I was driving back to the city on Sunday afternoon, after a weekend visit to the grandparents. Everyone was asleep except me. Almost every weekend, we get out of town. Life in an apartment with three small children is something to be avoided on the weekends as much as possible. And, more often than not, I do the two-hour drive each way (it’s usually two hours, wherever we go), and if we time it well, everyone is asleep, including my husband, as soon as we hit the highway.
I don’t mind driving. Quite the contrary. I have silence for two hours. These are the best and longest naps my children take (and the only naps, for the older two)– unless, like the irrepressible Sandra Bullock in Speed, my car goes below 55 mph. Toll booths and fender-benders mean certain and immediate wakings of all three of them. So I steer clear of those, and listen obsessively to traffic reports on two different AM radio stations, in order to put off hitting any brake lights for as long as possible.
The action-movie stakes notwithstanding, these drives are some of the most peaceful hours of my week. Just me and XM Radio channel 130- POTUS 08, wall to wall presidential election coverage. Sweet, stolen moments. The only problem is, I always return to the city on Sunday nights far, far more tired than when I left. Why are weekends so hard? I pondered (during the ads) this past Sunday, as I drove. Weekends are supposed to be relaxing and renewing. Why do I feel, by Sunday morning, like I’m going to bite someone’s head off?
Then, duh, I realized: during the week, the boys have school. During the week, I have a babysitter. During the week, my husband is at work, instead of throwing his workout clothes around, and leaving protein shake puddles on the countertops for the kitchen elves to clean up.
But on the weekends, there is no school. No babysitter. My husband and I go commando with the three kids (even this past weekend, since the grandparents themselves left town Saturday morning, lucky ducks). And three children five and under, all sleep-deprived themselves (though for them it is their choice), without anything better to do, start bickering and fighting and whining, and you, their parent, are but a hamster on a wheel for 48 straight hours. By Sunday night, you’re furious at your husband for not doing his share (whether or not he has), and you collapse on the couch in sulky silence before starting in on that laundry you have to fold. What kind of “weekend” is that?
Then I had a sort of an Aha! moment , one that I think can really make all this OK. For the next five years or so, I realized, I’m living an opposite life. Weekends are hard-core, game on, two days in the salt mines. Monday morning, when the boys go back to school, and Maddie takes a nap? That’s my weekend, comparatively. And if I just accept that, if I expect weekends to be the really hard part, maybe they will seem a little less so.
I was pretty proud of myself for figuring this out. This is going to help me be a better parent! I thought. I am living for Monday morning! We got back to the city, brought up the hundred bags in the elevator, brought the car back to our garage, got three cranky children through dinner/bath/pajamas/toothbrush/three educational story-time, and collapsed on the couch by 7:38 pm. David was already dozing off. “Wake up!” I commanded. “Sunday night is the new Friday night! Let’s have a cocktail!”
“I’m going to bed,” he said, and shuffled off down the hall.
“Where is your party spirit?” I called after him. “Life is good! You get to go to work tomorrow!”
The phone rings. I ignore it. It’s my weekend, I think triumphantly. I click on Wife Swap. I figured I might even watch Supernanny afterwards.
The answering machine picks up. Then I hear:
“Hey, Amy, it’s Susan. I totally forgot this and I thought you might have too. Did you know school is closed tomorrow?”
Damn you, Faculty Professional Development Day. Damn you to hell.