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The Full Spectrum: I Finally Got Rid Of The Kids…And Now I Miss Them

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After a long winter trapped in the house with the kids, I had anxiously been awaiting the arrival of summer and the freedom that comes with hot, balmy weather. For my family, the season means long days at camp, weekends at the family cottage and, best of all, my big plan for summer 2011: having the kids spend an entire week up north with my parents while my husband and I work our jobs in the city. That’s right, an entire week without kids! Sure, we’d be working, but still – and office job is a breeze compared to the way more challenging job of parenting. It was truly the best plan ever.

Only a few short years ago, a mom like me would be embarrassed to admit that she was not only looking forward to time away from her kids but also actively planning for it. Role models at the time, like Kathy Lee Gifford and Martha Stewart, preached that moms could and should do it all. But, lately, there has been a distinct shift: the anti-mom is having her zeitgeist moment.

Mommy bloggers everywhere are shouting loud and proud about the hardships of parenting and our desire to get rid of the kids, if even for a couple of hours (or, let’s be honest, days). In my own weekly column here at Mommyish, I’ve been unabashed about my desire for kid-less freedom and I even wrote recently about ways to “beat the heat” without really having to spend too much time entertaining your children.

In other words, it’s cool to be a “bad mom” in 2011. Or, to be clear, it seems to be that the new good mom is a bad mom. Books like Good Enough is the New Perfect are touting the new party line that both moms and kids would be better off with a little less interference. I, for one, was pleased as punch with this new paradigm shift.

In fact, I’ve never shied away from being perfectly honest about my feelings about parenthood. As much as I love my kids, I have been known to tell friends that I can imagine a very full life without children. I’ve even pondered out loud if the kids wouldn’t be better off without me – in moments of extreme frustration where my only way out seemed to be running away.

And so summer 2011 came with a bang and the kids were off to camp and having a blast.  The long days at camp were great for me, too, as I was suddenly free from the stress of figuring out carpool and after-school schedules. My boys were zonked and ready to chill when they arrived home each day, which made for a pretty easy evening routine. Then, on most weekends, my parents would pick the kids up from camp on a Friday and drive them up to the cottage, telling me to show up “whenever.” What more could an anti-mom dream of? In my mind, I was head of the new movement!

So you’d think that, in true anti-mom fashion, I’d be moseying my way up to the cottage on Saturday late afternoon, taking my time and enjoying the quiet of the house and car ride. But you’d be wrong.

Beginning in July, I found myself willingly racing up to the cottage after work on Fridays. I even started telling my parents not to take the kids when I knew I couldn’t make it there ’til Saturday. This is unheard of in my world.

At first I didn’t even admit to myself that something had changed within me – never mind announcing it to the world. This just wasn’t my brand. Then, as the August long weekend approached and I was packing for the kids’ extended stay at the cottage, I was still really excited to have a week in the city without them. I envisioned myself working as long as I wanted (pathetic, I know), going for dinner and movies with my husband, and hanging with friends. Basically, living my pre-kid life.

The first evening we arrived home from work to an empty house, my husband and I immediately headed back out for dinner and a movie. Beautiful. The following day I went to work and stayed until 7:30 p.m., getting everything done without rushing and without guilt. Fabulous. Then I came home and did nothing. I didn’t feel like going for dinner or socializing. And even if I had wanted to go out, no one was around to do any of that. They were all with their kids. Meanwhile, I was missing my kids like never before and I really just wanted to be with them and be part of the great time they were having up north.

I shared my new feelings (quietly) with my best friend, who announced, “You’ve finally gotten over your postpartum depression!” (For the record, my youngest son just turned six.)

I don’t really know what had changed: Was it that the kids were older and easier? Had I made peace with my complicated life? Had I finally accepted my oldest son’s challenges with Aspergers and ADHD?

I didn’t really have the answers and I still don’t. All I know is that the summer that was meant to be all about me turned out to be all about us. But, shhh, don’t tell anyone. I have a reputation to uphold here.

(Photo: iStockphoto)