My mother-in-law is a saint. Every time my kids get a vacation from school, they spend a bulk of those days off at her house. She also usually gets her four other grandchildren.
That’s right. Six kids. Like seven days. And she enjoys it.
Although I start to miss my kids around day three, I let them go because I know they rarely get the chance to run and play with their cousins.
Most parents might think this sounds like a dream come true. Six days to eat my dinner while it’s hot and no one is complaining. To rest as soon as I get home from work. To stay in bed a little bit longer in the morning. To watch what I want when I want to. No whining, no crying, no petty arguments.
But in the past, the time away from my kids has been anything but relaxing. I usually spend the time worrying.
I usually spend the week anticipating a phone call that something bad has happened. My anxiety keeping me from a restful, deep sleep. I’m usually unable to focus at work or school. And I usually impatiently count down the days until they come back home.
It’s not that I don’t trust my in-laws. I know when my kids are with them they are safe and well taken care of. I know they are being treated well and having fun. No, the problem has never been with my in-law. The problem has always been within me.
But this time is…different. I feel like I’m finally getting my anxiety under control. And like I can finally enjoy the break.
My kids have been gone for two days so far and I can say I’ve actually enjoyed the peace. I’ve been able to catch up on some TV. I’ve gotten time to get some writing done. I’ve stayed in bed longer before getting up for work. And I have actually relaxed.
I haven’t worried that they’ve been hurt or that something bad has happened. I haven’t anxiously checked my phone in the morning after a night of broken sleep, afraid that I’d have a million missed calls. And I haven’t had to fight the urge to go pick them up.
I’ve finally been able to convince my brain of what I already know: That they are safe and happy and I miss them much more than they miss me. And that they will come home in one piece in a few days.
I know my anxiety is not cured just because I’m not anxious, but I’m embracing the little victories. As long as I’m seeing change, I know I’m heading in the right direction.
Parenting is hard. It’s a 24 hour job, even when your kids aren’t around. If you don’t get a chance to recharge once in a while you won’t be any good to anyone – not even yourself. So I’m happy I can finally embrace the moments where I get a chance to breathe.
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