On Friday nights, I'm not a mom.
That’s a little dramatic. Basically, on Fridays, I take the night off. I don’t pick up anyone from school. I do not drop anyone anywhere. No one is allowed to ask me what’s for dinner. It does not concern me because Dad’s in charge. It’s Mom’s Night Off.
The origin of Mom’s Night Off was this… I needed one night a week when someone didn’t ask me what was for dinner.
It is the question that drives me most up the wall as a parent. What’s for dinner?
I. don’t. know. You tell me what’s for dinner.
Every day, the same question. Sometimes they’ll ask me in the morning before school, when I am pouring my first cup of coffee, “Hey, Mom. What are we having for dinner tonight?” Never a suggestion or a craving, just a need to know what I had planned.
W. is one of those people who if he doesn’t know what the plan is, develops anxiety. It’s part of his condition, but also part of his personality. He hates surprises. Regardless of what my answer is, it comforts him to know what’s coming up. The problem is if I tell him, quesadillas and end up picking up a pizza, I have to listen to ten rounds of, “But you said we were eating quesadillas?”
While Behr, on the other hand, only asks so he can convince me that whatever I I had in mind is a horrible idea. “Quesadillas? But we haven’t had pizza all week. Wouldn’t tonight normally be the night for pizza? I think we should totally have pizza.” This is not a discussion I want to have at the end of the day.
But they need to know and they will hassle me until they get an answer.
My job is also a barrage of neediness. I love teaching college students, but they real needy. They don’t mean to be needy. Some of them are worse than others. It’s just a fact. I need you to read this for me. I need to know what’s due this week. I haven’t got my book yet, I need you to excuse me from the assigned reading. I need you to tell me how to do this assignment. And then there are the needs of my university. I need you to complete this Qualtronics survey. I need you to complete this report. I need you to respond to this issue. Emails all day long full of needs.
One night, I told Hubs, “I want a night off. I need one night where no one needs me for anything.”
I chose Friday. Friday is the best night of the week because you have the whole weekend ahead of you. We were in the apartment then. I would cook or pick up dinner for myself, then hide in my bedroom all night. Hubs ordered dinner for the boys and would bounce them from walking in and burdening me with their needs. I was pretty content. Me, a bottle of wine, an eye mask, and truly, truly trashy television (ever hear of Love After Lock Up? I have!)
And I do this every week. On Fridays, I get my hair done or run errands. Sometimes I drive out to the outlet mall in Woodstock. I’m in no rush, because I am not responsible for picking up anyone from school. I’ll be in Bath and Body Works smelling all the candles and I’ll get a call from Hubs telling me he had the boys and wishing me a Happy Mom’s Night Off. Or some Fridays I don’t do anything. I wear cozies and fart around on my phone online shopping, playing Cookie Jam, or digging around on Pinterest.
And I don’t feel guilty about this one bit. Despite what people assume about me, I am not an extrovert. I am 100% an introvert who just happens not to be intimidated by talking to people. I was trained on the flea market grounds to make nice conversations with complete strangers. But at the end of the day, I need some time alone. Parents are not always allowed that. At night, my kids want to hang out, watch TV, and play games, and that’s after a ton of homework or other human responsibilities like consuming food, cleaning up, or folding clothes. I love my kids; I enjoy their company. But one night a week, it’s nice that I can be responsible for only myself.
And what’s funny is that everyone looks forward to Friday nights. Mom’s Night Off has been renamed Guys’ Night, which is when the bros hang out, eat pizza, and bro out with Star Wars, video games, and Regular Show. Hubs gets the best end of the deal because while Mom’s tucked away in her studio and the bros are upstairs bro-ing out, he gets more time to himself playing video games.
Every once in a while, Hubs will come to see me during Mom’s Night Off, a bowl of cereal in his hand, “I don’t want to step on Mom’s Night, but can I sit with you a while?”
“As long as you don’t comment on what I’m watching.” On the TV will be 90 Day Fiance, Pretty Little Liars, Gossip Girl, or the deeper dives into Celebrity Marriage Boot Camp, Love After Lock Up, or one of the many selections from the ID Hub on Discovery Plus.
Not commenting on what I am watching is a struggle for him. He’s truly appalled by some of the things I watch, but he’s a super snob who watches all the Oscar-nominated films at the greater art house theatres in Atlanta.
Often what ends up happening is he’ll stay a while because we’ll get to talking and laughing about other things. I told him that it reminds me of when we were dating and he would come to see me at the little house I lived in alone before we got married. When he’s in the studio, that’s all my space. My furniture, my bottles of nail polish on the table next to my chair, my piles of books and notebooks, my pink throw blankets and pillows, my soft lighting, my woodsy candles. In the living room, we had to agree on all the furnishings, the color scheme, and the adornments. It’s a space that is “ours” which means the kids leave their homework, Legos, game controllers, and other things laying around. It’s as cluttery and communal as a dorm common room. The studio is warm, smells good, and fosters creativity.
Another benefit to him stopping by my space, and because it’s Mom’s Night Off, is it doesn’t have all that romantic pressure of a “date night” where we inevitably have the I want to do this/no, I want to do something different conversation. In here, we just hang. It’s actually more fun and romantic. And I have the option to kick him out if I want.
That might sound like what I enjoy is control. And perhaps that’s true as well. Something about agreeing to a lifetime commitment to another is somehow always translated into a loss of control, a constant compromise to the other. Give it all to the partner, give it all to the kids, give it all to the work. And my compulsion is to see a need and fulfill it. It’s probably why my email box is full of neediness. They know they can bring their needs to me and I will fulfill them. I answer their questions, help them hunt for resources, and resolve minor problems. And by resolving those needs, that’s a sense of accomplishment and control as well.
I used to be the kind of person who burned myself out on work, projects, friends, and family; I gave to everyone. I was sleeping next to my phone in the event that someone would text me in the night because they needed me for something – to answer their question, to make them laugh, to calm their nerves. To me, this was what it was to be a human–like allowing others to feed off me was my service to the world. I’m sure the Co-dependant’s Handbook has something to say about that.
At least with the Mom’s Night Off, I have established a firm boundary – Fridays starting a 5 pm, take your needs somewhere else. Someone else can be the hero of your mini-crisis, someone else can offer advice, and someone else can share space while watching your favorite TV show or movie.
One of the most quoted Pinterest quotes is you cannot give from an empty cup. I was sick of always refilling my cup. It’s like always waiting for the low-fuel light to come on before getting gas. Or always waiting until the pantry is empty to go to Kroger. Always spending down to the last penny before the next check comes in. If my cup is always being refilled, which means it’s always full. I don’t have to schedule or justify that I have earned a treat or time to myself – it’s already baked in every week.
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