Stage 1: Elation 

No making lunches. No marathon bedtime routine. No responsibilities. Maybe some of my friends still go to the bar! Maybe the bar is still there! I can eat potato chips without having to share. I’m going to sit around in my underwear every available minute. I’m a hot mom with fun friends.

Stage 2: Reality

The bar is still there but it turns out my friends have kids too. Their kids are not in Palm Springs. I’m watching Bar Rescue reruns, living vicariously through the experiences I can’t be bothered to get dolled up enough to partake in personally.  I’m so old and lame.

Stage 3: Guilt

It’s quiet. I have so few responsibilities. It’s almost idyllic. And yet I feel incredibly guilty. What kind of mother is happy her kid is far away? Shouldn’t I be soaking in every cheerio encrusted moment before it gives way to worries of truancy, communicating about the birds and the bees and the advent of the dreaded learners permit? I should be ashamed of myself. Worst mother ever.

Stage 4: Grief

I miss that kid. He’s awfully adorable. Remember the way he breathes? Gosh it’s cute. His giggle is like angels getting their wings. Every little thing he does is magic. Is it time for him to come home yet? I miss being a mommy. Who am I? I don’t even recognize myself anymore except for the leg hair, naturally. That’s all me. Empty nesting is going to be terrible. I need a hobby and another cat.

Stage 5: Reunion

Small child of awesome bounds through the door brimming with stories of adventure and new discoveries. The speed with which he relays these tales mirrors a cheetah high on stimulants. I want to hand him a snorkel because he barely comes up for air. Quiet is a distant memory. He hugs me so tightly as he missed me terribly. He notes the absence of potato chips. I prop him up on a pile of pizza boxes and recite my undying love for him. The prince is home and he has a tan.

Stage 6: Regret

The prince is back home now – all the freaking time. Moments and my couch are encrusted with Cheerios once more. In the midst of the chaos, I longingly recall those nine days of quiet bliss when I was almost a bar star. But mostly the wistfulness is about undivided potato chips.

How do you handle kid free time?

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