I once read an article about actress Diane Keaton where the interviewer asked her if she had a happy place.
Curled up in her bed with the remote control in hand.
I understood this, and expect that my fellow introverts do, too.
Extroverts gain energy by feeding on the energies of others, but introverts gain strength in solitude.
My ex is an extrovert.
In hindsight, this personality difference was probably the first sign that my husband and I weren't well suited. People say you attract your opposite, but, really, is that such a good thing?
Nevertheless, we married and started a family.
When I ended up on bed rest at 22 weeks, people outwardly frowned and said things like, "Oh, you poor thing!" But lying propped on my side watching alien babies do somersaults underneath my skin while in bed with a remote in hand was the happiest place I’d ever been.
Sharing that time with my babies was like a dream come true, despite the constant pressure on my bladder.
At 32 weeks the babies came, and I morphed from slow-moving blimp to quick on my toes, mom of newborn twins. Twenty-four hours of the day was focused on the children. They became my happy place, and the best job I’d ever had.
For the next five years, television zoning became a thing of the past.
I never missed it, though, because my calling was to be a mother. When divorce became a reality, and mid-mediation I realized that I was losing time with my kids (so that they could spend time with their dad), I screamed and cried while pounding the lawyer's enormous circular table.
I wasn’t just losing a husband, but losing precious time with my children.
I didn’t think I could do it. Would they eat properly with their dad? Would they get bathed? Would they be able to go to sleep without me? Would missing me be painful for them? Would they be okay?
A few weeks into the separation gave us all new insight.
Who am I without my girls?
Who are they without me?
Do we belong to each other, and did we ever?
It's common knowledge that all mothers benefit from time off. Being a mother is a twenty-four hour a day job, even if you work full-time outside the home. Babies that live in your body (or don't, in the case of adoption) feel as important as your extremities. It's hard to live without them, but it can be done.
Kids benefit from experiences that teach them they’re okay out in the world, and that they can rely on their own decision-making. Isn’t this why we send kids to pre-school? Not only to practice developmentally appropriate skills, but to function in social situations, allowing them to become a part of their own community.
Last week as I drove away from our first 100% no-tears drop-off, I realized that the time we spend apart is giving the girls what they didn’t have before; quality time with their dad, which was absent in our family by the very nature of my presence. It’s giving me a break, and something else I needed, too.
Driving away, I swung by Harris Teeter for sushi.
I got home to a quiet house, put on my pajamas, climbed into bed and switched on the TV.
Television had changed (there’s a whole new slew of Bravo Housewives, reality shows, and new episodes of old favorites).
With a nod to Diane Keaton, I curled under the covers with remote in one hand (and chop sticks in the other), happily recognizing that despite time and parenthood the girl I’ve always been is very much the same.