I walk in after dropping my youngest daughter at daycare. I see evidence of the morning rush near the shoe rack. Shoes strewn all over. I am tempted to put them back in order but I move on. I open the door only to stumble on a half naked doll by the cedar chest housing our winter gear. I pick it up and walk into the kitchen dumping my purse and car keys on the island as I do. There are sheafs of paper by the phone, unprocessed and possibly containing time sensitive things. The kitchen is splattered with oil and the smell of the day’s breakfast and lunch lingers in the air. I turn to my left and on the breakfast table is an assortment of things. Lego pieces in varying stages of assembly. Half a pack of playing cards. A stuffed elephant donning one of the baby’s tops and a diaper on its bottom. Mismatched hair clips. Broken sunglasses, a watch with multiple straps. A pencil and an eraser that seems like it has been chewed on.
I dump the doll in my hand in the middle of this mess and look at he living room. An empty laundry hamper lies on the sofa. A fifty piece floor puzzle lies in disarray. A wooden stick of dubious origins is on the floor. A set of linked hairbands garlands the elliptical. All over the floor are pieces of a doll camping set and snips of paper from some origami project.
I ignore everything I see and walk into the study telling myself that I should get some writing done. I don’t. Instead I stare at my book shelves and the state of disarray it is in. There are bags that lie in the corner. Bags I stashed away when I sorted through audio cassettes and CD and bagged them up. They mock me.
I turn away and walk upstairs hoping a shower will rejuvenate me. There are piles of dresses the kids have out grown. There are shoes that I no longer have use for. They grace the top of the chest of drawers looking double in volume courtesy the mirror they are in front of. I slump to the floor, the carpet throwing up hair in relief as I get closer. I feel defeated. Defeated by the morass into which I have sunk.
Earlier in the morning I was at my old workplace to get something done. I ran into ex colleagues and friends. Some waved. Some stopped and moved one. A couple stood by me as I sipped hot coffee and asked me about my life. When I said I quit work a couple of years ago, the instant reaction was “of course, how else will you manage three kids?”
I nodded, unsure of what to say. Do I tell them that my decision to quit work was catalyzed by having a child but not necessarily the only reason why I stepped out of the workforce? Do I talk about my everyday life that mirrors days like today when I see all that needs to be done and sit doing nothing? Do I tell them that by staying home, I have not really dedicated my life to just the raising of children?
I remain mute and change topics like I do when I am not sure how to handle the conversation. We talk instead of product roadmaps, of the direction in which the company is moving and linger into silence before we part ways. I leave the office after sharing a late breakfast with my husband.
Stay at home parenting is not always what I imagined it would be. I once imagined me taking over most responsibilities. Grocery, cleaning, having food ready before the kids troop in, hungry after a long day at school. Instead most days are like today, looking around and feeling overwhelmed. Doing nothing but catching up on post election analysis and drowning my sorrows in a handful of macadamia nuts. It is napping in the afternoon with a feverish toddler who pretends being put down is akin to torture. It is lugging around 27 lbs of human on your hip as you pick up dirty socks, herd overactive twins upstairs for bath time and decide that the youngest could do without a shower.
It is watching the sky darken at an ungodly hour and wonder if getting take out two days in a row would be blasphemy. It is signing off on daily notes from the teacher that asks you child to read fifteen minutes a day and reluctantly letting your child read the same book five days in a row because that is the only one she wants to. It is tucking your child in at 8:00 PM and feeling thankful you will have a few hours to yourself and then feeling guilty about not having read to them at bedtime.
For every day that I get laundry done, folded and in the shelves in record time, there are days when clothes lie in hampers until we run out of socks. For three days in a row when I cook and pack fresh meals, there are days we eat burrito bowls and decide a stick of carrot will have to do as a vegetable. For the days I sit with the children with Math worksheet and patiently wait for them to figure out concepts by themselves, there are days when I pray they come home with no work.
Most days I am not sure what I am doing to feel exhausted about. I flip through books on writing, on learning the craft and pull up my now untouched for eight months manuscript and wonder what on earth I am doing. I look back to earlier in the day and realize I had no pangs about not working in that office I once sat. I don’t have warm fuzzies about the people I worked with either. I don’t miss the intellectual exercise most people in my situation talk about. I am not doing the stay-at-home-parenting right either.
Most days, it feels like being stuck in the movie Groundhog Day. People, places, events on endless repeat.
Tomorrow, I tell myself each night as I crawl into bed after having forced myself to write about 10 pages. Tomorrow I will grasp the day by its horns. I will clean, sort, declutter, live in the moment, practice aware parenting and be the rock solid support my family needs.
Tomorrow I will figure out who I am and what I want to do.
Tomorrow I will start on a fresh note.
Tomorrow I will matter.