The pitter-patter of little feet turns into drumbeats and trumpet blasts the longer life goes on. Then suddenly you are questioning this thing called family and wondering what in the world you were thinking. Sure, the kids were cute but for the past few months, you feel a constant and nagging sense of frustration that crawls on your skin the minute they tear through the living room with their muddy boots. Instead of being that mom that is depicted on such shows as Little Bear, you have become the wicked and evil witch of Hansel and Gretel who is ready to stick her kids in the oven the first chance she gets. And dad, you too are guilty, feeling supercharged that no matter how exciting the football game gets, there isn’t a singular moment that is safe meaning – you could miss the game winning play or be summoned to take out the trash. You need a break. You need to get away from it all. You talk about it with your friends and think about your imaginary life without children while releasing a large ‘aha’ dramatic enough to make the next Calgon commercial. So you make a plan.
You and the wife decide to get a way for a bit. Or perhaps you have so much work to catch up on that your spouse decides to give you a break and take the children to the in-laws for a long weekend. Either way, you are sans children for a momentary lapse of time and even before it starts, you are thinking Heaven, right? Nobody calling your name. No one bouncing a ball in the living room while you are trying to talk on the phone. No one saying they are hungry, no one who will wake up at 2am, no one whose nap you have to navigate around just to get the shopping done. Your car will be without car seats, meaning you don’t have to stretch and bend to buckle in wiggly children. There are no sippy cups to fill, no homework to check, no rooms to clean, no laundry lying on the bathroom floor. You even consider walking around naked, sleeping in until noon only to go back to bed at 2pm for a nap. You imagine staying up all night, watching movies that are laden with curse words and sex scenes. Yep Heaven! Countdown begins and you feel like a kid waiting for Christmas.
Then, they are gone. The kids have left the building. You walk back in your house and everything feels sort of different. Your house is silent. You can hear the walls still settling and when you sit down on the sofa, there is nothing neither wet nor hard that pokes your butt. And the remote is all yours. Chances are you keep the television off just so you can enjoy the one thing in your life that has been missing since the day you had children. Quiet. Really, how many times do you say it to the children, putting your finger to your lips like a teacher with a soothing ‘Shhhh!’ You crave peace and quiet like a pregnant woman craves pickles. And now you got it.
All those things that you have been wishing you could do if only you didn’t have to take care of children are all in reach. You could finish that masonry project. Stay in bed and make love to your spouse all day. You could even paint the living room, kitchen, and dining room in one day. You can order take out for dinner. You can spend all day on the computer finishing up your work without interruptions. At any rate, in a life without children anything is possible. You may even wonder why all those single, family-less people aren’t the richest, most successful people in the world. After all, what else do they have to do but make money and get things done? You stretch out in the peace and quiet and begin moving through your world without children, feeling a sort of freedom that has been lost for years. Or maybe even forever. The first few hours are heaven sent. And then it hits you.
As nice as it is to get away from the children they sure do add a lot to your life. You realize just how adept you have become at multi tasking so many things and stealing the enriching hugs and love that only exists when a child grabs your hand. You tackle a few more tasks that like painting are difficult to finish with a houseful of kids and realize that there is no one to give you a break. A football lying on the floor reminds you that just last week you were out in the yard all day teaching your son how to throw. The ballerina slipper that has been lost for weeks is found as you are deep cleaning the living room. You wish you could call your daughter and tell her you found it, just so you could see the expression on her face when you tell her. There is something priceless and unexplainable about the way a child looks at their parent.
The day rolls on and the longer you are away, the more you begin to miss the things you thought you could live without. Dinner seems boring with no one else at the table and eating your meal while it’s actually hot seems pretty over rated. The dishwasher has been rendered useless with just one or two dishes to watch and your spouse, who you have been waiting to get alone with for years now, is boring and dull when he or she is not being a parent. Nighttime comes and there is no one to tuck into bed. No story that you are so tried of reading, to read to anyone, but you pick up the book anyways. You reach that one part that your child loves the most and realize that without her laughing at the way you read the line, the meaning is lost.
At some point, you begin to question this craving of peace and quiet. It definitely gives you too much time to think and the more you think, the more you think of your family. When we are away from the people we love, we often realize just how much we love them. Although our routines may be crazy hectic and often nerve racking, they are routines nonetheless. And these routines include the people that we love the most in life. For the first time in perhaps a long time, you crave a little noise. The house without children seems empty. The heart without children seems emptier still.
Life without children may sound good. The truth however is that you have already lived it. During that phase of your life, you – like most people, couldn’t wait to climb aboard the family bus and take a ride. Your life revolved around having children and building a life for yourself that is completely opposite of the one that you now have. But fulfilling just the same. Then when the family blooms, you wish you could go back. The thing is that while it might be nice to go back to life without children for one or two moments, it isn’t what you really want. That old you, that you sometimes think was left behind the oil paintings you started but never finished no longer exists. And you realize what makes you whole is sitting on the sofa, or the floor of your living room, popping a bag of popcorn and renting a movie about a mouse, a vampire, a princess or a toy and sitting with your family. Sure, it might be so noisy and chaotic that the children never really watch the movie. Someone will be upset about the last piece of popcorn being eaten and your living room will definitely look like a movie theatre after a feature film. You probably won’t be able to sit next to your spouse because the children will squeeze right in. But you will find and feel that you are exactly, precisely and entirely where you belong and feel happiest. In YOUR life WITH YOUR children!