My house is too quiet.
It’s too clean. It feels empty, as if I spoke loud enough, there would be an echo. I can hear the hum of the refrigerator, ticking of the clock. For the first time in almost seven years, I have no children needing me, saying my name a hundred times. Every weekday, for seven hours, this happens. Both my kids are in school now, and I feel a little lost.
It sounds crazy even just saying that, because it’s what every stay-at-home parent waits for, isn’t it? That day when you’re handed part of your life back, hours of freedom to do whatever you want to do, alone! But then it happens, and there’s this weird void. Sure, I have my lists, my chores, my projects that I’ve been waiting seven years to accomplish. But I don’t even know where to begin some days. At first, I sit and just soak up the silence, but then it makes me uncomfortable, uneasy. I light a candle or put on some quiet music because it just doesn’t feel right to have such calm and quiet after all these years of two boys tearing around the house.
I fold a blanket and put it on the couch. It will stay there like that, all day. It won’t get turned into a super hero cape, or draped across a chair to become a fort, or thrown onto the ground in a messy heap. It will stay there, nicely folded. And I’m not even happy about it. I make myself lunch and sit at our big empty table, wondering whether my Kindergartener has made a friend yet to sit with at lunch, or whether my First Grader is still feeling overwhelmed and discouraged with all the new work and rigorous routine. I wonder if they need me.
What a strange and unexpected feeling! I get kind of mad at myself, saying “pull yourself together woman, you did have a life before children, didn’t you??” But I am so unaccustomed to having day after day of free time. So far I’ve rushed through projects at rapid speed, as if my kids are just away at a summer camp or Grandparents house for a while, and the free time won’t last. Soon it will be back to the way it was, sunrise to sundown of being on ‘mom duty’. But that doesn’t happen. I still have tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day of hours and hours of time. It just feels weird.
The first day both my boys were away all day at school, I literally purged and re-organized their entire playroom. I even packed up the toys that were being donated and dropped them off at Goodwill, all before the bus brought them home. They didn’t even notice toys were missing, they were just so excited their playroom was clean and more organized. I start something and finish it, uninterrupted. Shouldn’t I be happy about that? Ecstatic? But instead I finish, dust my hands off, and then check the clock to see if it’s getting close to bus time.
Sure, I’m 39 weeks pregnant and very hormonal, but I can’t be the only parent who feels lost when all their children are in school for the first time, am I? Funny how much I was looking forward to this short time alone at home before our baby arrives, but now I’m eager to hear the sound of children in my house again, even if it is a crying newborn. This mama needs to feel needed again, have some purpose to my daily routine, just for a few more years maybe.
Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 5-year-old James and 3-year-old Luke.