Everybody loves a three-day weekend, right? Wrong. I would argue that parents in general love them oh-so-slightly less than child-free folks, but let me tell you: single parents hate them the most. For regular-old partnered parents? An extended weekend is pretty okay! One parent takes the kids to the park while the other enjoys brunch with friends; then, they swap while the other parent gets to go to their favorite, IDK, axe-throwing class or whatever. And everybody reconvenes for family dinner. Fun! For single parents like me, ALAS AND ALACK. NOT SO.
As your single-parent pals (what, you don’t have any? I’m not surprised, because we SPs are all too tired to be very much fun) will likely tell you, a three-day weekend means three days, not two, of waking up at 6 AM like always — but without the blessed respite that comes at 8:15 AM Monday-Friday when we’re driving away from the school parking lot basking in the blissful silence. Honestly, that six-minute silent drive is pretty much the closest I get to a spa day.
I’ll admit that, as a remote worker, I have an extra sweet gig. I work what feels like constantly, including frequent nights and weekends, but I get to do it in my home office, surrounded by plants and my child’s artwork, with a cat on my lap and an essential oil diffuser going, and plentiful snacks nearby. I also get to work while the laundry/dishwasher runs and a couch is delivered and a technician is spraying the basement for fleas (it’s eco-friendly pesticides? I think??) — I don’t have to take time out of my work to get those Life Things done. Yes, I have hella carpal tunnel and am becoming more and more farsighted by the day, but all in all, my work situation includes huge benefits (essential oil diffuser!) that far too many workers do not have.
But still. If you are a working adult, chances are you work with… other adults. I mean, for a single parent, that alone is an epic treat. Adult conversation! Water-cooler schmoozing! Are you kidding me? Sign me up. Also, as a working adult, maybe you sit at a computer all day (hey, getting to sit down can be nice) or maybe you do manual labor (moving your body can also be nice) or work with your hands or fold T-shirts or use your creative skills or all of the above. But chances are, whatever your job is, you are not being asked to perform it while also stepping on Legos, cleaning up bathroom accidents and making five different kinds of grilled cheese sandwiches because the last four just didn’t cut it. Unless you work in childcare, in which case, bless you.
My point is: I love my son, Silas. In fact, I’m pretty obsessed with him and I tend to drag him everywhere with me. But that love is best fostered and supported with the help of a regular school-day/childcare schedule. Because when I’m with my kid, I want to be with him. I don’t want to be typing (because I’m still working) or scrolling or zoning out (because I’m totally, energetically tapped out and running on unpaid Mom Overtime hours).
Sure, this doesn’t always work out the way I want it to; many an evening, my son watches a cartoon before or after dinner while I try to finish up with work. But on weekends, at the very least, that’s our inalienable time together. Or at least I really, really want it to be. I may not be great at “playing” with my kid (when playing involves making two plastic creatures have conversations, I struggle), but I know for a fact that I’m his favorite story-reader, bike racer, tree-climbing assistant, and damn if he and I are not some sort of coloring book team phenomenon. Those things are what our weekends are for. That, and brunches and family yoga and Silas’ ballet classes and hiking and building forts and happy hours with friends while Silas runs around the beer garden trying to dangerously teach himself bocce ball.
But after two days of being all Mom, all the time? I need an effing break. And lucky for me, just like clockwork, that break comes at 8:15 AM Monday when I drive away from school in silence and take a deep breath. I go home, make coffee, put on a record, light some palo santo like the millennial I am, and turn on my computer. It’s not much — and, yes, it’s piteously sandwiched between my mom hours and my work hours — but it’s a tiny space and time just for me. Except on three-day weekends (or, I cringe at the thought, actual weeks-long school breaks), it is stolen from me.
Because if the school and work three-day weekends don’t match up, which they often don’t, it means I’ve got a shouting kid and his 12-year-old babysitter (in the words of John Mulaney, “like hiring a horse to watch your dog”) scrambling around my house all day while I try to shut myself in my office and work. And if the school/work holidays do match up, it means I have to ration my Weekend Mom Energy (WME) through three days rather than two, and chances are, I’m going to be dead tired and at least somewhat phoning it in by Monday afternoon. And that not only bums me out; it mean’s I’m not being present for my kid. And he deserves a parent who’s fully present. Every kid does.
So here we go again: another school break, another day of mustering up the WME for more hours of tree-climbing, bike racing, swing-pushing, story-reading, tower-building, grilled cheese making and re-making, pee accident cleaning, and lots of hugs. It’s worth it in the end; this sweet, wise little guy is worth anything, in my book. But man if it isn’t the most exhausting thing I’ve ever done.
So if you see my kid at the nail salon this holiday, watching cartoons on his iPad while I get a pedicure, don’t @ me. I’m just doing my best — just like every parent, solo or not.
— Amelia Edelman
This article originally appeared on SheKnows.