Leaving the house alone is always an event for me. Aaron can get up in the morning, get himself dressed, look at his computer for a while and then casually decide to get up and walk out and drive away like it’s no big deal. He’ll be chased down by a few children insisting on goodbye hugs of course, and sometimes the littlest guys ask if they can go with him too. But for the most part he leaves, and comes back, and leaves again, on his own terms.
I might be jealous.
Before I leave in the morning for my one office day a week I make breakfast for at least one child and make sure they are wearing clothes. Sometimes I have to sneak out so a person doesn’t cry, which is no small feat. I have to hug everyone. I have to remind everyone what they are doing for the day. I have to answer a million questions about what they can or can’t do while I’m gone, even though there’s another adult there to care for them. I make sure to leave money to pay for things. (They hand deliver the water bill around here, and wait until you pay them.) I have to make sure I have everything the baby needs for the day. But most of all I have to listen to the refrain of, “AWW! Why are you leaving AGAIN Mommy?”
Once I’m finally out the gate, hair blowing in the wind, cruising down the highway, it’s awesome. I feel so free. I could go anywhere. I could go to the store and not have anyone climbing on me, shouting for my attention, asking if we can buy things, or tearing off down the aisles. I could buy ice cream and not have to share with anyone! I could be completely alone, by myself, and think in complete sentences! What I most often do is drive to the office and work with minimal interruption for several hours, or have meetings, before going back home.
But then there’s the reentry. I get in the door and there are five people who demand to reconnect with me. If you have one child, or two, this is pretty straightforward. They each get to talk to you for a while and then you go have dinner. (At least, I imagine it that way.) Five kids take a bit longer, and they tend to speak over top of each other in order to get your attention. Let’s assume they each need about half an hour to tell me all about their day, the triumphs, the hurts, the accomplishments, the jokes. That’s two and one half hours of talking to people after a full day of working!!!
|They need me. Like seriously need, not just want. I’m vital to their well being. And don’t let their size fool you. Those gargantuan ones need me just as much. Maybe more. Even if they are less clingy now.|
Worse is leaving around bed time. Don’t kid yourself that my children go to sleep when I’m gone at bed time. No. They lay in bed keeping themselves awake so that when I get home they can call to me to come and hug them and then tearfully tell me how sad they were that I wasn’t there to read to them and tuck them in and “Why did you have to go somewhere at bed time?”
Add to this that I like my kids. I don’t like leaving them often. My heart prefers to be with them.
So when you invite a mom of many kids to join you for coffee for a few hours one morning, I want you to understand the cost benefit analysis that she has to go through.
She may enjoy your company. She may really like the idea of getting away for a few hours of adult conversation. What she doesn’t like is the work it will take to get past the weeping masses and out of the house and all the re entry work it will take when she gets home again. Sometimes she’s just exhausted by the thought of leaving the house. If she’s an introvert it’s even more exhausting to consider.
If your friend says no to your invitations more often than she says yes, or if she hesitates every time you invite her, it’s probably not because she doesn’t like you. It’s because parenting many children is a time consuming energy sucking thing and she may just not have it in her to put in all the work required to go do something “fun and relaxing”.
So please, don’t stop inviting your friend to coffee, to ladies night out, to that Bible study she can’t bring her kids to that starts just before bed time. Sometimes she may choose to go. But please understand that when she says no, it’s not you. Even if she likes the idea of it, sometimes the reality is just too exhausting for it to be worth it.
But, she probably won’t turn you down if you call her to say, “I’m picking up coffee for both of us and coming over to see you.” That, she can do.