In The Quieter Moments

Since the moment I birthed my youngest child, I had a fantasy of sending all of my children to sleep-away camp. I mentally ticked off the years beneath the hospital sheets, wondering what the current youngest bunk would be, and how I would become that mom I swore I’d never be.

Over 20 years ago, I was a counselor in the youngest bunk, and I vividly remember my frustration at the parents who could possibly think it was a good idea to send their children to camp when they couldn’t take a shower themselves, brush their hair or fall asleep at night without being rocked. I fervently changed linens, folded clothing, wiped away tears and squeezed toothpaste onto more toothbrushes than I care to remember, and mentally made a note of the fact that I would NEVER send my children until they were somewhat autonomous. And yet, here I was, postpartum, and already downloading camp applications.

Part of the miracle of parenting is that so much of our values are fluid. Things work for a while and then a decade later, they are no longer relevant. The vegetable-laden dinners we forced our eldest to eat are swiftly replaced with french fries, because what’s more important later in life is minimizing the chaos, and not necessarily counting nutrients. Our priorities shift as our lives move, and I was fully aware of that as I realized how much more important it could be to sometimes send that young, unprepared child to camp. It’s OK if he can’t tie his shoes. In my heart, I forgave those parents from my teenage years, the ones I wrongfully judged.

This was my year. In a post-quarantine world, where we spent a lot of time in the house and around each other, I felt like everyone could use a break. It would be healthy for the kids to be free of my draconian ways, free of having to rely on me for so much of their day-to-day functioning, and to learn to be more independent. And for me, I was excited to have time alone to focus on work, to enjoy some vacationing with my husband, and to not have to be in a supermarket every other day.

Off they went, and I didn’t even cry.

The first few hours were glorious. I relished the silence of the walls, the way that nothing in the house moved unless we moved it, and how I didn’t have to be home at any given time to make dinner for anyone. Nobody screamed “Mommy!” the second I closed the bathroom door, and there was absolutely zero sibling rivalry.

But what good is quiet if there is no noise we are avoiding? There is no longing to be alone when we are not trying to escape anyone, and so the solitude seemed monotonous, and time stood still.

It was wonderful to travel and explore the world while our children were away, to have time to reconnect. To not field phone calls as they complain about the housekeeper or grandparent who is trying to unsuccessfully discipline them. But what was not so wonderful were the days at home between our two trips. Without having to rush anyone off, to make breakfasts, run to busses, to drive any carpools … without having to do homework, to complete errands for the family, my day had minimal structure and lacked urgency. I was less busy.

I work part-time as a life coach, and so my work days remained the same, but the other days felt like a blur of time. Eleven in the morning felt no different than 7 p.m., and I was free to do as I pleased. Nobody called me in tears, and nobody told me they were starving. Nobody screamed at me because the snack selection in the house was too healthy, and nobody had difficulty finding a missing sweatshirt that required me to either fire the cleaning lady or dig through everyone’s closets.

And so even though I am mostly resentful of those moments as they occur, usually at inconvenient times, I suddenly saw things from a new light. The things that drain me actually give me life. That which I run away from, I should actually run towards.

Maybe that’s mostly everything in life. The things we often perceive as difficult or draining actually shape us. The busyness, the stress, the weary monotony of daily life is also a warm, musical song, a welcome companion to stillness.

I will be grateful when they return, even during the loudest of moments.

Sarah Abenaim is a writer and life coach, living with her husband and four kids in Teaneck. She specializes in revitalizing and uplifting relationships and helping people accomplish goals when they feel stuck. For more information, she can be reached at or on her website,