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Kathryn E. Livingston Headshot

While the Hubby's Away the Wife Will Play

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Even though our three sons have flown the nest, I'm rarely alone. My husband and I are anything but ships passing in the night; we're more like two aging vessels mired in the harbor. I write at home, and with the classical music business not exactly thriving, my spouse (a clarinetist) is often at home, too. We have plenty of time together, which in many ways is a gift.

But when he was called recently to play a gig in DC, I kicked up my heels. A whole week of freedom! The thought was intoxicating! He invited me to come along, but I slyly suggested he take our eldest son, who had some vacation time coming. When the kids were little, I was miserable when my spouse went on tour (leaving me in Jersey with three little boys seemed a cruel punishment). But now that they're grown, being left behind is a different story.

I'd like to add the disclaimer that I have a dear friend whose husband died last year, and another who went through a sad divorce, and I'm fully aware of how lucky I am to be married to the man I love for 36 years. But that said, there can be such a thing as a little too much togetherness, and I've seen it happen in many a marriage, particularly after one partner retires. Men, it seems to me (though I admit I could be wrong), appear to be the ones who get a little too tied up in the wife's comings and goings. More than one friend has confided that her hubby seems to be prattling around her ankles all the time, asking things like "Are you going to zumba, again?" or "Do you really have to go out to lunch with your book club?"

What exactly did I plan on doing while my husband was away? Was I conjuring up secret trysts with old boyfriends, all-night drinking parties or a roll in the hay (or in the shower) with the plumber? Here was my short list of things I really, really wanted to do while my "cat" was away:

1. Burn incense and candles.
Yes, I know that sounds crazy, but my husband can't stand the scent of such things. So while he was away I made it my goal to burn every candle in the house (and there are quite a few, since he always objects when I light them). Thankfully, I didn't burn the house down as well.

2. Have a pajama party with my best girlfriend.
Yes! It had been a while since we'd had an overnight, so as soon as my hubby left town, she high-tailed it down from upstate New York. We stayed up talking (and burning candles), went out for lunch and shopping, and just hung out. It was a glorious feeling to know that neither of us had to rush home to our mates. We ordered a pizza for dinner and chilled.

3. Solitude.
My girlfriend left at the close of day two because she said I needed to "spread my wings and fly." And she was right. I just wanted to be alone (in fact, I told no one else that my husband was leaving town, for fear that my social calendar would suddenly fill). As my friend said, "There is nothing quite like being alone in your own home for a few days [if you're married]. You can run through the rooms singing if you feel like it!"

4. Yoga, yoga, and yoga.
I admit I'm a bit of a yoga fanatic, and my husband often feels neglected when I pick up my mat and race out the door. This doesn't usually stop me, but there are times when I'd really like to do a lot more yoga but I don't because I know he wants to spend time with me. So, for this week I attended every yoga class I could. (Unfortunately, I went to so many that I seem to have injured my knee.)

5. Eating, sleeping, napping, walking, playing the piano, writing, reading etc. whenever I wanted.
Yes, it's nice to have a companion. But it also gets tiresome to be continually saying, "I'm going to read a book now, honey. What are you going to do?" It's just plain pleasant not to have to explain yourself to anyone.

6. Clean up my home office.
OK, I will admit this is actually the only thing on my list that I never got around to doing. I thought I would have so much time on my hands with my partner away that I'd finally get some de-cluttering done. Alas, I was way too busy having fun.

I'll confess that I missed my spouse (especially when I snuggled into bed at night), but it was also handy to use his pillow to prop up my knee. And it was great to know that wherever I went, whatever I did, there was no need to rush home. No one was waiting to ask, "Where have you been?" as if I'm some kind of errant teenager.

On day five of my little hubby-away-cation (my version of
"staycation") however, I got a text from my youngest son asking me to pick him up at college. I didn't have the heart to tell him he couldn't come home for the weekend because Mommy was having the time of her life. So, off I went to collect my son... and his laundry.

Of course, when my husband returned I was thrilled to see him. I made a welcome home dinner for him and my eldest son, and as they wolfed it down, I sighed (realizing how swiftly I'd fallen back into my role as mother/wife/chef), "Ahh...hungry men." My 29-year-old rolled his eyes and answered, "And women don't get hungry?"

Ah yes, indeed they do, I thought to myself. Especially for space and solitude: I seem to have a voracious appetite for these. Time alone, I've decided, shouldn't have to wait for an out-of-town gig; the challenge is how to work it into everyday life. Freedom is just like a sugar high... and I'm going to need a fix again very, very soon.