Last night I realized that today I would have an entire, unscheduled day ahead of me, with no work, no play-dates planned, no outside obligations - rien, nichts, nada. (I'm just double checking my Google calendar to make sure I didn't forget about something...) What a glorious prospect! Then, worry set in. (This is one of my character traits that drives my husband batty - the ability to turn every good and simple thing into a cause for worry.) What do I do with this precious commodity? I don't want to waste it. Do I take the girls and go to one of the myriad venues on my mental list of places to go when I have a full day off work? Suddenly, I can't think of anywhere I want to go alone with two little ones all day. By myself. With no backup. Hmmm...Our next door neighbors and built-in-playmates are all on vacation. Do I set up a playdate with one of the many people that I've been wanting to see, and just haven't had the time until now? (You know, the friend 5 blocks away who had her second baby a year ago, and I've already unwrapped the gift I bought for her to use for my own kid because I still haven't made it over and she's outgrown it?) I love playdates - sometimes for the simple reason that my children are occupied and I get to visit with a friend. At the same time, it means I'm not really spending time with my girls. Or do I stay home - STAY HOME! - and putter, try to make those kale chips I've been thinking about, wander to the garden and pick the remaining peas, hang out with my girls in the backyard - with not even a side-trip to the playground? Ding ding ding ding ding! We have a winner, folks!
The problem with this, though, (and here is where my husband is walking away from me and the conversation), is when I'm home, I see a mess. I see all the things that need to be fixed. Try as I might, I can't seem to ignore what needs to be done in the interest of just hanging out with the girls on the floor for uninterrupted hours of play. Even if I split my time, play a little - clean a little, the little ones seem to undo faster than I do, so it's basically a lost cause. (I'll have to figure this balance out, though, as I will soon be home full-time and responsible for both the cleanliness of our home, and the daily mental and emotional stimulation of our children.) There's something inside of me that feels the need to accomplish something tangible to justify my existence. (Not on a large scale, though, like committing to a career or anything. More along the lines of seeing that the dishes are done, or the floor is vacuumed.)
The other problem with staying home is my fear of missing out. I think that has to do with living in this wonderful city called Chicago, this city that has a crazy amount of fun things to do in the summer. I could visit Millenium Park regularly, drive to Garfield Park Conservatory, or the Chicago Botanic Gardens, or spend the day at any of the beaches along Lake Michigan. There are a half a dozen museums to visit, all within a 15 minute walk or drive. There are music, dance, soccer, art, you-name-it, classes for every age child. There is the lure of shopping downtown (even though the sales tax is insane), and going to Ghiradelli. There are at least two zoos within 20 miles. There are family friendly farmer's markets on any given day. There are so many playgrounds to try, unique neighborhoods to visit, and on and on. It's a far cry from what was available to us out in the small town where I grew up. I'm sure my mom wasn't worrying about whether to go to Binder Park Zoo or the Turkey Farm every day, because that's basically all there was for the entire year. And of course, those places were reserved for special visitors on special occasions. So we stayed home most days, and we weren't missing anything. But here, in Chicago, there's so much choice!
And therein lies my quandry. I'm not good with choices. I want it all. I want balance. I want to stay home with my kids and enjoy a long, drawn-out summer day, with no schedule, no train to catch, no laundry that must be done - with no worry that I'm not do-ing enough.
Not to do. That is the answer.