Parenthood and Alcoholism

Being a mom has been a strange experience. I am in a less traditional position, in that I only have my kids every other week. So half the time I am scrambling, trying to make sure their needs are met while also working a demanding job. The other half the time I have a lot of freedom. And I am lonely as hell.

When they are home, I do nothing but work and kids. I like it this way. But it’s a lot. Every so often I get ambitious and make plans outside of my kids. They are capable on their own. They are almost all teenagers, so they have their own stuff going on anyway. But when it comes down to it, 9 times out of 10 at the last minute, I cancel whatever plans I have made. I just feel the need to be home and available. I am not saying this to toot my own horn. they are fine. They probably do not need me. But I need them. I need them to need me.

My kids are exceptionally easy. They are independent, mostly responsible, and mostly chill. But I still feel like I should be available. As an at-home presence. Especially since I only have them half the time.

The days are full when the kids are at my house. Wake up at 6, get the high schoolers going, do my workout, get the middle schooler going, shower, get the youngest going, make breakfast and lunches, get everyone out the door, do my goals and calendar for the day, get the kitchen cleaned up if I am lucky, get out the door for work. When I get home, it’s dinner and dishes, keep up on laundry and such, and quality time with whichever kid needs it (Emmy). Around 9:30 I get the kids settled. I head to bed at 10. From 10-11 is mommy time. I get ready for bed. I scroll facebook and instagram. I read. I chill. Theoretically, nobody is to bother me during this time. Hah. Someone always needs something. Whether it’s Lilly who needs a cuddle, or Carson who needs a cuddle that turns into a wrestling match, or Emmy who wants to tell me why she doesn’t want to go to school, or Rachel who just got home from work and wants to vent about her day… I take it all in stride. What else am I supposed to do?

I’m not special in the challenges of parenthood. All parents go through this same routine to varying degrees. What is slightly unusual about my situation is that it’s just me. There is no partner to share the burden. For half of the time. The other half, their dad has to go through all of this… also without help. This is not the way it should be. It should be two parents supporting each other. Acting as buffers for each other. One taking over when the other needs a break. But there is no point in thinking about what should be. It is what it is. And what it is is pretty great all things considered.

Regardless of all the great, by Thursday I am toast. I limp through Friday. When they head to their dad’s Saturday afternoon I am happy to see them go. By Sunday, I miss them like hell.

The fact of the matter is, I am a much happier person when my kids are home. My life feels hectic and out of control, but it feels complete. I feel settled. I feel like I have a purpose.

I took a walk the other night in an attempt to decompress, and I gave the whole situation some thought. My kids are pretty easy. They make good choices, they are helpful and cooperative, they are delightful to be around. Yes it’s hard when they are here. Mostly because there is no quiet. No alone time. No chill. I hear “hey mom” way too many times for a reasonable adult to handle. But I am fully aware of the fact that they are getting older. I have a little more than a year before Rachel graduates. Lilly follows suite the year after Rachel. That means in a little more than two years, my at home kids will be divided in half. Two years after Lilly graduates, Carson will. That leaves Emmy. In just over 7 years, I will be alone.

David Sedaris writes a beautiful essay about his mother (if you don’t know David Sedaris check him out NOW). She died some years back from cancer, but she was also an alcoholic. There were six kids in the Sedaris family. He talks about evening meals, where after dinner his dad would take off his pants and sit on the easy chair and watch tv. But the rest of the kids would sit around the table late into the evening, trying to make their mom laugh. She loved and encouraged this. Her drinking only got bad after the kids all moved out. He says that he doesn’t think that was why she became an alcoholic. But without her fan club, she lost her purpose. There wasn’t much else to do but turn to drink.

I relate to this so hard. And I worry about it. What will I do when my kids are not easily accessible? As hard as it is to have them, they are my purpose and my greatest pleasure in life. I would like to think that I would not turn to drinking, but I still worry. Yes, I can find hobbies, I can find friends. Hell, maybe someday I will find a partner. But what could possibly compare to the fulfillment of raising these kids?

I have noticed a trend amongst the young people in my world. They don’t want kids. They are vehement about the topic. The why is a subject for another post. I fully support their choice. Nobody should have kids if they don’t want to. Raising kids is a privilege and a pleasure. For me personally, raising kids has been the greatest privilege And pleasure I have known. Yes it’s hard. And yes, my life would be much simpler if I had chosen not to have them. But parenthood has brought me the most joy (and sorrow) of any other thing I have done in my life. I pity the fool who does not get to enjoy this privilege.

What will I do when they are gone? When they don’t need me as much as they do now? I don’t know. I will find hobbies. I will travel. Maybe, God willing, I will find a love of my own. But it will all pale in comparison to the joy of raising the four best humans I know.

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