Friday, April 3, 2009

The Day I Almost Ran Away

Yesterday we had to have the garage door replaced. (And as an aside, I can't believe how much of a difference it makes to have something in your life function, when you've grown completely used to it broken. The garage door was plastic, somewhat transparent, and made a sound like a jalopy being strangled every time you used it. Now it actually works, and strangers walking by can't tell whether there's someone inside. It's the little things.) So since the garage door was being replaced, I had to move the car out of the garage.

I told the kids I was going to move the car and would be right back. Now, moving the car in our case is a little cumbersome. I grew up in a second-tier suburb in a housing divison that had been built in the '70s. We had an attached garage that opened right into the living room. Now we have a house in a first-tier suburb, just a few blocks outside the Minneapolis city limits. The house was built in 1958 (and a lot of it is original, like the harvest gold sink in the kitchen--but I digress.) It has a detached garage and an alley. So I had to go out to the backyard, into the garage, and take the car out of the garage and down the alley. As I got to the end of the alley, all I had to do was turn, drive half a block to our street, turn onto our street, and pull up in front of our house. But just for a moment, I thought: What if?

Now, I stay at home. And I don't just mean I'm a stay-at-home mom, because technicially I'm not really that either. I'm a day care provider, which means that I have an income; but it also means that I can't (ever) leave the house during the day. A little stir crazy? Too bad, you're watching 8 kids. Slept badly and thinking you'd do anything for a fancy cup of coffee? Well, unless you're willing to take all three of your kids with you and get back by 7:30, when the first kids show up, it's going to be Folgers with milk and sugar for you. Thinking that the kids are driving you absolutely over the edge and you'd really like to just have a bath and a glass of wine? Well, it's not the day care preventing you from doing that (at least I hope other stay-at-home parents aren't getting baths and wine at 9 AM), but you still don't get to do it.

And I don't get to leave home after 5 PM either. My husband, God bless him, is a creature of habit to the extreme. His evening routine is predictible almost to the minute. And it takes him all the way up to 6:30 in the evening, at which time kids have been fed, probably bathed, and are ready for a video, juice, and some quiet time before bed. If I want to go somewhere (to the bank to make a deposit, to Target just to wander around and listen to the music for 5 minutes, to the liquor store for the aforementioned wine), I'm probably taking at least one kid with me. Or else I'm going after 8:30, when they're all in bed. My 3-year-old, by the way, can identify the liquor store when we drive by and announces that "That's the liquor store where we get suckers." (In my defense, it's on a corner we drive by all the time, so it's not like we're driving across town to the liquor store every day.) All week, I look forward to grocery shopping, because it's an hour or so that I only have one kid with me (I take the littlest one, since she's really too young to bug me and ask for stuff yet) and I get to do more or less what I want, like talk to strangers about their preferred brand of canned corn.

So when I say "I stay home," I mean it. I'm always home. Standard parental disclaimer: I love my kids, and I obviously chose to stay at home with them. I know I'm lucky not to have to commute and to be here with them all day every day. But all that being said...

When I got to the end of the alley yesterday morning (you thought I'd forgotten, didn't you? There's always a mental map of what I'm talking about), just for a moment, I thought: What if? What if, instead of turning right and then pulling up onto our street, in front of our house, going back inside and making breakfast and changing diapers and refereeing, what if I turned left? I could go to the coffee shop. I could go to Walgreens and get a new lipstick. Hell, I could just keep driving. They wouldn't even realize for a while; two of them are still sleeping. And at that point, of course, I thought, Holy shit. What kind of person thinks that? And I turned right and pulled up in front of the house and went inside and made breakfast and changed diapers and did everything else I do all day. And I did it partly because, really, I do love my kids--more than I could ever find words to express. And partly because I was scared to think that I was a person who, even for a second, had that thought.

But that's the thing about staying at home. I used to have friends, and I used to bounce ideas off them and get a sense of what about me was more or less normal. But now many of them have dropped away, because I'm married with kids and they're trying to decide whether to just go off the grid for a while; we don't have a lot in common. And the ones with kids, well, they're trying to balance kids and jobs and houses and families, and they just don't have a lot of free time for answering questions like: Am I a total crazy person for the thought that just popped into my head? I was at book club the other night (yes, I do get to leave once in a while) and we were talking about The Shack. Somehow this led to a lot of talk about families and kids and our own histories and things that have encouraged or challenged our faith. And before I knew it, I was telling this group of women (only one of whom I knew before that night) about my miscarriage--about how it happened, how I felt, what it was like to experience a D&C, and how I now feel about that little person who was, so briefly, a part of me. I don't know why I did it, other than the fact that extreme social anxiety and a single beer seem to combine to make me unusually chatty. But when I was done, several of them thanked me for being so candid; they said that though we all know at least one person who's been touched by miscarriage, no one wants to talk about it. It's like we're afraid to admit that we once failed at the one thing we're supposed to be able to do perfectly--bring a pregnancy to term. But when we start talking about it, we realize that we're not the only ones who've been through it, and other people have been holding back just as much as we have, trying not to admit their failures.

So I hope that I'm not the first (non-certifiable) mom ever to think, just for a moment, how great it would be to run away. And I didn't, of course. And I never would. But I'll fantasize about it again, I'm sure. And I hope that someday, when I've managed to make some friends again, that they'll admit that, once or twice, they had the same thought.


Emily Arsenault Boca Raton FL said...

Hey, I'm new to your blog (I found it through Aunt Becky's). I just wanted to say that I am also a SAHM of three three and under, and although I love my kids more than I ever imagined was possible to love anything I have also though that. It's hard living at work. And I don't have friends around here because I moved here exactly a month before I got pregnant with my first, and you know how hard it is to meet friends being a SAHM.... Anyhoo, just thought I would make a comment and say hi. And it's nice to read blogs of others like me :)

Kendra said...

Thanks, Emily! I really appreciate the comment and am glad that you have enjoyed reading. It feels a little like tossing my thoughts out into the universe to see if anything happens, so it's exciting when something does happen.

Yes, it is hard to meet people. Hopefully the nice weather will make it easier; I'm trying hard to spend more time at the park, even if it is hard work, just to meet some new faces!