My middle daughter (the one who was so kind to bear the only grandchildren I have so far even though I have five adult children, ahem) called me about a month ago. “Mom, I have some frequent flyer miles that are going to expire soon,” she said. “Would you mind watching the kids while I take a little vacation to visit (name of her oldest sister who lives in California)?”
What? Are you kidding me?! Would I mind spending time and playing with my adorable little grandkids who live out-of-state and who I hardly ever get to see?
“Of course, honey!” I shot back without even a nanosecond of hesitation.
“Oh, and I forgot to mention,” she continued. “(Name of her husband) will be out of town, too. He’s got to go on a business trip the same time I’ll be gone.”
Now I have to confess, this gave me slight pause. Three young children (ages 5, 3, and 1)…24 hours a day…for 8 days…all by myself. (Remember, I’m no spring chicken. And I did skip some of my gym sessions recently. Ok, maybe all of them. But only for a little while. Ok, maybe for about five years.)
All of a sudden, I got a little nervous. (Who am I kidding? I got a lot nervous!) Did I have the strength and stamina to keep up with them? Would they miss their parents? And how in heaven’s name would I manage to finagle those darn car seat straps on my own?
Don’t panic, I said to myself. I figured if I could just keep them all out of the hospital and the house from burning down, we would be ok. After all, I knew my daughter wanted this break. Nay, needed this break. It’s a lot of hard work raising young children, and it’s good for a young mom to get away every once in a while.
“Oh, I’ll be fine!” I said, perhaps a little too enthusiastically.
The day finally came for me to start my babysitting gig. But there were rules. “Don’t spoil them too much,” my daughter instructed. “Try to keep them on schedule. No junk food. And whatever you do, don’t let them walk all over you.”
“Ok, bye honey! Have a good time!” was my weak response.
You see, I’m a pushover…especially when it comes to my grandchildren. I just look at their beautiful little faces and I simply melt. In fact, I become putty in their hands. Pure putty, I tell you. And they know it.
So I did my best. I really did. I didn’t spoil them…too much. I kept them on schedule…pretty much. I didn’t feed them junk food…at least not too often. (Does whipped cream out of a can count? It is a dairy product after all!) And I didn’t let them walk all over me…at least not most of the time anyway.
We also did some pretty fun things together.
We built super-duper stuff out of Legos.
We colored neat pictures of boats and ships and things that go toot-toot.
We took nice, long walks.
We went to an awesome neighborhood park.
We blew lots and lots of bubbles (outside).
We played ball.
We planted beautiful flowers.
We went bowling and even got a couple strikes.
We went to swimming lessons.
We made healthy, organic pancakes.
We set the table real nice.
We made (lots and lots of) popcorn.
We watched both funny and classic (G-rated) movies.
We read many great books.
We splashed in really sudsy, bubbly bubble baths.
And we cuddled. A lot.
The kids and I enjoyed a very busy week. There were no meltdowns. No traumas. No broken bones or burnt houses (allowing me to achieve my goal). In fact, we had a fantastic time together and grew much closer, if that’s even possible. But I have to admit I was truly bone-tired by the end of my stint. “How does she do it?” I would ask myself of my daughter as my head hit the pillow every night.
When my daughter finally came back home, she literally sprinted up the stairs to hug her kids. Which made me quite happy. You see, even though I really wanted her to have a good time, I didn’t want her to have too good a time, if you know what I mean. In other words, I didn’t want her to suddenly think she was missing out on other things while raising her children as a stay-at-home mom.
Quite the contrary. Even though she enjoyed her trip very much, she truly and genuinely could not wait to return. She was rejuvenated, refreshed, and renewed. She was ready to be back with her children and continue parenting again.
Sometimes all a young mother needs is a little break once in a while. It doesn’t have to involve jet setting across the country (although that certainly is also very nice). Maybe just an hour or two for a manicure at the local beauty shop. Or a cup of tea at the corner café. Or a chick flick with a friend at the neighborhood theatre.
A few hours can and will make a world of difference. I should know. I raised five children who were all less than two years apart — and that’s all I wished for some days.
So if you’re a busy mom who sometimes feels a little overwhelmed or underappreciated, please don’t be afraid to ask for a break. Let a kind and willing neighbor babysit for a few hours. Take a friend up on her offer to exchange playdates. Or by all means, call your mom (or mother-in-law).
I’m so glad my daughter called me. I hope she’ll call again. But first, I need to go renew my gym membership.
This post was written by Maria Isabella. Maria is a mother, grandmother, published author, and award-winning writer with over 30 years’ experience in the advertising, marketing, and publishing industries.