The pendulum of my moods oscillates so rapidly these days I feel a bit like I am thirteen years old again.
One moment I am getting ready to go for a run with the girls at 10:00 am. I haven’t needed to shower yet; I’ve been wearing my workout clothes all day. I squeezed us fresh orange juice to go with our breakfast. We made muffins earlier in the morning. It is fun to bake with the girls; sneakily teaching Middle math and reading as we follow the recipe. We run and it feels so good to be outside moving my body; getting stronger and running longer than I ever have before. After the run we might go to the park, or come home and make muffins, or go to the store, or plant dozens more bulbs in the yard. I’m free! I have to take care of the kids, of course, but most of the decisions are mine to make. No one is telling me where to be or when (at least until it is time to pick up Older from school). I revel in my luck at life turing out so well.
A couple of hours later it is nap time for Baby (in our room) and “quiet” time for Middle (in the kids’ room). I am trying to get hands and faces washed and tiny bladders emptied before the appointed hour and the girls are having none of it. Middle is wailing about the injustice of “always” making her wash her hands while Baby is steadfastly maintaining that she has no need to pee; four hours since her last trip to the toilet. Baby naps in my bed and I am not about to let her flood it so we reach a standoff in the bathroom; me with a diaper in one hand and Baby refusing to have a diaper put on her, or to pee, on the other. Crying and a wrestling match ensue. Finally Middle is ensconced in her room with cars and books and Barbies and I am trying to nurse Baby. I don’t know what Middle is doing in her room but it is the opposite of quiet . Baby finds all the noise highly amusing. She won’t be sleeping any time soon. Middle creeps into our room to tell me matter-of-factly that she has an ear infection. I don’t doubt it; she’s had a lingering cold for a month – it was inevitable that it would settle in either her lungs or her ears. I used to take international business trips, but I guess a visit to urgent care is now on our agenda. Baby, seeing Middle, is now gleeful that nap time must be over. I give Middle a Motrin and guide her back to her room. My gentle voice from this morning now has a stern edge to it. It takes another 45 minutes to get Baby to sleep. I put her down on our bed. I stagger out of the room hungry and cranky; I had fed the girls lunch but had not fed myself. I heat up last night’s leftovers and sit down at the computer to tackle my ever growing inbox when Middle appears. She is bored and after an hour in her room I can’t blame her. Quiet time is over. She wants to talk about planning her birthday party (three months away) and to put toy cars in a line with her. I despair of ever getting anything besides parenting done. I’m bored too. I wanted to read an article on increasing breastfeeding in socioeconomically disadvantaged groups. Instead I will be discussing the merits of Hello Kitty. I fear that my brain is atrophying away.
Later that day we pick up Older from school. The kids want an afternoon snack. I prefer to eat my dessert in the afternoon (rather than after dinner) and so because I really want one I suggest making milkshakes for snack. Older and Middle declare me “best mom ever” and Baby claps her hands together in joy as I get out the blender. I sit outside in the warm winter sunshine and watch my kids frolic happily in our big backyard while I sip a chocolate milkshake. I remember that if I was still working in my windowless basement office I wouldn’t have seen the sun since the morning and that I would just now, at this time of day, be starting to wrap things up and mentally steel myself for the hour and half (or more) commute home. Life is good.
An hour later I am going through the graded homework that Older brought home and I am telling him for the one millionth time that he needs to remember to put his name on his paper. I am simultaneously trying to shepard Older through his homework, make dinner, and keep Middle from squishing Baby all the while listing to the three of them whine about how hungry they are. I see the cereal bowl that Husband left on the counter this morning and the markers that Baby has strewn about the den and the little bits of paper that Middle has made into “confetti” and Older’s backpack lying like roadkill on the living room floor. I feel as if I am nothing but a maid cleaning up after other people all day long. I would like to think that I am productive; cooking, cleaning, doing laundry. But is it productive when what I do never, ends, never changes? I used to do research, produce reports that other people actually read – good ones. Now it feels as though I am shoveling snow in an endless blizzard.
It’s nearing bedtime and it’s time for stories. I think that Middle has been a bit bored with our books lately and in a flash I ask her if she wants to start a chapter book; that I will read to her from every night. She’s intrigued as I pull Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House in the Big Woods” off the shelf. Older is excited; he’s heard this story before and remembers if fondly. Older and Middle curl up with me on the couch and with my words we are transported away to a forest filled with wolves and an attic full of pumpkins. All is calm and content in our own little house. We talk about how luxurious our house is compared to Larua’s, how amazing it is that we can basically eat any food we want at any time, and how many toys and books we have to enjoy. I feel incredibly lucky. What a wonderful life I have: free from want, from hunger.
Life as a stay at home mother by day/student by night still feels surreal. I truly do alternate, every day, between elated freedom and resentful boredom. I’ve even coined a term for my new emotional state: “breedom”. The breedom certainly beats my emotional state last year at this time; just plain miserable. I don’t miss my soul sucking job, per se, but I do miss working. I crave that imperfect
balance between motherhood and a professional life. This school year is already half done. Next year at this time Older and Middle will go to school five days a week while Baby will likely go to daycare three days a week. I will be in a lactation consultant program; thinking about and writing about breastfeeding all the time as well as doing clinical rotations in a hospital twice a week. I don’t think I’ll be bored anymore. But I won’t be so free either.