Should I Stay or Should I Go?

By Nora Heston Tarte

Being a parent is such a grand, albeit strange, adventure. I swear on most days my kid drives me to raise my voice at least once (and I’m not even a yeller!) and nine days out of ten we’re fighting each other on the way to school already. I ask him repeatedly (like ten times a day every day) not to scream in the car or the house. He tells me he has to scream otherwise he’ll become consumed by the thought of screaming—how is this even a thing? It’s one incident after another every day on a loop.

And then this strange thing happens where I get a break. Either the kid has a play date or he’s staying overnight at a grandparent’s house, and I have a full 24-48 hours by myself. The weirdest feeling is when I have a three-day work trip or he spends a week with his dad. These long stretches of alone time sound like exactly what every mother craves, until they come. I can enjoy a solid 6-8 hours by myself, sometimes 12, before this strange feeling kicks in. I miss him.

Why is it that when we’re with our kids sometimes all we want is a break, but the second they leave we’re overcome with melancholy over wishing they were around? I know if he’s home he’s going to argue with me and scream when I ask him not to. I know that if we run errands together I’ll be batting sugary cereal boxes out of his hands as he sprints down the aisles like some sort of awkward game of basketball. But for some reason the lack of chaos does nothing for me except make me miss the chaos.

I’m sure we need the breaks from each other. I’m sure it’s healthy to spend time apart and pretend I have a life that doesn’t involve being a mother, but I swear it’s sometimes hard to remember those benefits on day three of a work trip when all I want to do is spring home as fast as my legs will take me. When I get there I’ll soak in the cuddles for 30 minutes before being reminded why it is I wanted my space in the first place, but the cycle continues without fail. Being a parent is basically just a loop of wanting a break from your child and then missing them the second they aren’t around.

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