Yesterday morning I was bustling around, preparing for a meeting related to my Once and Future Career, and I realized that it just wasn’t going to work. I couldn’t find the paperwork I had painstakingly printed out months before, and since I don’t own something as fancy as a printer, there was no way I was going to be ready for this meeting. My husband tried to help, but I was not having that, since I had already moved over into Despair Mode, in which not having a print-out means you are never going to do anything with your life ever again. We got into a sad argument about it, as I rescheduled my meeting for the following week, and he left on bad terms to go to work. I cried a bit while getting Olive ready to go out, knowing we needed to hit the pavement or I would be a puddle on the floor in no time. We followed my feet to… the door of my husband’s job. Gratefully, he took a five minute break so we could sort out that he will agree to back off and let me be ambivalent and angsty if I need to be, as long as I agree to ask for help more. After we got that worked out, I felt a little better but still like I was huge failure, in a general sense. I took Olive to Toddler Time at the library, and when I got home I looked up my favorite “chin up” song, which is Cheer up, Charlie from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Check it out the next time you’re blue — with that sucker on repeat a few times I felt all warm in my heart, especially because one of my husband’s inexplicable nicknames for me is Chuck/Charlie/Chuckles/Charles.
A friend came over for lunch, and I chatted with her about how difficult it is to be so adrift in this time in my life, to still not know what I’m doing, and to try every day to be okay with that and let life happen on its own, paying attention to the signs along the way. We went and got ice cream, and since Olive dumped most of hers all over her torso, and then came home and stuck her hands in the toilet, I spent the early afternoon giving her a bath. I rarely give Olive baths, as when she was little I had read some sad story about a child who died in a bathtub and I was unnaturally afraid of it. It just sort of became her dad’s job, but now that Olive is bigger and less likely to drown I am okay with doing it, and this particular day it took on a meditative function. When you are a Work-At-Home-Mom, the idea of “accomplishing things” with your day is such a different concept than just checking items off of the To-Do list. Raising a human is completely non-linear — you have to be flexible, throw out your agenda most of the time, and be as comfortable with chaos as you can. I decided to forgo some big unpredictable park trip and just focus on bathing and grooming Olive for awhile. She took a long bath, in which I lovingly and methodically brushed out her curls, taking care with the “kitchen” at the back of her head, where her fro had started to dread up. After her bath I put balm on her scraps from her rough-and-tumble morning, combed her hair, clipped her nails and put her in a comfortable, easy outfit for the rest of the evening. She babbled to me as I worked, feeling grateful and totally engrossed in the process of caring for her little body. When I finished she looked so clean and wholesome that I took a couple of photos:
Afterwards, she looked at me and said, “Tans? Tans?” with a sweet, hopeful look in her eye. She’d never done this before, but through trial and error I figured out that she wanted to dance with me! I was overjoyed that my baby was asking me to dance, so I kicked up the jams and we had a dance party, laughing together as we cavorted around the living room. We do this every day at some point, but this was the very first time she’d actually asked for it. Her favorite is when I take both of her hands in mine and jump from side to side, every once in awhile picking her up slightly. She turned her face up to mine with a smile of pure joy. And in that moment I remembered that just the day before I had told another SAHM that even though she sometimes feels she’s not making a contribution to society (like she was before when she was in the “working world”), she is doing the most important job in the world by raising a quality human. It was corny then but that didn’t make it any less true — in my 10 years of social service work, I have become convinced that 100% of the world’s problems could be solved by better parenting. So, I needed to take my own advice. I may be a little disorganized right now, but I am so, so blessed to have this time with Olive daily. And she was telling me, with her whole body, how glad she is to have me as well.