Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Those little terrors
You know you have traveled via train too many times when you notice the same graffiti tag over and over, or the same Amtrak guy who punches your ticket (well, he’s hard not to miss: he has spectacular dreads), or hiss in mock anger when “your” parking spot in the Amtrak garage at 30th Street Station is taken by a Jeep (Lower Level 2 by the elevator).
I’ve traveled the hour and a half from Philadelphia to New York so many times over the last month for work I’ve developed my own set of creature comforts: if traveling during lunchtime I always get the Bombay Chicken Salad from Cosi. If coming home at dark I always listen to Ray LaMontagne – no exceptions – on my mp3 player (he is relaxing, and I am tired). When waiting at Penn Station to board I always buy a fruit cup. I go to the bathroom exactly 25 minutes before my train is scheduled to depart. While in there, I often change out of my hose and into flip-flops.
This past week I was at the train station by 5:30 am. Meaning, I was up at 4:00 am. Meaning, my Dunkin’ Donuts receipt read 5:55 am as I bought my tasty flatbread egg sandwich. Boy, I sure do like to complain. On these early mornings, Matt sleeps in the guest bedroom so he can snooze to his regular 8 am (I was at my destination by 8 am). I say goodbye to Penny in the dark as she stands at the top of the stairs, peering down at me as I’m fumbling with my bags and suit jacket, and hop into the car as BBC World News is still being broadcast.
Now, for the most part, my job is an 8:30 to 5:30ish provincial sort of gig. Autumn is busier, and it’s during these times I start to think: How do they do it? I’m talking about working mothers (and fathers). When I get home, I have enough energy to humor Penny for a minute and ask Matt if he got the mail. Even when I don’t travel, I’m out the door by 8:15 am and in again at 7 pm. Because babies are on the brain (and, no, Mom, I am not pregnant) I’ve started wondering how late day cares are really open, and doing the math on those day cares and diapers. It’s absolutely terrifying!
About a year ago I read Leslie’s Bennett’s A Feminine Mistake, which basically states it’s imperative that women continue in the workplace throughout motherhood to secure their, and their children’s, future. What if your husband left you, those slimy worms? Or dropped dead? Her argument wasn’t out of feminist ideals, but pure practicality (and okay, maybe a pinch of feminist ideals). Before I read that, I knew I was going to be a working mom. And yes, even if out of pure practicality. I don’t want to worry about paying the heating bill (which can peak at $400 a month in the winter, and that’s with closing off the vents in most rooms, keeping it at 64 degrees when it is on, and turning the heat completely off when we are not home). And, by golly, I definitely want to be able to buy the pricey Greek yogurt I love, or go out to dinner at someplace other than T.G.I. Fridays. Matt and I did the math: we could “manage” – however uncomfortably – on his income. But that’s today, without an expensive addition to the family. So I’m going to work, if only to afford going out for sushi or indulging and buying the name brand (notice how all my examples involve food).
So, getting back to the crux of the matter: how DO they do it? How do they get home, put the day’s attitudes and egos behind them, and start on job two? I really want to know, because this is quite discerning for someone who is so innately lazy. And lazy we are. When Matt and I moved into our house two and a half years ago, we took down a shelf in our living room that resulted in a 2 x 2 hole in the wall. Well, it’s still there and I’m certainly not going to repair it. When I wake up in the middle of the night having to use the bathroom, I will myself back to sleep so I don’t have to leave the covers. When I walk Penny I don’t go as long as I should and chalk it up to, “She’s a dog; she doesn’t know if we made it to Frank’s house or just Willie’s”. (And, yes, Frank and Willie are both dogs, and Willie is a wretched little white furball.) But see! My laziness is hurting my family. We can’t even properly care for a dog. Penny has been getting frustrated with her lacks of walks and has begun to sit at my feet, staring intensely. She then does what can only be described as dog snorting and sighing as she inches up to my knee, never breaking her stare. It’s equally heart-breaking and annoying.
Now, I know Penny is a dog, but Matt and I are already experienced parental guilt, so I figure we’re pretty much doomed. When I have a Crohn’s flare, I am exhausted and ornery. Scratch that: I’m always ornery. On the other hand, Matt is the happiest-go-lucky guy I know, so we get a point there. He also rarely gets mad, even if you continuously flick his ear, not that I have ever done such a thing. However, he’s not one for babies (he once said he dislikes them because “they don’t do anything,” which was a really astute observation on his part), but loves little kids and finds them humorous and full of life and wonder. I sort of think they’re obnoxious and loud. I’m hoping we even each other out.
One thing we can both agree is on is that raising a child, and the demands it entails, is absolutely, 100% terrifying. Matt goes about it like this: “Yeah, the first few years are going to be awful. We’ll be tired all the time and not happy, but I think after five or so years it gets better. And it will be good when we’re old”. That is the Tao according to Matt.
So, until then, I’m just going to ooo and aww at parents who do it. And this is all not to say we don't like kids or want to have the little munchkins. We like them (enough), and I think we'll make great parents. But, until then, I’m going to indulge in my child-free ways and enjoy these last few years before I have to baby-proof a damn thing.