Fri 20 Mar 2009
at precisely 9:37 am this morning, i woke up.
i’d been up for hours, obviously. people who sleep until 9:37 with two little children in the house usually have Child Protective services knocking on the door…or so i comfort myself. morning coffee is most scrumptious dark and bitter.
but at 9:37 i became conscious.
(gives head a shake, looks around warily. flexes muscles. discovers muscles – mental and physical – have atrophied. shrugs. notices that shrugging hurts.)
i’ve been housebound – thank you bedrest, colic, and interminably freezing winter – for about ten days short of a year, now. it’s made me alternately shack-wacky, morose, and, uh, lazy. but also eerily phlegmatic. contented, even. i march to the frazzled low-grade ommm of Radio Free Mama.
once you give over to the idea that you don’t control your days, you’re free. absolved. you’re not going to cure cancer, you’re just going to get through today. smile at that baby. keep the house at a dull roar. clean yourself. change a few diapers, read what snatches of posts you can, empty the potty. even do some contract work, but blearily, one foot in front of the other. no long-term plans. no sustained focus. no pressure.
until you wake up. and you notice that you have been operating on the intellectual plane of a Stepford Wife.
oh, i think. i fret, even. but for the best part of a year, other than ponying up to the bar of past birth traumas, i haven’t done any significant fretting about ME. being just a vessel – for life, milk, and stray eyebrow hairs – is kinda refreshing.
then you remember that vessels eventually have to GO somewhere.
so there i am in mid-stride on a weekday morning and i suddenly notice that i am not bone-shakingly exhausted. i glance in the mirror, but barely know myself without my eyelids down around my knees. i cast about for something to focus the energy on, and discover that showering and laundry suddenly no longer feel like Olympic accomplishments. this is disappointing.
what in the name of god do i do NOW?
send life purpose, please. must be compatible with parenting small children and preferably enjoy being squeezed into ten-minute intervals and be achievable from the comfort of my home couch. nothing requiring extensive sustained focus need apply. copious monetary reward an asset. should challenge mind and preferably do something for thighs as well.
perhaps i will start an Ashram. online. i will be its guru.
being home with baby for nearly a year after birth, with maternity benefits that help pay the bills, is a privilege. i’m grateful, o Canada. i’m a parental leave proponent. but mentally, the always-on-call nature of parenting and the cloistered compartmentalization of being at home makes it altogether the most isolating and exhausting thing i’ve ever done, bar none. i learned this when Oscar was small. i forgot, until today, because i was too tired to remember. when O was fourteen months old i started a new full-time contract outside the home, and for the first while that forty-hour week really felt like going to a goddam day spa.
(please not to stone us. we bruise like a peach. and i am totally boggled and awed by you wild Americans who end up back at work with six-week-olds. both my kids had nasty, sleep- and sanity-destroying colic for at least four months and i’m quite sure i would have killed someone, possibly the children, had i had to get up for work every morning and actually dress myself and drive somewhere, let alone perform job duties. not kidding. you have either my utmost respect or my deepest sympathies: i’m never sure which is appropriate.)
i’m just sayin’ there comes a point at which i begin to fray from lack of adult interaction, from the absence of the casual verbal contact that feeds my extrovert self, from a desperate need to engage in the back-and-forth of social capital.
hence Twitter and Facebook updates and the occasional post when i manage to focus long enough. social media pundits critique these forms of communication as a bunch of people talking at each other, but i’m not sure they’ve ever gone to a playdate with a bunch of stay-at-home parents trying desperately to carry on a conversation over howls and wiggles and toy-retrieving – tweets are positively linear and interactive by comparison. and i get to make someone laugh without nibbling their toes. not that i don’t love toe-nibbling, but now, a year into my odyssey of A Hundred Years of Semi-Solitude, i am beginning to wish i lived on a kibbutz. or a commune. or in a climate where taking the children outside on the first day of spring wouldn’t need to involve snowsuits.
what was/is your experience of being at home with the little people? and do you think i need saffron robes for my online ashram? and perhaps cupcakes?