I had set the alarm to go off thirty minutes earlier that morning. I’ve never been one to sleep hard, so I chose a light twinkling sound that would be just enough to wake me up. I gathered the clothes I had laid out beside my side of the bed the night before.
You know how when you’re trying to walk quietly but it sounds like you have tap shoes on your feet? That was my struggle as I walked down the hall. I held my breath as I passed doors with sleeping children behind them.
It wasn’t until I was in the living room that I allowed myself to breathe. I quickly pulled on pants and slipped shoes on my feet. The dog lifted his head from his pillow, decided I wasn’t worth moving for and went back to sleep. I grabbed my purse and keys from beside the door and quietly locked the door behind me.
I walked to my car in the dark. The day was more than a handful of minutes away. If I could get out of the driveway and on the road before anyone in the house realized I was gone, I’d be okay.
The car was unlocked and started easy. The shifter was stiff as I slid it into reverse and backed out of the driveway. I popped it up into drive and just like that, after all that quietness, I was gone…
Wait, you thought this was the story of me leaving my family and running off to be a free woman?
Oh no, this is not that story.
This is the story of waking up early to go to Wal-Mart to get cleaning supplies and some cash for yet again another school fee.
Why didn’t I just go to an ATM and get the cleaning spray later, you ask? Because my dumb bank, Bank of ABunchofFuckingIdiots, doesn’t have an ATM in my backassward town.
And when it comes to service fees I get possessed by Red Forman from That 70s Show. I will go out of my way to keep the $3 ATM fee for trying to get my own money. I shouldn’t have to pay for my own money! Or pay extra for a company to accept my payment online!
Now that my rant is over. I’ll be honest with you.
While driving in the dark and quiet of the predawn hours, the idea of leaving did dance in my head. I was a little dazed by how easy the idea came to me and how easy it would have been to execute. I could have just taken the car and all the shit in my purse and just keep going. I have a phone with Google directions on it, I could have just gone anywhere. In the three-mile trek to the local superstore, my life could have totally changed.
In my life, I’ve seen a number of women who have done this very thing. They’ve uprooted themselves from their lives and just…fucking left. Like just up and, POOF, gone.
Not all of them did it with a car on a dark road. Some did it with a bottle of pills. Some did it with hookups from Craigslist. Some even did it with nothing more than their own ego. They decided one day to separate themselves from their families. And more times than not, they never came back.
And the longer you think about it and the more you tilt your head to change your view, blame becomes hard to stick on them. Being a mother is hard. It’s really fucking hard.
You take your life and you use it, for however many years it takes, to help guide someone else into theirs. You’re on call continuously. Personal time is almost nonexistent. Hell for the first nine months, your body isn’t even yours anymore. Then they spend the next forever coming into the bathroom when you’re trying to pee. The definition of personal time gets changed a whole lot.
The definition of responsibility gets changed too. Because suddenly, you are responsible for so much more than yourself and your path. Mothers are often solely responsible for the upbringing and strategic planning of that upbringing. We sign forms and check temperatures, change diapers and administer medicine. We are the boo boo kissers and the nose wipers. We encourage, discipline, maintain and inspire. And we are expected to do that all the time, as needed, every day.
So the fantasy of wandering out of frame or driving off into the sunset is a real thing. And I for one don’t feel guilty about it.
I would never leave my family. I don’t need to justify my love for them by telling you here that I love them. I would do anything for them. And in a lot of ways, I have. I lost myself in them. I’ve forgotten myself for them. I’ve taken every “right” path even when I didn’t want to or knew it would do me harm. And that’s okay. That’s what my role is. I know what my job requirements are.
But there’s still the feeling sometimes that I’d like to get away. Runaway to somewhere no one knows me by the name of “Mom” and start over. The desire to be wholly independent is sometimes palpable. The hand I got dealt in life had me being a caregiver at a young age. It’s not surprising that by now, three decades into being alive, I want to taste the lightness of being free from caregiving. I’ve been doing it for a very long time. Everyone needs a break.
But life doesn’t afford us those breaks often. And when it does, it pretty much always feels too foreign to enjoy. That’s why the fantasy of taking off and walking away is so tantalizing. It’s our little taste of escape, that when tempered correctly, hurts no one. It’s an indulgence we need to try to keep our wits about us. And with the weight we have to carry constantly, we need that help.
In the life that lies on the other side of the left-hand turn I never take, I am a professional writer. Maybe for VICE, maybe for Rolling Stone. I live in a small apartment with a pug named Deadpool. I have no children, I fill out no school forms, I have no husband. I’m happy, but it’s in a differently shaped way.
Making up the world Alternate Angela lives in does not mean I don’t love where Actual Angela is. I very much do. This life is hard and sometimes unfair. But I don’t want it to be anything but what it is.
No one has better summed up these feelings than everyone’s favorite red haired country singer, Reba McEntire. (And if she isn’t yours, go listen to “Fancy” until she is).