I’m a selfish parent, which makes me kind of a crappy parent. I have a solid distaste for parenting logistics. I can’t stand making school lunches. I hate filling out permission slips. Counting out the exact change for a field trip, sealing it in an envelope, and tucking it into my daughter’s backpack for safe delivery drives me insane. Why? A rock-hard nugget of knowing nestled deep inside my belly tells me I’ll be counting out that same damn change the very next day because said child managed to lose said envelope.
It’s not that I don’t recognize or experience the joyful parts of parenting as well. I love the cuddles, the kisses, the pride of witnessing a flash of insight — “Mommy, I get it! A bus actually stops at the bus stop! Whoever named it that must have been really smart.”
It’s just that the day-in-day-out drudgery sometimes outweighs the wonder. I’m a woman with dreams and aspirations and no time to pursue them because I’m too busy shuttling, cleaning, cooking, and all-round bedazzling. I am, in point of fact, more than a mother. I think. In my lowest moments, I resent having ever gotten involved with this parenting business in the first place.
Of course, the minute I lay eyes on one of my daughters I’m immediately ashamed. Unless the child is whining. Or sticky.
In 2010, the situation had become such that I had nearly checked out of our family altogether. I became a zombified version of myself. Granted, other factors besides my aversion to mommy logistics were involved. But it did seem that my main purpose in life was to fill the roles everyone else needed me to fill —as a wife, mother, and adoption advocate. I was never just Kristine, and I was terribly unhappy. I began modeling for my daughters the exact type of woman I hoped they would never become.
So I did something I considered quite drastic. I went to Paris for ten days. Alone. With no kids, no husband, and no particular plan. I was completely free to make decisions affecting no one but myself. Red or white wine with my moules-frites? How about both? I can get drunk if I want to. There’s no homework to review. No laundry to wash. I was accountable to no one but myself.
It was freeing. And restorative. I got a full night’s sleep for ten delicious nights — in a row. For the first time in years, I had true quiet time. This gave me the chance to examine my life from an unrushed distance. What was working? What wasn’t? Why was I so unhappy when all my problems were First World ones?
No, I didn’t find all the answers. But I did get to know myself again. And I discovered that I actually liked her quite a bit. I uncovered a compassion for her that had previously been absent.
And I realized this: Parenting may be primarily what I do, but it is not fully who I am.
Am I still a selfish parent? Hell yes. Am I still a crappy parent? Pretty much. I wish I could say that I left that part of myself in France, but I didn’t. Thanks to some time alone, however, I now know that I can be a better mother to my children if I parent them as a whole person — with a little bit of Post-Paris Kristine mixed in.