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Laurie Nigro
How school vacation almost killed me

Stock photo: Fotolia

It’s no secret that I think my kids are pretty great. I may have mentioned it once or 286 times before. There is no doubt that motherhood is my greatest accomplishment. No matter how much I screw up from here on out, I sent them into the world as pretty great people so I feel confident that I can blame someone else for any transgressions.

We made some pretty radical decisions when I was pregnant with my oldest. First, there was the home birth and then we decided to give it a go on one income. Though we gave up lots of meals out and vacations, what we gained was immeasurable. I was able to be there for all their moments. Good or bad, me and my kids were in it together. It allowed me to understand them and communicate with them in a way that I still cherish.

In return for this amazing experience, I fully embraced the housewife/stay-at-home mom role (as defined by me). My husband put in countless hours away from the house so I took on the rest of the responsibilities. Though I have been accused of doing too much for him, no one but me has seen his face at the end of a 19-plus-hour day, knowing he has to do it all again in a few hours.

Not once has he complained. Not once has he asked me, “what did you do all day?” Not once has he criticized me or even called the psychiatric ward when he’s walked in to find me standing over a sink of dishes, quietly singing and washing, while a child wandered around, covered head to toe in baking soda, making little, ghostly-white footprints on every floor and carpet. We take care of our own over here.

I (almost) always enjoyed spending time with my little hellions. So much so, that we decided not to let the honeymoon end. We took on homeschooling with the excitement only those who had not homeschooled prior can feel. Homeschooling is sometimes intense, usually rewarding and always full-time. As parents, we are constantly educating our children about all the aspects of life. As homeschooling parents, we’re just expanding that role slightly to include every waking hour. With no break.

After 11 heady years of being everything to these little beings, it was time for them to get the hell out. Seriously. How can one child hate writing any words so much? So off they went, out into the big, wide world of homework and people who are not me. It was scary and new and though there was some stumbling at the start, soon enough, they got up and started running, both filling my heart with pride and breaking it into little bits. So basically, what every mom ever has felt when they first send their spawn into the world, no matter what their age.

Once my dining room table was no longer a diorama of the Jurassic era and I did not have containers of mold growing in the fridge (ok, maybe those were more forgotten chicken salad and less intentional science experiments, but we made it work), I felt both free and unhinged. My entire identity was as mother and wife. I hadn’t had to stop myself from licking my thumb and rubbing unidentified stains off another person’s face in over a decade. I took a deep breath and looked around the big wide world. And waiting there, just for me, was a job.

I could not have asked for a better welcome back into Big People land. My maternal psychosis is not only tolerated, it is embraced. Actually, we’re a big group of perfectly wonderful misfits who thrive on our maternal (and paternal) psychoses and even encourage it in each other. You should see all the thumb licking at our staff meetings. Just kidding. Everyone is provided with at least four napkins prior to any eating experience. We’re not amateurs.

So here I am, a few years into the whole “working mom” thing and I still kind of suck at it. For instance, this week was school vacation, a time of freedom and joy. It’s 10 days of sleeping in and indulging one’s baser qualities — if one is a child. Since I am not a child, it nearly killed me.

School break can present quite a conundrum for working moms. As the title implies, it is a break from school. But I don’t go to school. Nor do I work in or around a school. And though I am blessed enough to have a schedule that revolves around my children, there are limits. For instance, I have to actually work during work hours.

While my kids lounged and relaxed, I tried to meet both the responsibilities of my paid employment and that of mother-extraordinaire. I know. But I’m still new here. Anyway, I did have a few days off that happened to coincide with their moments of leisure. And for some reason, I decided that those days would be super-mom days.

There was baking and concocting. I made wholesome, hot, breakfasts every morning and served it with fresh whipped cream. I made peanut butter and a kinder, gentler hand sanitizer. I picked kid’s friends up and drove them home. I hosted sleepovers — with pizza and ice cream. I scheduled haircuts and went clothes shopping — with a tween girl. I planned elaborate dinners (and then scrapped them before anyone was the wiser). I gutted, rebuilt, and redecorated bedrooms. We did an out-of-state day trip and spent all the dollars I earned. I hung my head with shame as I allowed my oldest to purchase his own Doritos. Because the natural alternative to Doritos went from delicious (to my homeschooled kid) to “communist hippy food” (to my high school kid). Yes, those were the actual words used.

By 5 p.m. on Wednesday of vacation, I was nearly dead. I had not sat down in approximately 87 hours. I was subsisting on caffeine, alcohol and cheese. My kids were rolling around like Romans on the way to the vomitorium and I was still wracked with guilt at my inadequacies as a mother. I had promised myself that I would figure out how to do a French braid this break. Just kidding. I don’t do hair. But really, I was going to teach them how to jump start a car (a skill you will actually need). Where had all the hours gone??

I never figured that out, but I did have an enlightening and encouraging chat with my hairdresser (of course —who else would it have been?). She said, “No one has it perfect. We all just do the best we can and try to figure out how to be happy.”

Seriously, how are these people so freaking wise? Well, there is no doubt that they deserve something special for standing up for 12 hours at a pop and listening to every other person complain about a life that allows them the luxury of paying someone else to cut off their split ends.

Try and make these unsung superheroes’ lives a little easier by preventing split ends in the first place. Sheknows.com has a great list of some preventative measures we can take to stop those little bastards before they even start (split ends, that is. Not our kids). Or, just give up on your hair altogether and put it in a bun every day. It’s rather freeing.

Laurie Nigro, is the mother of two biological children and one husband. She also takes care of a menagerie of animals that leave throw-up around for her to step in in the middle of the night. Laurie’s passionate about frugal, natural living, which is a nice way of saying she’s a kombucha-brewing, incense-burning, foodie freak who tries really hard not to spend money on crap made by child laborers. You can hear her rant about her muse (aka husband) and other things that have no bearing on your life, in this space each Sunday.

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Laurie Nigro

Laurie is the mother of two biological children and one husband and the caretaker of a menagerie of animals. Laurie is passionate about frugal, natural living. She was recognized by the L.I. Press Club with a “best humor column” award in 2016. Email Laurie