I am very, very lucky to have a flexible job and one that respects its employees and their family demands. I'll say that first of all. With everything that I struggle to maintain (schooling, family, housecleaning, trying to make sure Alice isn't out roaming the neighborhood looking for dogs), I am truly blessed, and I recognize that and that a lot of women don't have that. They have to work, and sometimes for some not very understanding employers. So when I talk about struggling with being a SAHM, please know that I'm not sharing some smug, white lady problems.
Because of my understanding employer, and well, because it is summer and all of the courses we offer are now online (as opposed to hybrid, which is what we offer during the Fall/Spring semesters), I have been cleared to start working in office three days a week. Technically, that is what I'm supposed to do all year round, armed with my laptop. However, because of other demands on my time, as well as the fact that I can just get more done while sitting in an office, this does not often happen.
Last week was my first week with the new schedule. On Wednesday morning, I woke up early, got the kids dressed, put on a pair of shorts and a striped top and prepared. When Alice woke up, I fixed her a nice breakfast and then took her to the park. FAIL. Even though it was bright, sunny, and nearly painfully hot, I had forgotten about the hard rain we had had the night before. The park was surrounded by a lake. We walked around with Alice pointing at the "war-dee", rode the merry-go-round a couple of times and then I promised to take her to the lake in town to see the ducks. However, when we got there, we didn't see one damn duck (despite the fact that when I am there running, about 50 of them try to nip at me on a daily basis. I figure my legs look too much like white bread), only a big goose who was paddling in the middle of the lake. Yet again, FAIL. Alice and I walked about half a mile (and yes, I had forgotten her stroller in the other car) before she discovered the wooden walkway leading to the bathrooms and walked up and down it three times. We left when a recent parollee started yelling at his pregnant girlfriend over a lunch from Burger King at an adjacent picnic table.
I get home, fix Alice her pesto pasta lunch, strip her down and let her eat it herself, armed with a big, adult spoon cause I'm cool like that. And I'm watching her, and she's having a really fantastic time but I'm thinking that a real SAHM would have known the park would be flooded and the ducks gone. Because she would have been there all along, not venturing out for the first time in a good while, trying on the SAHM status like a cape. And that ole working mom guilt flooded me and I felt pretty icky for a solid half hour or so. My house is disorganized, there is a constant flood of unwashed dishes in the vicinity of our sink, my poor little tomato and banana pepper plants (the only garden I managed this year) are vastly in need of some love and some Miracle Gro. I put Alice down for her nap and moped on the couch with an old Law and Order: SVU rerun.
Yesterday, I had planned to to actually send Alice up to my MIL's despite having the day off. Matt had also taken the day off, and we were planning on reorganizing our garage. However, we had just started taking some outgrown kids stuff out there when Matt started puking. And, like clockwork, the phone rang, and the nurse summoned me to the school to pick up Gabby, who was suffering the same fate. I decided it was a sign for me to keep Al with me and SAHM it again. We stayed home with our "patients" and made a day of improptu dance parties, chicken soup preparation and cupcake icing. At the end of the day, Alice had had to have two baths, and was laying across her Dora couch, clutching a stuffed dog and looking dazed and happy.
And it was then that I knew. No matter where I have spent my time over the past little bit, no matter where noon each day finds me, Alice and I are linked. And we are happy together. Giddily so, in fact. We understand each other--each one of my children and I share a distinct and lovely understanding. Alice and I are two that play hard, almost to the point of exhaustion, and then throw ourselves in a heap and sleep that way. Seeing her there, laid out on her couch like three week's wash, I was happy with being a working mom, part-time, full-time or otherwise. I was happy with my decision and my family and all of it. And, as I'm sure any mom (working or SAH) can attest, having that moment guilt-free was pretty sublime.