Actually, I’m Really Cool When My Kids Aren’t Around

“I wish you could see me at a wedding,” I wanted to say to my new mom friend who’d arrived at my home with her kid for a playdate, as we did our very best to cobble a conversation together between being served cake and pizza at our kids’ frenetic imaginary restaurant. I was excited to talk about anything beyond my fifth favorite color, what would happen if a mid-sized dinosaur lived in our house, and whether or not Rapunzel has her driver’s license.

This other mom — the only adult I’d spoken to all day — and I have become friends in large part because I connect with her on two levels. For one, she and I both are currently stay-at-home moms with similar parenting styles. And secondly, and more importantly, I can still imagine how good of a hang she would be at a wedding. She’s the type of person I could bust some subpar dance moves with under a mirrorball.

As I’m living the all-consuming role of mother, I long for the opportunity to be my most curated self – my wedding-guest self. Sure, now there are dinner parties, work holiday parties, and fundraisers but none of them have the carefree joy of being at a wedding, surrounded by friends, uninterrupted, with the simple agenda of dancing and celebrating. Weddings make me feel youthful.

At a wedding, I take my time to put myself together. Bye-bye to fashion regression and squeeze my body into dresses that fit so much better five years ago. I don’t worry about the durability of the outfit withstanding pouch stains, or if my children will feel possessed to pull my skirt up out of sheer curiosity for what color underwear I’m wearing. I don’t think about whether I’ll be able to chase down my unnaturally fast son in heels that somehow used to be commonplace for me. I curl my hair like the model in the picture I handed to my hairdresser when I asked for this haircut to begin with, never again finding the time to make it look like it does in the photo. I am unsticky, with plentiful time to attempt to remedy the bags under my eyes. I don’t worry if taking too long will make my husband late for work or make my kids start fighting about whether it’s a pancake or a waffle morning. When I leave the bathroom, my husband doesn’t inquire “why do you look so nice?” As if when I don’t have anywhere to go, it is taboo to revive the woman I once was when time and sleep and my body belonged solely to me.

A wedding allows my husband and me to be more like the people we married. We both feel appreciated and seen as we splay out our jazz hands, swish our butts and attempt moderately coordinated footwork. We’re effusive, intimate, and playful. As my husband attempts the “floss” or “shoot” dance with wide eyes and a goofy smile, I’m strangely attracted to his willingness to look a little foolish, despite his subpar moves. I’m not touched-out, he’s not short-fused and we’re not arguing about the effectiveness of gentle parenting or whether our kids need to eat bacon with a fork.

Inevitably, after a couple of drinks, my very tall husband will display our staggering height differential with the crowd-pleasing move of picking me up and swaying me back and forth like a pendulum as my feet dangle. We are literally and figuratively wrapped up in each other. It is starkly dissimilar to the other week when I asked my husband what he liked about me and he said, “the way you make nachos.” That was it: my preparation of chips and cheese was the attribute to note.

But give us a wedding, and I know he sees me as a damn delight.

At a wedding, I momentarily live in the same reality as a crowd of strangers, instead of the reality of the tiny dictators that usually run my life. As Don’t Stop Believing blasts in the background, I can only hear every third word the person I am talking to is saying, and it doesn’t really matter. For one night only, we are committed to frivolous conversation without distraction or agenda.

The biggest decisions I need to make are red or white, or steak or chicken. My vocabulary isn’t infiltrated with words like “wowee”, “ouchies,” and “hooray,” or sentences like “please don’t moon me while we’re eating” and “I don’t know how to draw a man-flower.” It takes me back to the days when our friends were more plentiful, our responsibilities were less significant, and staying out past 9pm didn’t feel like such a momentous feat. Given some bodily autonomy and lowered inhibitions, I’m a pretty good time.

However, I am in a phase of my life in which when I say, “my name is Sarah,” my son corrects me and says, “no, your name is Mommy.” As I enter my late thirties, and weddings are being replaced by far inferior kids’ birthday parties, I wish my situationally regular social circle could see me with a drink in my hand, squatting with the crowd to “a little bit softer now (shout).”

Sarah Benedict is a freelance writer who lives in Atlanta with her husband, 3 year old son and 5 year old daughter. While her essays range in topic, more recently she’s enjoyed sharing a very honest, perhaps relatable, or at the very least amusing lens into the charmingly chaotic reality of life while parenting little humans. To read more of her writing, subscribe to her newsletter Charmingly Chaotic or follow her on Instagram @​​charmingly.chaotic.

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