It’s been more than a day or two since I was actively parenting. Still, I remember it vividly. Some of it springs to mind so vividly it’s like I’m still doing the same things today. I remember having two little elementary school children coming home after school and sitting down with me, first one then the other, telling me about their day. My husband used to tease me about my “debriefing the children”, but it was always important to me that I spend a little time every day with each of them, uninterrupted, one on one. I remember events, some more important than others, but all of them in my mind as if they happened yesterday. The skate parties to celebrate birthdays, the school performances that had them dancing or singing as only children can, or any number of other activities.
Then I remember the bigger experiences, at least in terms of time with them. There were the countless swim meets we went on all over the state of Colorado. I remember celebrating every new “best time with our daughter at the local Red Robin where she would get a caramel ice cream sundae and I would get steamed veggies. What’s the equality in that? I remember the indoor basketball tournaments with our son, shortest one on the team, guarding boys who towered over him and somehow managing to hold his own.
There were the lessons, too. Teaching them the importance of living up to your word. If you said you were going to be somewhere, you showed up, even if something better came along. They had responsibilities and there were consequences if they didn’t live up to them. I let them fail if that’s what needed to happen, kept them from going to play until chores were done, made them finish homework before play, all those difficult things that were designed to help develop them into responsible adults
Then there were the joyful, exciting times. From simple things like going to the carnival at school or taking snacks to the class to celebrate a birthday, to trips that will forever live in my memory. We took a wagon train through the backcountry of Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, flew to Georgia to visit family and then travelled on to Florida for a week at the beach, So many memories it’s impossible to scratch the surface of them here.
Still, I also remember being overwhelmed from time to time. They were so close in age, only seven months apart…a story for another time. We would just get through a “stage” with one and the other would begin. When they were young elementary school children they had so many needs and demands. Couple that with a husband whose job required him to travel back and forth to Boston from Colorado Springs on a regular basis, and I finally broke. The demands reached a point where they felt never ending and it felt like no one was helping me nor were the children doing even the little bit they could.
So, feeling unappreciated and overworked, I waited until my husband was home, then announced I was going on strike. For about three days if the children needed anything, they had to ask their dad. He was responsible for cooking, cleaning, transporting, and anything else that needed to be done around the house. It was totally reaffirming for me. Suddenly everyone in the house seemed to understand what I did and they had a new appreciation for me. I had a new appreciation for myself.
In no way can I equate my brief strike with what Amy Byler experiences in Kelly Harris’ book The Overdue Life of Amy Byler. Still, because of my experience, I think I found myself cheering her on a little more than I might have if my entire parenting life had been without challenge. In truth I doubt anyone’s is that stress free. What I’m getting at is I enjoyed this book as much or more than anything I’ve read in a long time. It’s a book everyone, particularly every mother out there should read. Read on for my review.
In The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harris, Amy has devoted all her life so far to the raising and care of her children. When they were nine and thirteen, her husband left, moving to Korea to get himself more emotionally stable and do what was right for him. Now, after three years he wants to come back and spend a week with the children he abandoned. He prefaces his proposal by apologizing for the hurt he’s caused and saying he wants to repair some of the damage.
When Amy first hears the idea, she is absolutely against the plan. How can she trust him to take care of them after three years of being a single parent? How can she forgive him for the strife she has endured for these three years? What will she do if she take time for only herself? Yet, as her husband shows every possibility for actually being able to manage a week of single parenting she is encouraged by her friends to take the time for herself.
Once she agrees, Amy finds herself in New York, going to a librarian’s conference and rooming with an old friend from her single days, Talia. Talia encourages her to get rid of her mom jeans, put on some clothes from the designer closet belonging to the magazine where Talia works, and spread her wings a little while in the city.
Amy agrees and is suddenly swept up in a whirlwind with Talia’s assistant, that he has dubbed her “momspringa”. She gets a complete makeover, experiences some fancy New York restaurants, and is reminded of the person she was before she became “A MOM”. She has a great time at the conference, sharing a new reading plan with other librarians and making new friends including a “hot librarian.”
As the week comes to an end, her husband and children petition her to give them the entire summer. He has shown himself capable of parenting, plus has offered them camp experiences that are “once in a lifetime” opportunities; diving camp for their teenage daughter and space camp for their almost tween son. With no concrete evidence that this will do irreparable harm to either of the children coupled with the pull of a summer filled with experiences she has denied herself for the past few years, Amy agrees. She is still reluctant to think of it as a momspringa, but she is agreeable to having a few more exciting adventures before she returns home to begin full-time parenting again.
The book, the experiences, Amy reactions were all fully satisfying. This is a book every mother could benefit from reading, even if it doesn’t lead to a full-blown momspringa for them. Even for those moms who have no need to reconnect with another part of themselves, if those moms exist, there is plenty of entertainment and encouragement here. In short, it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read, even though I’m well past the age of seeing it as a guide or challenge to my own life. If there’s nothing in the book for you personally, it’s one you will likely still enjoy just to read about Amy’s experiences.
My thanks to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for providing me with an advanced read copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. It’s a book I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys a well-told tale and especially for anyone wanting to read about someone embarking on new experiences.
There you have it. One of the best books I’ve read this year. I highly recommend it, but if you think it’s not your kind of book, here’s hoping you find something that brings you as much pleasure as reading this one brought me. As always, happy reading.