I am a social introvert. I love people. I love talking (as anyone who knows me well knows far too well). I really do love cities and all the things that cities offer.
But I also value being alone.
This last semester of teaching was an odd semester for me. I had a wonderful student teacher who taught three of my periods out of the day, giving me a lot of quality alone time in the yearbook room. I hid in the room, turned on Pandora to the Barenaked Ladies radio station, and worked. That alone time helped me deal with the stress of first year challenges as a yearbook adviser and the looming decision to follow God’s guidance and pick up and move our family down to Texas. But eventually during the day I would have to come out. I needed adult conversation and I was eager to get back to the students that I still had the pleasure of teaching three periods a day. I wasn’t lonely. I was just refreshed. And there were days that I really needed the break from people.
When May hit I didn’t stop running. For the last two months I have been wife, mom, teacher, contractor, yearbook adviser, social planner, house seller and buyer…and the list could keep going. I didn’t stop moving and, unless I was walking the puppy, I wasn’t alone. My daughter got out of school the day after I did, which meant that when I went to school to clean out my room, she was right there with me. In years past I have had a couple days where the kids would both be at daycare while I wrapped up things in my classroom. This year I was not only wrapping things up, I was packing things up, and I was doing it with at least one kid in tow every day.
And I’m sure that my SAHM friends are right now saying “poor you.”
I get it. There are disadvantages and advantages to both parenting decisions. I know that my SAHM friends treasure the time with their kiddos that I desperately miss during the school year. But I know that one advantage of being a working mom is alone time. There isn’t much, but I still get it on a regular basis.
When you are an introvert, alone time is a necessity for sanity. We need it to recharge. Many introverts do love people, they just love to be around them in measured amounts. Then they need to step away and recharge. The problem with the last couple months is that all alone time for me wasn’t recharge time. It was sleepless work time. We had a house to get ready to sell so I was regularly staying up late, sometimes with and sometimes without my husband, getting projects such as tile completed. Then we were cleaning and patching and making sure the house was ready to show the next day.
And then in the midst of all of this moving chaos, we were reminded that I would be spending nine days away from home.
See, I applied to be an AP reader in January, long before interviews were conducted and decisions were made. I was invited to be an AP reader shortly before interviews were conducted and decisions were made. And before we knew it, the school year was over, we had accepted an offer on our house, I had a growing to-do list of things that needed to be done before a move, and I was boarding a plane to spend nine days away from my family so I could spend eight hours a day reading student essays in Kansas City.
But right now I am sitting in an airport, waiting for my flight home, and I’m feeling refreshed. Somehow I ended up without a roommate, which meant that every night, after spending eight hours with 1400 of my closest AP reader friends, I got to go to my room and sit by myself. I worked out. I walked to the shops by the hotel. I worked on my kids’ photo books. I fixed our budget. I spent WAY too much time looking at houses on realtor.com. I sent email after email related to move issues. And then I talked to my kids and my increasingly exhausted, amazing husband.
At one point I told my husband that I was torn about not being assigned a roommate (somehow my roommate got lost). In some ways it was isolating. While other readers who were traveling alone at least had someone to talk to at night and possibly walk with, I was on my own little island. But then he told me that I needed some alone time and he was right.
In a culture that treasures togetherness, it is important to remember that there are those of us who need time to be still. We are often not given permission to do that. And moms are often guilted into believing that to seek alone time is to neglect our duties as wives and mothers. If we ask for alone time, we are being selfish. And often I feel guilty knowing that I get more alone time than so many of my friends who stay at home all day with their kids. They get amazing experiences that I don’t get during the day, but it comes at a cost. I know plenty who could have used the time that I had during the last week and for that I do feel a little guilty. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t appreciate it. I did.
In a couple of hours I will be rejoining the rat race. I will be reunited with my family and will have to figure out how to get my excited kids to bed so that I can have a conversation with my amazing husband without the phone hanging up on us. I missed my family desperately and I THINK my family missed me, at least by the end. But hopefully I am refreshed enough to get through this four week push to our (still undetermined) moving date. I believe it will make a difference.
Sarah is a high school English teacher, yearbook adviser, wife to an amazingly supportive husband, and mom to two quickly growing kiddos. When she’s not working to balance life as a working mom, she uses this space to write about the wonderful complexities of life as a wife, mother, and teacher, as well as her family’s camping adventures whenever they can get out of town.
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