If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: Moms (or Dads) of teens (and other kids that try their patience) need a place they can retreat to, at a moment’s notice, to get away from them. To think before flying too far off the handle. To de-escalate a situation, eliminate whining and cut the exchange of words short, with the promise of discussion at a calmer time. To be alone in order to come up with really good consequences for certain behavior rather than “grounding them from everything for life” in the heat of the moment. In other words, when the kids are too old to “go to their rooms” for a time out, you need to go to yours. Or take a walk outside. Just get away… only, sometimes that’s not so fun to go to your room, like when your husband hasn’t picked up his underwear and socks for awhile… and, kids can still knock on your door. Or yell outside it. Or worse, kick it. (Nothing makes a defiant kid madder than to have a door shut in his/her face!) And, while going outside can be refreshing, sometimes it’s too dark to walk, or the weather’s bad. And again, kids can follow you (no, let me re-phrase that…they will follow you!). So I must say, once my husband gifted me with a laptop almost two years ago, it turned out to be the gateway for another kind of “parent retreat”– I’ve been having fun discovering all the local places that have free WiFi, good coffee, and long hours. Lately, thanks to a nifty carry bag said husband got me for Christmas, that laptop, plus my planner, phone, and a couple of books, are “ready to go” at a moment’s notice, and I head to Starbucks, the public library, or other local spots, and take my work on the road.
It’s been interesting– I can now tell you which Starbucks within five miles of my house (and there are 10) has the most power sources, which are the least crowded at certain times of the day, which give you the most privacy, which have the best tables on which to work, and which ones have the best lo-carb food selections. I can also tell you the best spots to get work done at the library and which coffee is the best out of their machine. I am a Freebirds Fanatic, a “My Panera” member, and carry a Cup of Joe punch card from Corner Bakery.
While I haven’t gone to any of those places enough for their staff to know me by name, they might soon, because I’m thinking of making my office-away-from-home a regular gig. At least in the mornings.
See, as kids get older, they need to take on more responsibility, but I think when you’re a Stay At Home Mom (SAHM) or Work at Home Mom (WAHM), they get short-changed a little on this. Because they assume that because you’re home all the time, you can always be their emergency back-up. Not only are they more forgetful on remembering things because they always think there’s the slight chance Mom might bring to school whatever they forgot, they get lax in other areas as well. They head to the school nurse’s office for minor hurts, not major. They run late to school more often. Did they miss their ride with Dad? No worries, they think, Mom is still at home and she can drive. It doesn’t matter that that’s a waste of gas, that Dad goes right by their schools on his way to work…and Mom doesn’t. The important thing is that Mom is there. Did they “sleep in” and decide to skip a couple classes? Well, good ‘ol Work-At-Home-Mom is there to take them in the middle of the morning so at least they can sashay in and make it on time for third period. No thought is ever given that maybe Mom has better things to do than re-arrange her schedule to accommodate theirs. But of course she will, because she doesn’t want kids lazing around the house all day! (And as far as us using grounding, phone gone, etc. as punishments for being late or missing classes? Hasn’t changed the behavior!)
I’ve seen miraculous things happen on those rare days when I’ve had early meetings outside of the house. The kids seem to move a little faster. They know Mom is going to be gone “all morning” so they get their act together. There is no “sleeping in”, no whining to Mom about how they’re-running-late-so-could-she-PLEASE-make-them-a-lunch… On those days, things happen the way they should for two teens. They take on more responsibility. So I’ve decided I’m going to re-create that scenario as often as possible from now on and start heading out each morning, whether I have a meeting or not, before the rest of the family crew is scheduled to leave, and head to one of my trusty offices-away-from-home. Which means I’d have to get there pretty early, but that’s okay– my favorite Starbucks opens at 5! True, that means I’ll have to spend at least a couple dollars each time (I’ll take a tall regular of the bold Roast of the Day, thank you very much!) but it will be worth it. I think it will force my kids to be more responsible on a regular basis and I will probably get more work done as well. And if my husband (or child) calls to tell me that one of them “missed the boat”, oh, well, I guess I’ll just spend that day out. Maybe I’ll keep a duffel bag filled with workout gear in my car so I can head to exercise class in between stops at my “offices”…
Does that make some of you sad, thinking I’m going to be missing out on those June Cleaver, stay-at-home moments by not being present when my family leaves for the day? I’ve had plenty of those moments. Of smiling and waving to the car as it backs out of the driveway; of running after it with shoes or lunchboxes or hairbrushes in my hands; of having crispy bacon or freshly-baked chocolate chip muffins ready for husband and children as they pass thru the kitchen on their way out the door…but in the sitcom of my life, kids being routinely late to class or skipping them all together is much more serious business than smiling and saying, “Wait ’til your father gets home.” And since our school district’s rules on unexcused absences are ridiculously lenient and aren’t providing the “natural consequences” that I’d hoped, this June Cleaver is going to have to go away. Literally. (But I still plan to hug each family member every morning before I do…)