Thursday, January 08, 2009

Day by Day

"How we spend our day is, of course, how we spend our lives." -Annie Dillard

What did you do today? Sometimes my husband asks me this question when he gets home from work, well after dark. He doesn't ask it with contempt, as if, to imply that my day is leisurely, but rather, to make conversation. I, however, sometimes take offense to the question, since I feel like I've been playing hooky from work for five years. Every morning when the alarm goes off at 5 a.m. I can't believe I can slide down like a turtle under my warm shell of winter blankets.

"Well, I didn't sit down really, that's for sure." I sometimes say, my tone defensive.

"I wasn't implying that you did." He retorts, shortly. The conversation goes downhill from there. Really, I know I'm responsible for that sort of tension, since my feelings about life as a stay-at-home mom are conflicted. My brain wants to be at work, but my heart won't let that happen. Often, I feel guilty for the confusion because I'm sure that this opportunity to watch my children grow, and mold them more carefully, is a true blessing. I'd be lying, however, to say that is isn't actually hard work.

Maybe I don't get up at 5 a.m., but there isn't a moment after I do rise that I'm not tending to the needs of children. After I had my third child I had to "remember" to eat and even to use the restroom. (Only a mother understands this.) I'd sneak into the bathroom for just a minute before the search party was sent out, calling after me in discontented chorus.

"It's not like I'm an air traffic controller or something like that." I remark to my doctor at a routine check-up.

We're talking about stress, and how it affects one's body.

"I know a few people, myself included, who would rather be responsible for the safety of airliners than toddlers and preschoolers. Motherhood is under-rated," he quips, as he catches two wooden trains that baby Bigfoot spontaneously tosses at him. I appreciate his acknowledgement of the pressures of motherhood, but I still feel guilty for struggling with full-time parenting. I always imagined I'd be in my glory every second of it.

Then there are moments like the one I had this afternoon, when I am as contented as Mr. Norman Whiskers. I was reading Anna Karenina on my favorite chair, when my three year old daughter, the princess, climbed on my lap with a puffy down blanket. We cuddled for an hour like that, and she lay perfectly still until I could hear her soft little snore on my arm. I could stay like that forever. These little moments reinforce my conviction that being home with my kids is worth the sacrifice, and is, in some ways, a secret luxury.


Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller said...

Unlike Anna Karenina, who has a whole staff of nannies and nurses to tend to her children, and maids to clean her house, you only have yourself and a few modern appliances. It truly is a full life. And yet it is a luxury too, in this time, when many woman must juggle jobs outside the home with the cares of family and home aw well. It all depends on what kind of day you're having!

jenx67 said...

Great post.

Anonymous said...

Funny. You talk about feeling guilty about being a stay-at-home Mom while in discussions about children with my wife, I want to make sure there is one of us home to do exactly what you have the opportunity to do - watch them grow and instill the right morals in them. I don't want my kids raised in daycare, at least not at that young age. Whethr we can pull it off is an unknown, but I certainly am envious that you have the ability to do so. Cherish it. Don't feel guilty about it...


Loren Christie said...

Thanks for the wonderful comments, everyone. I truly appreciate it. GT, if you can manage it, have one of you stay home. I'm sort of venting, but it is totally a blessing. Elizabeth, I'd secretly love a cook. I think I could learn a lot from her/him, and it would free up that help with homework or make dinner conflict.

The Koala Bear Writer said...

Hear ye, hear ye. Great post. My hubby and I have almost identical conversations some days. He asks, "What did you do today" and when I just say, "Dishes, laundry, cleaned house, made supper, took care of Sunshine, ran errands," I feel like it's not enough. I do appreciate being there to see all the little things she's learns, and there's no way I'd put her in daycare, but somedays, I still feel like he has to work hard and I get to have fun. Sigh. The joys and woes of motherhood! But as you say, the cuddly beautiful moments make it worthwhile...

Carolyne Aarsen said...

I love the joke that goes - a man comes home and the kids are on the lawn in their p.j.'s covered in filth. He goes into the house and falls over boxes and blankets, the kitchen is a disaster, milk and cereal and dried up egg and toilet paper. Something is burning on the stove and the entire house looks like it's been hit with a hurricane. He follows a trail of syrup and peanut butter up the carpet and finds his wife sitting in bed, reading. He's shocked and demands to know what has happened. She looks up and says, "You know how every day you come home and ask me what I did today? Well, today I didn't do it."
Never, ever underestimate what you are doing. As one who stayed home with her kids and struggled to make words and children obey at the same time, I salute and encourage you.

Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller said...

Start teaching them now and maybe when they are teenagers you will be free of cooking. I used to cook dinner for my family while my mom was going to graduate school!

Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller said...

I would love to have a maid. I used to like to clean - now it seems like all I do is pick up after people. Entertaining would be so much more pleasant if I didn't have to worry about keeping the house clean while I made things nice.

Milkman said...


Your comments were very funny, however, I am afraid of the dangerous ideas you are placing in Loren's head. Her Husband a.k.a (Milkman)

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