Friday, June 15, 2007

Out of the Office

I spent most of yesterday doing at least one of the following: on a conference call on my cell phone with Max on my lap and "Blue's Clues" on mute; answering email or text messages while preparing a sippy cup, or throwing laundry into the dryer while composing a press release in my head.

Our daycare provider flaked (Goddammit, $150 a week and we still provide all his meals, he never gets a nap, usually comes home fairly grubby, learns lovely phrases like "SHUT UP!" from her teenaged sons, and on the last two days before summer vacation she's going out of town? Thanks for nothing.) and so I stayed home with him yesterday. Today Dan took him to school with him for the last day, and I hope I don't sound like TOO awful a parent when I say I'm relieved.

I spent the first 14 months at home with Max, mostly alone. I was horribly bored. I watched too much TV. I cooked entirely too much extravagent food, and ate too much of what I cooked. I smothered Max with attention and planned elaborate age-inappropriate outings out of my own boredom and my worrying that Max would be bored. I spent too much money.

I love being a parent and a mom. I feel totally irreplaceable in my son's eyes. Obviously, I love him more than I ever thought it was possible to love anyone.

But: I also love having something for myself. I love my stressful, fast-paced job that I'm good at and that pushes me every day to be better at. Truth be told, I'd never take a vacation if I didn't occasionally need to recharge and spend some time with my family.

I feel a little conflicted about all the time I spend away from Max, and, to a lesser extent, from Dan. Weekends go so fast, and too much of them is tied up with things like going to the grocery store and doing laundry and catching up on the emailing and phone calls that I don't get around to during the week. All of this conflict causes most of the anxiety I've been feeling over the past six months.

Dan, on the other hand: he is a teacher. He teaches ninth grade English, and his job is land-mined with all of the typical annoyances of Teacherland: bad kids. Annoying parents. Apathetic administrators. A competitive job market. Continuing education. Getting a cold eight times a year from the little walking petri dishes that he teaches.

It's June and it's the last day of school and Dan needs a break in a big way. Don't get me wrong. He loves his job just as much as I love mine. He loves it for all the right reasons, plus some very Dan-like responsible-adult reasons, like the great health insurance.

Okay, that's me. I love it for the great health insurance. But he likes that a lot too.

But truth be told, if teaching were a 12-month job, I don't know that he'd still be in it, or at least as perpetually in love with it as he is. Teaching comes with a high burnout rate, and every year, around January or February, I can see him beginning to wear down a little, beginning to count the weeks until June. I feel bad for him, especially because I love my job year-round.

By far the bulk of the parenting jobs fall on Dan's back now that I'm back at work. He's better at them anyway. I am far less likely to crawl around on the floor on all fours than he is. I am much more likely to tune out while reading a blog or a magazine while the kitchen burns and Max declares "Hot! Mama, hot!" "Uh-huh! That's right, Buddy! Hot!" *Flip page.*

Okay, that's an exaggeration. But not a huge one.

Dan will make sure that dinner is at least started when I get home. He has already begun planning out an elaborate weekly schedule that will ensure that Max gets to the Zoo, one of the Smithsonian museums, the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, the library, the aquarium, and feeding the ducks on the Potomac in Alexandria at least once. And because Dan is so comepletely Dan-ish, I'm sure that the floors will all be vaccummed, laundry done and put away, and nary a dish in the sink. He'll do it without complaint--he'll probably do it with zeal. With zest, even.

Shit. Was I supposed to be doing all of that stuff when I was at home with Max? Because mostly I was watching re-runs of "Dawson's Creek" on TBS and pretending to be Carmela Soprano while cooking elaborate and authentic versions of bracciole using recipes painstakingly researched on the internet and selected for their ability to dirty every dish in the house, while developing a nervous twitch in my right eyelid.

I went back to work because I felt like my brain was growing mold, and also, we were out of money. I stay at work because I'm good at my job. Also, if I didn't, we might have to move to a less savory neighborhood than we currently live in, and I'm not sure that exists.

But also, I am lucky enough to have a husband who's great at the things that made me not such a great stay-at-home mother. I am lucky to have married a guy who complements me so well. I remember to pay the electric and cable and cell phone bills; Dan would forget these things until they actually turned them off. Together, we keep the wheels turning.

Wood at Sweet Juniper wrote about why she wears the pants this week, and I know exactly what she means. I don't think Dan would make it in an atmosphere like the one I work in: constantly up against a deadline, constantly in pursuit of continued funding.

I feel quite certain, after yesterday, that I wouldn't make it in his atmosphere either.

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