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Adulting Without The Kids

Updated: Mar 30, 2023

I’m a mental health professional, a clinical social worker, a psychotherapist who owns her own private practice. Therefore, I get burnout, self-care, boundaries, yada yada yada. I am, however, a burnt-out Mom and small business owner most of the time. I’m familiar with the writing, yelling, and begging from today’s default parents, most often Moms. I tell Moms ALL the time that they are tired and burnt out and not getting it all done—because it’s not possible. Sure, I can help them prioritize more and validate their frustration, but I can’t help them do it all because, again, it’s not possible. Staying up to date on the emails and paperwork that go along with modern parenting, moderating our kids’ screen time diets, actual food diets, school work, extracurriculars, our own careers, keeping our marriages and friendships strong, fighting back against oppression, gun laws and taking time for self-care—yep not at all possible. Yet, when I fail, daily (because again it’s not possible,) to do all the things, I blame myself. I typically blame my ADHD, wish I was more type A then type Q, and think that I’m a horrible example for my clients, my kids, the audiences I speak and write for… and that I should just try harder, organize harder, write to-do lists harder. Yep, I fall down the rabbit hole of self-doubt and loathing. Would I ever, ever, ever tell another ADHD’r to just try harder? Uh, nope! Would I tell another Mom? Uh, nope! Another human? That’s a no as well.

This summer I accidentally ran an eye-opening experiment that led me to believe the validity of my earlier hypothesis: It is impossible to do it all, the all that comes with being the default parent in 2022. It all started in October of 2021 when I pored over the various summer camp options for my two teens and ten-year-old. My kids grew up at overnight camp with me, as we moved for three months every summer to a wooded wonderland where I had the honor of being on the director team. They were familiar with the magic of overnight camp, yet they never had the “true” experience. I hadn’t either! I had never sent my kids away and fully trusted a camp with my babies. Somehow the worlds aligned and we were able to send each child to a totally different type of summer overnight experience that fit each of their needs AND their camp sessions would overlap for ten glorious kid-free days. As a former camp professional, I had many “aha” moments being in the role of camp mom for the first time. Those, however, are for another story. What really boggled my mind was what I noticed about myself having the privilege of someone else taking my parenting responsibilities off my plate for 10 days. I’m about 7 days in, and this is what I have noticed...

I hum, a lot, all the time, actually. I’m not sure if I’m doing this more now that I’m more relaxed or if I can just hear the sound of my own voice with the 15, 13 and 10 year old away. My go-to favorite lately is the “I Dream of Jeannie” theme song, and now it’s also in your head, you’re welcome!

I’m peppy. At dinner, I’m not planning my “way out” so that I can get back to my bed to finish the day’s work tasks and mindlessly watch reruns. Instead, I spend time cutting up beautiful fruit and making myself a bowl of fruit salad! I mean, who the heck is this woman inhabiting my body?

I’m fun. I always suspected this was true, but the impossible-to-do lists of late have hidden this “fun Franki” from view.

I’m tired! This I have known since 2007 when my first child was born. What has amazed me is how tired I still am, even with the extra pep in my step. Years of chronic sleep deprivation and relaxation deprivation have affected me and it turns out one week of a more balanced life isn't enough to bounce back.

I’m busy! Still busy, without any kids to parent. Running two businesses, a household, and being a wife, daughter, sister, and friend, are all time-consuming. And guess what? I have an amazing “flex schedule,” I work from home, I make my own schedule… doesn’t matter I’m still filling my days WITHOUT the daily parenting responsibilities. This piece has been huge to me! I feel so validated in my daily “hot mess” status I’ve been stuck in for most of the last 15 years. Yes, I wasn’t always running two businesses, nor even one. I wasn’t always working outside the home at all. Yet “adulting” is full of tasks that can’t be ignored no matter what. As someone who has been a stay-at-home mom, a full-time working Mom, a business owner Mom and everything in between, I can confidently say we are all busy!

So, what am I going to do about it? I’ll tell you a secret: I have no idea! I’d love to take some of the balance I’ve felt this week into next week when two of my kids come home, yet I know I won’t. Because, right now, it’s impossible.

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