For the past five months I have been in Nebraska with the kids and without the husband, mostly. He manages to swing through for a few days here and there, and we even had him for over a week once, but for the majority of the time he’s been either in California or traveling. It isn’t exactly what I anticipated, and we’re working on plans to move again so that maybe he can be around a little more, but I have learned a lot.
Most importantly, I have learned how capable I am. I left home at 17, ready to face the big college life, thinking I really knew what I was doing. I even thought once I was in college that I was a grown-up, but while I went to an excellent school that is filled with professors that truly care about and get involved in the students’ lives, to some degree they only serve as a crutch for poor little sheltered preachers’ kids like me. There were still plenty of rules, just like living at home, and no monthly electrical bills to budget for.
So I began dating Lloyd about one month after school started (I was so proud for holding out that long!), two years later we were married, and about 1 year and 9 months later we had our daughter and then graduated college a couple months after that. Being married, going to school, working a job, and having a baby certainly helped me learn responsibility (but honestly, I was always a 4.0 perfectionist; responsibility really wasn’t something I was lacking), but I have never been on my own.
It has been freeing and frustrating. I’m not exactly in the position of a single mother—I don’t have to work, as my husband still makes the money. But I’m not quite in the position of a military wife either—I have little fear for my husband’s safety (but let me just say that I am so much more empathetic to the situation of military wives now). I’m this weird stay-at-home-mother who is alone. So let me share with you a little of what I’ve learned.
I’ve learned how nice it is to not have to work around anyone else’s schedule. I plan our days according to what we want to do, and we don’t have to plan mealtime for anyone else, or wait on anyone else if we want to go somewhere. I don’t need to ask anyone else’s opinion or go through the same, old conversation of “I don’t know; what do you want to do?” I can sleep across the entire bed. I don’t have to clean up tiny hairs around the sink. I can watch all chick flicks. I can dance in my underwear . . . oh wait, I could do that before.
Well, anyway, I’ve learned how to make decisions for myself. I’ve realized how dependent I’d become on my husband’s opinion, which is not to say that I’m now ready to disregard everything he thinks, but too often I find myself changing what I want to do in favor of what he wants to do. And it’s not like he’s bullied me into anything. It’s the subtle nuances of how he responds to my suggestions. When I learned (after 5 years of marriage) that he doesn’t like rice, I pretty much stopped cooking it. But you know what? I love rice. So why should I stop making it? If he asked me to bake a ham (which I really wouldn’t want to eat), I would do it (and, oh, I did do that for Christmas last year). I’ve been in a position of feeling subordinate to him even though he’s done nothing to force his ways over me (well, other than his personality being so very, very convincing). And being without him has let me see myself.
I have opinions too. I have preferences. And I have a voice to share those with. Another very simple, and silly, example showed itself when I was frosting Emma’s birthday cake. I think I was using a plastic knife or something, and was perfectly content using that knife, with no ill effects, when Lloyd suggested I use his beloved “spatula spreader” (there’s a whole other story in that alone!). I responded I didn’t know where it was and was fine using my knife. Wait about 5 seconds, and he’s asking me if I’m sure I don’t know where it is; it really would work better. Long story short, I stop what I’m doing to search for the tool, find it, and use it, with no great improvement on frosting spreading. This is a classic example. He never said I had to do anything; he really was making a suggestion based on what he thought would be in my best interest. But you know what? I wanted to use the darn knife. I didn’t not want to use the spatula spreader, but what I was using was perfectly acceptable. Give me that same scenario today and I’ll just keep using the knife. I’m allowed to have a preference and do things my way.
Freedom. Freedom in being alone. But freedom does come at a cost. And I’ll save that for another day.
By the way, I know I’ve been terribly absent, but along with this freedom I’ve realized how powerful my own motivation can be. And honestly, there are things I’d rather be doing. You want to know who encouraged me (repeatedly) to start blogging in the first place? Take a wild guess . . . It wasn’t a bad suggestion, and his encouragement was sincere in that he thought this is what I need to be happy. And I’m not saying it hasn’t been fulfilling at times, but I’ve been more motivated to make an effort at keeping up with housework (that part’s not really doing so swell though), and following through with my promises to Emma of giving her my undivided attention for art projects or just playing, and making time to focus on my physical well-being by exercising every day. And something’s gotta give, you know. Obviously, I’m no Super Mom, and I don’t yet know how to get it all in—although I’m guessing watching less Grey’s Anatomy would help—but I’m still working on it at least!