Most of my weekends revolve around three things: teenagers (and their consumption needs), cleaning, and running errands.
The teenagers are the best part, invariably, since they are all at once hilarious, endearing, and a little absurd. We are lucky in that we don’t have two sullen, silent boys glowering at us over their game controllers, turning their nose up at any and all snacks or comforts or entertainment provided, and slowly pilfering cash out of my purse… all things that people I know did, or had done to them around that magical mid-teenage phase.
We have dedicated noisemakers, frequent comedians, lengthy storytellers, possessors of clear (and reliable) soda and chip preferences, and one goofball in particular who tends to leave money in his pockets (the cash he makes for chores in our backyard and beyond) for me to find when I pull freshly washed and fabric-softened twenty dollar bills out of the dryer.
Beyond life as the Only Girl in the House, the cleaning and errand parts of my weekend keep our household humming to the degree that it’s rare that I will find my husband wandering around, searching aimlessly for a clean pair of boxers.
I think it’s a pretty normal life, though we add our own quirks to it.
And it’s what I’m used to now.
This weekend, Gradon was working at an event sponsored by his employer from Thursday night to Sunday afternoon, on and off… though mostly on. I saw him at the beginning and end of the day on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and went with him on Sunday. Since we usually spend most of this time together with the guys, or in close enough proximity to feel togetherishness, it was a really odd set of days.
Upon learning of his plans, I figured this weekend would provide me with hours to do even more errands, even more cleaning — I know, I’m magically OCD — to sleep in excessively, to bachelorette it up with an eyebrow-threading-and-manicure extravaganza, to watch some embarrassingly idiotic TV picks, and to create a strange menu centered around my favorite comfort food: the mighty baked potato.
But I found myself feeling awkward most of the time… and wondering why the heck that was the case.
Me, who lived by herself many times over the years, and rarely felt lonely? Me, who never understood why single people hated cooking for one, because it gave me the chance to experiment? Me, who was 35 before she shared a home with someone of the opposite sex? Me, who had to adjust to life with twice the people in half the space when I moved to Boston? Me, who can fill life with errands and to-dos and checkboxes ad infinitum?
It was weird.
I got up both mornings before he got up, just to ensure he got out the door without setting his half-asleep self on fire, and dropped by to see him on Saturday, bringing a giant bottle of water.
I stayed up until he got home, and got irritated when he didn’t text that he’d be late (despite the fact he’d told me so.)
I put off making dinner most of the nights, since the end-times of his evening responsibilities might shift, and perhaps he’d be home for a late snack — which was nothing he’d asked me to do, but I did it.
I didn’t do indulgent things I’d been looking forward to, because I could think of better places to spend that cash than on a Sephora trip.
I didn’t watch much trashy TV because I kept adding to my to-do list. And I did actually do all the cleaning and laundering and organizing I normally do, because that felt normal. It sounds as crazy to me as it likely does to you, until I consider the reality that I do that stuff because it’s fun for me. I don’t think Gradon hopes for anything but fresh underwear, and he’s happy to load up the machine himself.
By the end of the weekend, I was irritated at myself for being both weird and dependent. Exactly why was I dysfunctional when I had a couple of hours to myself? Exactly why could I not just fill the time as I did on countless weekends when I was single and in a city 3,000 miles away? Exactly why was I worried something had happened to him when his schedule changed? Exactly when HAD I BECOME INSANE?
Then a few things emerged:
This was the first weekend we’d truly spent apart since I moved here. We don’t really travel much independently for work, and while we’re not homebodies, per se (we can drive for hours and not get bored), we spend our “off time” together, unless we’re with friends.
This was also one of only a couple of weekends without the boys in the last year or so. When a bottle of Mountain Dew rolled unceremoniously onto my toe from the second shelf of the fridge, I realized that usually, that bottle would be sitting in the living room somewhere, half-sipped, waiting to be nearly knocked over by a giant teenage foot.
And this was literally the ONLY weekend since I’d moved here that I didn’t have anything to do for anyone else, whether that was a bit of work or freelancing or a project of some sort.
The absence of all of these things likely added up to whatever weirdness I was experiencing, right?
I think that’s part of it.
But the real answer is a bit more complicated.
This weekend taught me two lessons:
The way I’d built my weekend up to be a Megstravaganza was a little silly. If I wanted to do any of those things when Gradon and the boys were around, I could easily do them. But I’ve been telling myself that being a great wife and stepmom revolved around me being eternally less Me, and more Us (instead of both.) That somehow my “late start” with this whole family thing meant I would have to try extra hard at having cohesive domesticity and checking all the boxes. That being a stepmom was about being a TV mom from the 50s.
The reality is that the Me and the Us co-exist just fine, nobody minds if I take time for myself, and if they DO care, it’s more about ensuring I actuallt do it now and then. Nobody is asking for perfect or sacrificial, not at all. And the boys? To them, I became a great stepmom as soon as they realized by sitting behind my seat in the car, they’d get a lot more leg room.
The second lesson?
I missed my family.
Not because of a sense of duty or routine… but because they’re just, well… great.
I’d never missed them like this before, because I was physically with some portion of them all the time. This was new, by default. And it wasn’t a bad thing to realize very tangibly that, outside of loving them, I also cherish and enjoy time spent with them simply because… they rock.
So, to summarize:
I’ve been trying too hard to get everything right… and I have a fantastic family that’s worth every minute of it.
Life is funny, huh?
Anyone want a baked potato?