Four months is how long it takes for my brain to throw up its hands and say “I can’t process anything further. All negative input will hereby be classified as DISASTER.
- I can’t find the broom!!!
- Patrick’s having an asthma attack!!!
- I can’t decide which portrait package to order!!!
- Gus fell down the front steps and is bleeding from the head!!!
- Someone left a brand new package of American Cheese sitting on the counter all day!!!
To all of the above, I have the same physical reaction: Rapid heart beat. Confusion. Clenched fists.
When I think about “Two Weeks Vacation” being considered an employee “benefit” it makes me ill. Two weeks is good, sure. People need long blocks of downtime, certainly. But work should be punctuated with short breaks, too. Time to decompress. Stare off into space. Walk slowly. Think. I could come up with all kinds of “If I Ran the Zoo” scenarios, but if I ran a business, in addition to offering two weeks of vacation, I would insist that my people take one day off every month. Because that’s what I need, personally, to get a grip and center myself. (My business probably wouldn’t make any money, but, hot damn, people would like working there.)
Because I’m off today, Gus finally got to ride his scooter to school. He’s wanted to do this all year, and now the school year is almost over. I walked a few paces behind him, admiring his newly acquired coordination, his perfect little boy legs, and every once in awhile he’d look back and flash me his dazzling pumpkin grin. He was overjoyed. Overjoyed to be riding that scooter to school. All year he’s said to me, “I wish I could ride my scooter to school, I wish we didn’t have to drive, I wish you didn’t have to work, I wish you could eat lunch at my school, work in my library, go on field trips, I wish, I wish, I wish …”
But we do have to drive. Every morning. Because I have to work. Ihave to work. It’s not a choice. It’s a given. And so I don’t feel guilty about it. (Granted, if I were choosing to work, it would be because I was doing something I loved, and I wouldn’t feel guilty about thateither). No. Guilty is not what I feel. What I feel as a mother who works outside of the home is rushed.
1 : to push or impel on or forward with speed, impetuosity, orviolence
2 : to perform in a short time or at high speed
3 : to urge to an unnatural or extreme speed
4 : to run toward or against in attack
Rushing is no way to live. But it feels like the only way to survive. Because there’s too much to do.
In an ordinary day:
Lay out clothes.
Remind Gus for third time to brush his teeth.
Be happy you're leaving for school on time.
Realize you and your husband switched cars and you have no idea where the keys are!
Set the alarm!
Lock the house.
Get in the car.
See your dog prancing up the sidewalk.
Grab him by the collar, drag him up the porch steps.
Listen and wait for the alarm to arm.
Go inside, turn off the alarm, reset the alarm.
Lock the house.
Tell Gus to buckle up.
DID YOU HEAR ME? BUCKLE UP!
You have two minutes to get to school.
Park on the wrong side of the street.
Get to Gus's classroom just as the bell rings.
Be 15 minutes late to work.
Work. Work. Work. Work.
Get a phone call from school saying metro pickup time switched back from 3:30 to 3:00.
Apologize to Gus for being 30 minutes late.
Thank the friend who watched him until I got there.
Thank God I wasn’t the only parent who failed to remember the mid-week time switch.
Read memo about “School Needs Yarn! Must Be in Whole Balls Or Doesn’t Count!”
Toss it in the garbage because it’s just one fucking memo too many.
Talk to contractor friend about fixing gate and porch columns.
Write him a check.
Forget to thank him profusely for not charging as much as he could have.
Sign permission slips.
Fill out coffee fundraiser order.
Sign up for a volunteer time slot at school carnival.
Prep cookie tins for Day 5 of Teacher Appreciation WEEK
Write thank you notes.
Soccer team pictures at the YMCA
Prefaced by frantic search for the missing jersey.
E-Mail team reminder about Saturday game.
Order Patrick’s school photo.
Choose between eight different expressions.
Color or black and white.
$60 package or $120 package.
Decide to decide later.
Work with Gus on “money words”
Sign progress report.
Show Gus how to write his name in cursive.
Wait (semi-patiently) while he reads “Diego’s Dazzling Star Adventure”
Send $7 for field trip to the zoo.
RSVP to friend’s birthday party.
Empty the dishwasher.
Fold three loads of laundry.
Read take home book.
Read other books.
Fetch two glasses of water.
Throw dirty clothes in hamper.
Locate whoopee cushion for Patrick's show & share tomorrow.
Don’t forget to leave blankets on the couch for Gus when he comes down in the middle of the night.
Talk to husband.
Who are you?
I meant how are you?
It is TOO MUCH.
As I was walking back from Gus’s school this morning, it felt like I was moving in slow motion. For the first morning in four months I did not use the word HUSTLE. Like I'm the boys' football coach instead of their mother.
For the first time in ages, my heart was not racing.
I was not frantically making mental lists and checking them twice.
I was not trying to HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR ABOUT IT ALL.
And the only thing I forced myself to do was walk even slower.