Parenting young children requires a selflessness that is more apparent in its whole than its parts. On any given day, I don't necessarily recognize that my every act is dependent upon one of the subordinates running around at my feet. I might grab a cup of coffee and think it's about me, or read a chapter from a book and feel renewed. I might even get out for an evening with the Partner. But I know that, looking back on it when I am in the position to do so, I will understand that there was a span of 10+ years during which I was not myself. I was the mother of small children.
I define my personal time by small pleasures. For the road: one medium iced coffee, one sugar, skim milk. I drive scenic routes through our rural Connecticut environs for the sake of peace and quiet. I listen to the Howard Stern Show if the situation is right (e.g. the child(ren) in the car are under the age of 2 and/or not sufficiently verbal to rat me out to anyone). At home, I sneak in some HGTV. After the kids go to bed, I might drink wine from a box (it's come a long way) or bourbon and Coke. Through it all, I read at random moments.
The bigger projects are done in fits and starts, while the kids are sleeping, or at school, or the TV is on. It’s so haphazard. I make plans for myself that aren't kid-related and I wonder how I will get them done. I'm sure that, a few years from now, I'll see this period even more clearly for the personal impasse that it is and be amazed that I accomplished anything at all.
Research for my novel happens while Number Two naps or when The Partner can stay home to watch the kids. I coordinate the production of a quarterly town magazine that is about to cease publication because I cannot be the editor, business manager and layout designer all at once. For free. At morning meetings or in scattered moments after noon, I help run a club that gives other parents of younger children an outlet for themselves and their kids.
This morning Number Two threw his arms around my leg while I fried up two eggs in the kitchen. I think he said "I love you."
These days are busy and full. They aren't mine, but that's fine. One day I'll have time for me again, and that's precisely when I'll begin to look longingly at exactly what I have now: a quick coffee from the Keurig; sheets of paper strewn about my office covered in ideas for plot and characterization; one load in the washer, one in the dryer, four on the floor; and a growing baby clinging to my right calf, reminding me exactly why the best moments of my life aren't about me at all.