Last spring, my visiting mother-in-law asked a seemingly innocent question. "So, what are you doing for fun these days, just for yourself?"
Her friendly query left me feeling confused and scared, because I didn't have an answer. As a wife, a mother of three children, ages 7, 8, and 9, and a writer who's trying to restart her career after a long hiatus, I feel like I don't have enough time to deal with the "musts" and the "shoulds" in my life, let alone the "extras." One innocent question made me realize that fun for myself isn't even something I think about much anymore.
"Writing and trying to work as much as I can is my fun," I stammered. My mother-in-law nodded, and then sweetly encouraged me to create a space for something purely enjoyable, like a dance class. I'd actually forgotten that back in the pre-kid era I used to take tap dancing. In the middle of the day. Just so I could pretend I was an extra in a Judy Garland movie. Now that was a party! I promised myself that I'd try harder to carve out some frivolous time, and then immediately went back to my tense, workaholic ways.
Well, a couple of weeks ago at a barbeque, I was caught off guard once again. "What do you do for fun?" somebody asked, and I choked. I still didn't know the answer.
My husband John delivered the ultimate nudge a few days after that, when he dropped a flyer announcing tryouts for a local production of "Annie" on our kitchen table. Now, I haven't actually been in a play since the Reagan administration, but he knows that deep down I'm still a drama queen.
"How am I going to write, get three kids to school and soccer practice, and get myself to rehearsal?" I whined.
"Have the kids try out for the show with you!" my husband chirped, conveniently ignoring that two of our three would rather eat a bowl full of salad than get anywhere near a stage. Unfortunately, our little dramatic child was also disqualified, since this production was open only to kids age 8 and up. Pesky details.
Despite my misgivings, that night I stayed up late, watching clips from "Annie" on YouTube and humming along with Miss Hannigan. Playing the part of a cranky, overworked and bitter crone? That would be so much more fun than acting like one in real life, but really, I need to take baby steps. Call friends more often. Set up date nights. Go to the gym. Daydream. And dust off my tap shoes.