Ever get a question at a party that stops you cold? In the midst of idle chit-chat, you get a zinger that snaps you right out of that lost-in-the-moment feeling when you’re taking a breather from your mom life, only to be bum-rushed right back in?
That’s what happened to me last week when the husband of an old high school friend asked me, “What do you do for fun?”
Me? For fun? I had no idea what to say. At least not an answer that sounded especially conventional. I mean, I do have fun, every day, playing with my three young sons. I belly laugh along with them when one can no longer take my tickling. I can’t get enough of the feeling when all three crowd around me to read a story. I love hearing one of my twins use a new word or seeing how excited my 3-year-old gets about going for a swim or on his first train ride.
Going on a dinner date with my husband is great for my soul. Getting out for a run on the greenway clears my mind. I still find my escape in writing. Crying my way through an episode of “This is Us” feels oddly good. But fun, as in, a hobby? An activity that’s just for and about me? No, I haven’t made much time for that.
My best bet for personal time is at 8 p.m. or later, after the boys are not only in bed, but asleep. It’s not exactly prime time for outside engagements. And I feel like I’m already asking my husband to do his share of bedtime duties just to get out for a meeting or the occasional dinner with a friend.
But “What do you do for fun” was a good question, a thought-provoking one, and it planted a seed. My friend whose husband posed it laughed and gave me a compassionate smile when I told her later what he had said. She knows there’s not much chance for “fun” given how young my kids are (3, 2 and 2), but she also reinforced how important it is to get there at some point. Her two kids are 12 and 15 so while she’s a slave to carting them around, she also has some flexibility for “fun.” She recently signed up for a pottery class, and she loves it. I need to find my own version of a pottery class.
Just being able to go to a party to get asked a thought-provoking question was branching out for me. The party was in Atlanta, where I lived my previous life as a single professional. It’s also where some of my closest friends live, including best friend who was turning 50 and hosting an elegant party at her house for the occasion. It was my first night away from my three sons in a year.
I decided to treat myself to a night at a hotel, even though two friends had offered me a place to stay. I justified it by using old hotel points I racked up in my previous working life, and it felt great. From a high-rise suite hotel room in midtown Atlanta, I felt a little like my former self.
In the three hours I had before the party started, I went for a run at Piedmont Park, happened upon a Whole Foods where I purchased two of my favorite comfort foods – a tuna fish salad and a chocolate chip cookie – and I took a long, hot shower. With the Auburn-Florida football game on in the background and the Commodores playing on my I-phone, I shaved my legs in the tub, blew my hair out straight, and took my time putting on makeup – all things I can’t possibly pull off in my usual haste to get ready.
I shared a bourbon and coke from the lobby bar with another good friend who came to the hotel to pick me up for the party. Downright rebellious, right? I had one more drink at the party, which was perfect; there was going to be no hangover to ruin how good I was feeling.
I couldn’t justify sleeping in – I needed to get back to Charlotte for my twins’ second birthday. (Yes, I had mom guilt about that, but my husband reminded me that my best friend only turns 50 once, and the twins wouldn’t remember much about the morning of their second birthday.) Still, nobody woke me up during the night, and I got to eat breakfast out with a friend at one of my favorite old Atlanta dives.
I packed so much more into 26 hours than I thought possible, and it felt so good. Just four hours in the car each way was a nice mental break. I could make uninterrupted phone calls, listen to my music, get lost in my thoughts.
I arrived home the following afternoon to an appreciative husband, two happy boys and one with a fever. Luckily the twins’ birthday celebration still went off without a hitch, but it was right straight back into the whirlwind of motherhood.
In between doctor and drug store visits the following week, missed school days and scrambling to appointments, I felt all the more grateful for my overnight reprieve and for the reminder that “fun” shouldn’t feel quite so foreign.