I am sitting idly at my desk. There is an air of tranquillity, a feeling of absence of “something is not quite right” at the house. There is an order everywhere I look, coupled with an unusual serenity.
Everything on today’s to-do-list is ticked off. Dinner is ready, tomorrow’s lunch already prepared. The house is sparkling clean. It is only 2:00 pm and I have nothing else to do.
So I get on my bike and off I go for yet another long ride.
This is how the next four weeks will roll out. Working in the morning and having plenty of free time for the rest of the day. Absolute freedom is the theme of the next few weeks. FREEDOM.
Is this a dream? Can a mother of primary school age children ever have any serious free time not to mention freedom?
The answer is simple – I am currently taking some time off from my children. They are enrolled in a Summer Camp in Corfu apparently having an amazing time, while I am here experiencing some sort of “empty-nest-syndrome”.
Empty-nest syndrome is the name of the transitional period, when children leave the parental home for good to live independent lives – study, marry, travel or just move in to a new home. This change can unsettle the parents and the feelings of loss and sadness or just the process of adjusting to the new circumstance fall into the definition of the syndrome.
I have been looking forward to this time since Easter. But changing overnight from running a busy household and a business to absolute freedom and having to manage tons of free time is quite a shock to me.
Summers are quiet periods work-wise. So by noon the day’s work is done. I then have half a day for myself. It may be every parent’s dream to have a few weeks of peace and quite, but I am struggling.
Indeed having nothing to do troubles me. I hate being bored and am always looking for things to do. Raising two primary school-age children provides ample opportunities for me to keep busy. Take the children out of the equation and my world collapses in more ways that one.
Even though I have been planning my summer time for months in advance – meeting friends, increasing my exercise regime, trying a new sport, learning something new, having weekend breaks with my partner – my free time feels unlimited.
So here I am, child-free for four weeks, restless with the need to fill my day. Normally, housework takes much of my energy and time, so I naturally look around our pristine house and realise that there nothing for me to do. Parenting takes so much of my time, my energy and mental capacity, that now that I am on a break, I have trouble adjusting.
I need to slow down and switch off, but this is a long process and by the time I have managed this the kids are back.
This is the third summer in a row that the children are off for four weeks. Every time brings me face to face with a reality I am occasionally struggling to accept – Every single aspect of my life is structured around the children. I fit my work, leisure, socialising around their needs and schedule. So it should not come as a surprise that settling into a new child-free routine is such hard work.
While I look forward to my annual four week break, however many plans I have made, the transition is always tricky if not unsettling. Frankly, doing whatever I feel like doing without having to think about the logistics of looking after the children is alien to me.
Do not get me wrong. My summer break from the kids means a lot to me. It gives me the space and time to reconnect with myself, take care of myself, refuel, try new activities. Last summer I enrolled in an intensive 3-week long professional training course. Not only did I enjoy the process, but the course gave a huge boost to my career. One thing is for sure, I wouldn’t have done this with the kids around.
This year’s wish list includes among other things a swim in the sea, as well as trying a new sport. It is a much simpler but quite challenging endevour.
After four weeks, I welcome the destruction, unpredictability, mess and exhaustion that the return of my children brings. But soon I will be looking back to my summer break and all the freedom that it affords me and, I dare say, I could not wait for the next one.
How is it for you? Would you take a break from your children?