Goodbye Mac ‘n’ Cheese, Hello
-Burbia, Divine Caroline
Lately I’ve been feeling like a double agent, or even a superhero, juggling two separate identities. On the weekdays, I’m Suburban Single Mom: hostess of playdates, laundress of popsicle-stained t-shirts, up with the sun, and in my pajamas way before Letterman.
On the weekends-when my kids are with their father-I’m another creature entirely: guzzler of margaritas, the biggest flirt of the party, out of bed only after most of the morning has passed, and in my pajamas … well, hopefully not at all.
The only problem is, I’m not sure which of these personas is my alter ego and which one is the real me.
It’s a common philosophical question, I’m sure, for lots of parents who do the shared custody thing. It doesn’t happen at first, at least not in my experience-after doing the 24/7 mom or dad gig for a few years, learning how to spend time with just yourself again feels like adjusting to life underwater or on Mars.
For me, driving my car without my kids in the backseat was one of the weirdest things-listening to Coldplay instead of the Chipmunks, not having to simultaneously steer and dig through my purse for a Ziploc baggie of pretzels … it was sort of great, but unbearably lonely at the same time.
Weirder and lonelier still was trying to sleep knowing that my children’s beds were empty, the blankets still smooth … and forcing myself to wake up without high-volume demands for frozen waffles ringing in my ears.
I tried to be practical about the arrangement, to use the weekend getting all the things done that I always complained about not having time to accomplish during the week, from work to yoga to shoe shopping.
Yet something felt wrong: I was busy, I was productive-but mentally, I was still in Mom Mode. Being stuck in Mom Mode without my kids, I felt uncomfortably adrift. Attempting to anchor myself, I tried to remember: What was I like before I had kids? How would the pre-motherhood me have spent the weekend?
Then it hit me: She would have partied her ass off.
So began my journey of self re-discovery, I guess you could call it. Determined to fill my childfree hours with distraction, I called and emailed all the single friends I’d lost touch with when I crossed over into the Married with Children category.
“Hey, I know it’s been forever, but let’s get together for a drink …” went my usual conversation starter.
The first time I tottered (back in heels for the first time in quite awhile) into a bar to meet two old, childless pals, I felt like I had a big scarlet “M” (for mom) affixed to the front of my shirt. Should I talk about my family? How much did people tip for a martini these days? Would it be lame to text my ex in the middle of a conversation to see if the kids were in bed yet?
Of course none of those things mattered (particularly to the people I was with that evening, who’ve known me since high school and probably remember better than I do what my pre-motherhood self was like), and slowly, as the hours went by, I began to relax.
Partying took practice, like anything else, I realized with each passing weekend. It’s not easy to turn off that hyper-vigilant parent switch, but by chilling out and connecting with my peers I was connecting with myself, too-or the part of myself I’d sort of stuffed away after becoming a mom, that inappropriate shadow side who has no business watching Sesame Street or packing school lunches.
As my weekend social life became more established, I worried a bit: now that I’d let my doppelganger loose, would she be content to stay under wraps five days a week?
At the library on a Tuesday with my kids, I’d get a text: “Meet me tonight for happy hour!” Checking my email on a Thursday morning, I’d open a friend’s invitation to see a band play later that night. In all honesty, instances like these were horribly tempting … it wouldn’t be such a big deal to leave the kids with my mom while I went out for a few hours, would it?
Strangely enough, it was the words of Chris Rock running through my head that kept me from accepting. Regarding single mothers, in his “Bigger and Blacker” routine, the comedian said: “I’m tired of bumping into these girls at the club, all late on a … weeknight. You got to get your kid on or your groove on … you can’t get both on at the same time.”
Intellectually, I wanted to argue with my conscience about double standards and fatherly responsibilities, etc., but intuitively, I knew Chris Rock had a point. My wild side could only come out when my custodial duties were on hold.
Hence the double life, the weekly transformation from Mac ‘n’ Cheese Mom to Party Girl. So far, the two seem to be keeping each other in check, sticking to their respective corners.
Just please don’t text Party Girl on a Wednesday. One of these days, she’s gonna overrule Mac ‘n’ Cheese Mom and get her groove on.
DivineCaroline.com is a website where sophisticated women like you can read and contribute stories, reviews, and forums. Please visit our vibrant community soon.