The conductor lifts her hands. I take a breath. She gives the downbeat. And I sing. And all around me voices lift up, weaving a tapestry of sound that hangs, invisible, in the tiny, underground room where we rehearse. My voice is rusty but gaining strength and my heart is full. This part of me, it seems, is very much still here.
The last time I sang in the choir I was eight and a half months pregnant. With a tiny baby at home and no childcare, it wasn’t feasible to keep going to rehearsals, so I quit. And I sang to my son instead. I changed his diapers. I got him dressed. I rocked him when he cried. I made silly noises to make him laugh. He grew. We laughed together and played. We talked and climbed and ran. I was happy. I am happy.
Everybody talks about “me time.” Time to yourself, away from your kids, to feel like a grown up again. You’re supposed to relax, take a break, do something you want to do instead of something you need to do. And I had that.
My husband would take the baby and I would spend an afternoon at home, drinking tea, reading, writing, tidying up. You know, the things I couldn’t do with only one hand and half my brain. And it felt like enough. It was enough. It is.
But this, this going back to choir, this is something different altogether. This is “me time” 2.0. Because, as I sit here, next to my friends who have been my friends since before I became a mom, sharing a pencil during rehearsal and a bag of Rasinettes at the break, I am suddenly somebody else. Well, no, not somebody else exactly. Me. But, another version of me. A version of me who is separate from my son. The me I used to be, perhaps, but not exactly.
And it isn’t an altogether comfortable feeling. It’s exhilarating and eye-opening. But comfortable? No. Because I am a mom. And my son is a part of me. An almost physical part of me.
As I sit, in a rehearsal room miles away, I can almost feel the steady rise and fall of his chest as he sleeps in his crib at home. And my heart, swollen with music and camaraderie and Rasinettes, is still his entirely and completely, yearning, in some chamber or ventricle somewhere, to be back with him again. And my mind, actively parsing notes and rests, dynamics and tempo, is also acting as some kind of internal homing beacon, ever aware that my son is not with me and searching for him.
But I am filled with joy. The kind of joy that a cup of tea on the couch and nap could never bring. The kind of joy that lifts my heart and fills my mind. Just like being a mother does. But different. I am my son’s, heart and soul. But the I of me, it turns out, is still there too.
And there is guilt, of course. A mother’s constant companion. Guilt for feeling this way about something that isn’t my son. But I can put that on the shelf. Because I know that this feeling of joy is good. It’s healthy and it’s right. And it’s what ought to be meant by “me time.”
I am a better mother when I am whole and complete. The woman walking down the street after rehearsal, laughing about notes that are way too high, isn’t an apparition or a time traveller. She’s me. And it sure is good to see her again.