending on me anymore. Hallelujah! It’s time for me to do what I want to do for once.
However, when school started this year, I didn’t want to traumatize our girls by drastically changing their routine. I thought it best to wean them gently, so I got up early each morning as usual, offering to scramble eggs, find soccer socks, slice oranges. But turns out, they can do it all by themselves.
What a relief!
On our morning ride to school in the minivan, I used to talk my kids through the day’s schedule, making sure they were organized and ready for any quizzes or tests. But the girls let me know the first week of school that, instead of talking to me, they prefer to motivate themselves on our morning drive by having a “Girl Dance Party,” which entails turning the minivan volume up to level nine and flailing their arms to the beat.
And my sixteen-year-old is quick to remind me that, in a few short months, they won’t even need me to drive them to school because she will have her driver’s license. What a welcome change that will be!
Back at home, I breathe a huge sigh of relief that there’s no one depending on me for the next 10 hours. I look around our empty house, ecstatic that I have the whole day to myself to finally do all the things I could never do before — go on a shopping spree, start a new career, take tennis lessons, meet friends for lunch, train for a marathon.
But, of course, I wouldn’t want to jump into my newfound freedom too quickly. Instead, I check to see if there’s any laundry to be done, then remember that I did it all yesterday. I peek at the computer every ten minutes to see if any pressing emails have come in. I wander the house looking for dust bunnies.
Eventually, I microwave the cup of lukewarm coffee I inadvertently left in the pantry, and plunk down at the kitchen table.
Just then, I hear a thunk in the bedroom upstairs. Stirring from his morning nap, our 8-year-old labradoodle, Dinghy, comes down the back staircase of our old base house, his toenails clopping on the wood flooring. With a boney clunk, he sits in front of me, lifts a lanky paw, and scrapes it over my thigh.
Just when I was about to savor the sweet solitude of freedom, it dawns on me. I’m not free just yet — I’m still key and essential to this household.
With renewed purpose, I get out my To Do list and scribble, “1. Walk dog, 2. Feed dog, 3. Teach old dog new tricks, 4. Buy new dog toys, 5. Go to dog park …”
Looks like my work is never done.