Somehow, Baba’s summer break snuck up on me. Each year, her day care closes for the last full week of August, as the school prepares for a new year. Since I have the more forgiving job when it comes to vacation time, I take it off each year to take care of her for a week of full-on motherhood. This year I didn’t even realize summer break was here until Wednesday of the week before, so I had very little time to plan or prepare, either for my leave of absence from work or for activities to keep Baba busy, which is rather a requirement if I have any desire of keeping my house from utter destruction.
As it happens, I recently started sharing my car with my brother, who is working far enough from home for the first time that he needs reliable transportation. That seemed like a great idea until I remembered my time off and that he’d have my car for each afternoon. So…homebound for half the day with a two year old or limited to how far our feet could take us, which is a shorter distance than you might immediately suspect, since Baba still badly needs naps, but refuses to take them when she’s at home with me. That added some challenges.
Every time I spend a week doing full-time parenting, I am bowled over by how hard it is. This year, Baba has enough friends that we could fill most of the week with play dates, so it was less lonely than past years have been. But now that she is so much more mobile, I could barely sit down all week. (And there is that issue of no more breaks naps.) My feet are throbbing, my back hurts and my calves ache enough that I have developed a potentially unhealthy loathing of stairs. As much as I’ve loved the extra time with Baba, who has developed just enough logic and vocabulary to have become hilarious, I am very much looking forward to sitting at my desk for a blessed six hours in a row tomorrow. Sitting on a train, sipping my morning coffee, writing another scene in another chapter on my novel — this feels like an unbelievably civilized way of living.
Seriously. It is 7:30 p.m. and I am writing this from bed becuase the thought of having to hold my head up on my own is simply untenable.
Alice Munro frequently mentions that being at home with three children was why she got so good at writing short stories, as she never had the focus to work on anything longer. I’ve always loved her work, but when I think about that and the last week, I can’t help but admire her more. This blog post is the first writing that I’ve done all week, because my days started when Baba climbed into my bed and only ended after the fight to get her to go to sleep. By then, I was so exhausted that I could barely climb onto the couch and feed myself dessert, much less put together words in an order that could possibly make sense.
But tonight my frustration with my lack of progress this week finally manifested as enough energy to actually get some work done. And, wouldn’t you know it, as I opened up my copy of Scrivener, I realized that the notebook that I’ve been writing in has gone off with my car to my brother’s job, which might as well be Timbuktu for as reachable as it is to me right now. It will return to me in the morning, but doesn’t it just figure?
Virginia Woolf was so right about that room of your own. If you’re not familiar with the essay, her point was that the men of her day were expected simply to work, while the women were expected to take care of their families and households, so if they were writers, it was that much harder, since they had no space to sit and think and no one working out their meals and laundry for them. As a working mom, I feel this intensely, since every minute of my day is planned long before the day arrives, which is the only way to keep a job and a household running and still have some energy each day to spend actual quality time with Baba, much less my Beloved. And I’ve certainly been frustrated with how much that slows down my writing, since I must write in 45 minute chunks of time, since my train commute is the only spare time I have all day. But that hour and a half each day is a gift and I have missed it, even as my time with Baba has given me more experiences to write about.
In the morning, Baba will go to a new classroom, with the same children that she’s gone to school with since she was four months old. She’ll have a new teacher and spend her days with her friends, who she has missed while she’s been stuck at home with me. And I will go back to work, both grateful to get back to my normal challenges and deeply regretful that I will have to wait for hours for Baba to throw her tiny arms around my neck in that clumsy strangehold that always takes my breath away.