I promised myself when we moved that I wouldn’t work for six months. I would focus on getting the kids settled and on the renovations we wanted to do in the new house. I was a little burned out by the time we made the move and thought that a break from teaching was probably a good thing. Besides, moving to the Bay Area as a yoga teacher is like bringing sand to the beach.
Ever since I have had kids I have always worked. Sometimes it was only one day a week and other years as many as thirty-five hours per week. We have never had any of the conflicts about chores that many of my friends who have families with two working parents have had. Colin and I have managed to split up the various tasks that govern family life in such a way that we have avoided that kind of resentment.
Last year I had a teaching schedule that several days a week had me starting my work day at 6 am and finishing at 9 pm. I was always home when the kids came home from school, a hectic time of day filled with homework, playdates, dinner and my least favorite task: making their lunches for the next day. When this school year first began I really enjoyed putting the kids on the bus, walking back home, chatting with the dog, heading out for a run. Things like showering with no sense of urgency were new sensations. Not thinking of my days in 15 minute increments was a welcome change.
In the last few weeks I have made forty cupcakes for the fall festival and spent hours making a spooky cake that looked like it hand a reaching out of it, I have taught myself how to upholster, reading books on fabrics as if they were New York Times bestsellers. I like doing these things. In fact I love doing them; I am just not sure it’s enough.
The hardest hours of our day are from 3:30-6:00 pm. In the rest of the world they are rush hour, or happy hour. In our house they drag at half speed. During these long afternoons I toggle between intense boredom, irritable restlessness and pleasure at the sweetness of my kids. It’s a strange combination, like vinegar covered marshmallows or something. I was helping Ben with long division, a process so arduous I think the people who built the Great Wall had it easier. When faced with numbers my intelligent, resourceful child becomes whiney and seemingly cursed with amnesia. When ask if 59 was an even number today he said no with great authority, “But 57 is”. We were already on minute thirty of homework. I had to separate myself from him before I hit him with the zucchini I was slicing. In the meantime, I had put the chicken on the grill and checked on Mae. I was letting Pete practice riding his skateboard in the family room because we just took the rug up in there and he could practice on the plywood floor. I would have sent him to the park but he doesn’t like to go unless Ben can come, and at the rate we were going the chances of Ben making it to the park were slim.
Finally Mae emerged from her room after a post school chill and wanted to eat something. She likes it if someone sits next to her for snack, and I was happy to sit with her. I will admit to having the thought as I sat next to her that sometimes having a child who doesn’t speak isn’t all bad. At that moment, Pete announced that there was “the poop of a dog” on the floor in the family room. Because Mae had just sat down to eat, there was not going to be any poop picking up until she was done, so I got to sit there knowing that at some point in the next ten minutes I was going to have the great pleasure of picking up dog poop inside my own home.
If you drive by our house in the afternoon it looks like nothing is happening. In truth, not that much is happening, but when you are the eye of that particular storm and every sentence starts with the word “Mom,” you can start to wish you were anywhere else. I am lucky that I have options, and that staying home with my children is a choice I can make. It is insanely hard and I miss working and will go back to it eventually. If I don’t, I will eventually drive Colin crazy with questions like, “Will you teach me how to use the table saw so I can cut this piece of siding for the porch?” Being a Mom is hard no matter what choices you make. I find it equal parts wonderful, terrifying and tedious. It is the craziest adrenaline sport and the longest lecture all rolled into one…..the prize is getting to do it all again the next day. And besides, I would be pissed if anyone else let Pete ride his skateboard in the house.