This fall, I enrolled Ellis in a little pre-preschool. She goes once a week. They teach her how to sing “Going on a Bear Hunt” and put bean bags on her head and wait her turn. This week, I asked her if she had fun at school and she said, “Yeah. But I don’t wike to wait my turn! I JUST DON’T WIKE IT!” Then she began to cry. And I felt like I could just kiss school because whatever lesson she had learned was good and effective, and I wasn’t there for the majority of the screaming.
In fact, school has been going so well that I put us on the waitlist for a second day.
This week, the teachers told me that we are off the waitlist. I was so happy, I almost full-on smooched them.
When I got home, I felt like crap.
Last November, I quit my part-time work, so I could full-time mom. And it’s been an adjustment to say the least. I frequently have women tell me, “Oh, how wonderful! You can be with your kids and do your writing thing!” And I want to laugh, because in what world do they live in? A world where their two-year-olds didn’t give up a nap and poop their underwear during “rest time” or where their babies didn’t…well, baby, all the time?
In any given day, I have approximately one hour during naptime to write. I get everyone situated: Baby Jude in his crib sleeping. Ellis in her room with a stack of books. Then, I sit down and I open up Word and I just start writing. If I get distracted even for 15 minutes, it’s all over. Someone will cry. Someone will poop. Someone will stand by her doorway and sing “PRINCESS PRINCESS!” at the top of her lungs until someone else wakes up. More than once, I’ve thrown in the towel and carted them off to the frozen yogurt place because nothing good was happening. My kids are still little. Once we find a rhythm the tune changes.
In college, I used to demand absolute silence to write. I would put on noise-cancelling headphones and glare at anyone who so much as chewed in my presence. Now, I just say, “Unless there is blood or fire, leave me alone!” And I keep typing until the din has swallowed the house whole and I can no longer ignore the monkeys rattling their cages or flinging poo. Sometimes it’s both. Usually, what I’m writing is not for here. It is for one of my handful of paid writing jobs. Jobs I’ve held onto because being a one-income family is tight and we still want to contribute to our kids’ college fund. What I make is just enough for that, school and not much else. Except a once-a-month cleaning service. But that ends in December. Hold me.
I also hold onto my jobs, because I love them. I love the moments when I can write and reach for things beyond just me and this little kingdom here in Iowa. To be completely honest, I need them. I need to work outside of this place. And if we are being really honest, sometimes what I write isn’t for here or for money. It’s just for writing. And I submit these things to anthologies and literary magazines and websites I love but don’t really pay. Writing is my meth.
But making all that happen feels like the toddler equivalent of juggling. Meaning: I take a bunch of balls, throw them into the air and yell, “JUGGLING!” as they all crash down on my head. Ever since J was born, I’ve been neglecting some of my commitments because there just isn’t enough of me or enough time. Sometimes I write at night, but baby J has me up at 4am and if I don’t get to sleep by 9, I’m a monster. I’m also married. And it takes a lot of energy not to be a jerk to your spouse.
But that second day of school looms over me–it’s my boon and my doom. It reminds me that I am not handling things as well as I would like to. That finding balance and doing everything is hard. And I don’t even do everything. My house is messy. My laundry isn’t put away. Food on the floor keeps sticking to my feet. I don’t even look at Pinterest, because I don’t need yet another way to realize all the things I’m not doing.
But we all feel like that. Don’t we? No matter where we sit. At home. At work or on the fence. We all feel consumed by the small details of our lives. The poop. The papers. The smiles. The noodle under the couch.
So, I’m swallowing my guilt, the guilt that says, she’s so little, she needs her mom, why aren’t you valuing time with her above yourself and taking the second day. There is no perfect. There is only what we have. And what we need. And what we need, no matter where we are, is help.
Or, at least, I do.