Allow me to concede the conservatives a point on this one.

It amazes me to think of the things I used to not do for myself: Other people would fix our meals, deliver our food and drugstore purchases, change the oil, wash our clothes, organize my closets, clean my house, weed my garden, straighten my hair, wash my dogs, pick flowers for the table, arrange my travel, hem my pants, detail our cars, schedule our appointments, wax my eyebrows and paint my toenails. I relied on the vet to tell me when my dogs’ shots were due, the dentist to inform me it was time for a cleaning and the bank to balance my checkbook. Facebook sent birthday wishes to friends, Red Envelope wrapped and mailed gifts, the DVR remembered to record Lost and the stationer signed our Christmas cards.

Not to mention all the feeding, bathing, dressing, stroller-pushing, singing, changing, playing, carrying, comforting, kissing and hugging I compensated someone else to do for my daughter.

And it still was not enough, never enough, nowhere near enough, and certainly never as rewarding as — who knew? — an afternoon snuggle with a cup of tea and picture books.

Everything I’d heard about has come to pass: it’s hell to drop down to one income; housework does expand to fill every available minute; if there is a television available one will eventually allow it to babysit while one takes a phone call; there are days — many days — when a stay-at-home parent whines louder than the preschooler by 4 PM and yes, it is possible to wear the same shirt for days.

But: It’s so damn great. It’s simple, for one thing. We eat, we play, we do chores, we putter. The plants are watered and the office is organized and my thank-you notes are caught up (almost) and our clothes are ironed and we actually think through grocery lists before shopping, itself a more pleasant experience at 10 AM on a Tuesday morning than it ever was at 8 PM, tired and impatient and trying to remember when I last bought milk. I am not crafty, not at all, but we’ve painted and colored and glued and pounded and squished and chalked. And oh, are we healthy. I can’t remember the last time we ate fast food, and we go to the gym all the time. I floss and moisturize and tweeze  — mundane maintenance I used to rush through — while she splashes in the tub with mermaids and porpoises and adventurous princesses. We nap.

Most surprisingly, I have not been bored a moment. Either I’m resolutely dull, or there’s more to see here than I thought. It’s much more challenging than I expected to negotiate vegetables into a preschooler’s mouth, requiring all sorts of new tricks and variations, and our stricken budget challenges every math skill I have. I find the scholarship on preschool education strangely engaging, blogs by moms peculiarly engrossing and G-rated movies adorable and endearing. If I ever decide that I like to cook, send search and rescue.

As fall arrives, instead of obsessing over my syllabus and renewing my campus parking pass I’ll be packing lunch and settling Anna into her new school. Three years ago I often spent hours and hours alone; now I have no idea where to begin. There will be days when this is hard, days when I will need to remind myself that this is my choice. There will be days when I recall something I used to do, someplace I used to go, something I used to get invited to and oh, I will miss it. I will return to work one day and I will discover that my options are different now and limited, that the ladder I was rapidly ascending is no longer under my feet but instead has shifted to accommodate someone else’s career, I’m sure I will have second guesses. And third ones.

Those days are coming.

But for now? Fingerpaints and puzzles and sparkly shoes await, so:

Sorry, I’m busy.

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Published in: on September 5, 2010 at 3:32 PM  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thanks for commenting on my blog post. Like you, I was very uncertain about programs like The Total Transformation Program, but it did end up having more substance than I expected. I wouldn’t recommend it to solve every behavioral problem like the ads suggest but it did have some good tips.
    Glad I found your blog. It’s rare to find another mom, Phd who has chosen to stay home with her kids. I really admire your decision to leave a tenure-track job. I know such a decision is (at least in my experience) not highly accepted in academia. Good luck with everything. Hope you stay in touch.

  2. Wait one second! How on earth do you make it to the gym? Please explain. Joined one. . okay, I’m NOT going to say when, but we’ve only gone ONE time. Please share your magic!

  3. The gym? We belong to the Y, which has what we call “playcare” — an area with toys and a bunch of teenaged sitters. They slap her name on my back and I have 2 hours– TWO GLORIOUS HOURS to putter around the gym before they hand her back, tired and socially sated and ready for dinner. It’s the best service EVER.


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