Mar 15 2012

Bye bye baby

My littlest little, Teagan the 19 month old, starts “preschool” this week.  And I am le sad.

I know that she’ll have fun; she loves people and songs and books and playtimes.  And the school–the toddler counterpart to my son’s Montessori preschool–couldn’t be better.  I know that she’ll learn lots and make friends.  I know that on the days that I don’t work at the library, I’ll be able to write and hopefully cut out the number of nights I work in Starbucks until midnight, freezing and yawning and listening to off-key homeless banjo playing.

I know she won’t resent me for having two jobs, for working to further my career, for choosing a safe place for her to explore learning and new faces.

I know this is the next stage for our family.

I know all babies grow up, even dimple-cheeked, feisty blond ones.

But she is my last baby, and leaving behind this last year and a half spent nursing/cuddling/crawling/playing is harder than I thought it would be.  Don’t get me wrong — I don’t want another baby.  It’s just that I want more time with this baby.  This blue-eyed, squishy, noisy, climby baby that wraps her arms around my neck like a koala bear whenever I pick her up.  This baby that says “mom-EEEE” like a mantra and mine and no and whoa as many times as she can breathe.
I wonder if she’ll miss me with half the intensity that I’ll miss her?

Oct 6 2011

June Cleaver called. She wants her cleaning complex back.

I wonder if other women have as fraught of a relationship with their house as I do.  It seems like most of my other friends are able to effortlessly juggle work, children and their housework without breaking a sweat.  Or, if they’re not able to get to the laundry or the dishes or the suspicious stain on the carpet, they’re able to brush it aside.  Leave it for another day.  Go to bed without feeling like The House is staring at them with bright red eyes while they sleep.

These other magical women.

I, however, feel like The House is always following me around like a diseased parrot digging its talons into my shoulder.  The dishes!  The laundry!  The floors!  Those cats I used to love but now regard as burden of litter-boxing and feeding!  No matter how much I clean, it never feels like enough, and whenever I’m doing something else–babysitting, playing with my own kids, collapsed on the couch–I feel like I’m shirking my duties as a part-time SAHM/WrAHM/what have you.  This has become an issue in the last few weeks because, with my son off to preschool, I thought that meant I could use my daughter’s nap-times to write (if I didn’t take a nap myself.)  But so far, I just spend that extra free hour cleaning.

There’s no reason for me to feel this way.  My stepmother worked two jobs while my father sorted/washed/folded all the laundry and made meals once or twice a week.  My own mother stayed home, but was not particularly domestic.  In fact, growing up in my mother’s house should have inured me to all forms of mess.  I supposedly come from a generation of educated women who’ve grown up with more equal opportunities and less gender stereotypes than any generation before it.  So why do I feel like I’m letting my husband and children down if my house doesn’t look like a 1957 Redbook advertisment?

I didn’t always used to be so racked with messy house guilt.  When my husband and I first got married, and the sum of my responsibilities was an education from a state university and a part-time job shelving books/napping in the staff room at a library, I didn’t really give a crap how our apartment looked.  I still did most of the cleaning because I felt like that was my way to contribute, since I wasn’t contributing financially, but none of the chores ever haunted me.  I didn’t find myself wondering about a leftover load of laundry in the washing machine at parties.  I didn’t spend my drive to school wishing I used my morning to sweep and mop.  I maintained the apartment to the point that rats wouldn’t live in our closet, and that was good enough.  I had other things to do after all–watch Lost, and procrastinate on other things so that I could watch Lost.

No, I didn’t morph into a clean freak until after my son was born.  And then my brain split apart, and my eyes went red and a voice said, “There is no Bethany.  Only Clorox.”

Why do I feel the need to be Suzy Homemaker?  When I’m educated and modern and married to an educated, modern man?  Do our cultural roots go so deep, that unconsciously I associate good motherhood with the image of a woman in an apron scrubbing her toilet?  Or is there something biological in my mama bird brain that demands an organized nest?

In an effort to curb myself before I fritter all my time away wiping baseboards, I am resolving to Beat Back the House Guilt.  Go away, House!  You have no power here!  Not when there is writing to be written and books to be read and husbands to steal bites of pie from!