It's an odd sensation, this feeling of idleness without guilt. Usually any moment I sit staring off into space, I'm nagged by the needly pricks of my to-do list: Manuscript editing, career networking, email reading, invoice mailing, playdate booking, neighborhood volunteering, childcare swapping, tantrum soothing, lunch packing, lawn mowing, argument refereeing, pool cleaning, floor mopping, diaper changing, toy sorting, laundry folding, medication dosing, bill paying, bathroom scrubbing, asthma monitoring, grocery shopping ... wait, I'm forgetting something. Oh yeah, quality time. When the heck am I supposed to squeeze that in? Argh.
As a working mom, I have found quality time to be the very rock that Sisyphus pushes up the hill. Maybe if you have smiley, cheerful kids made out of plastic, quality time is great. Especially if Mommy takes enough uppers to be perky and patient all the way through 8:30 p.m, because then the family can bond over dinner and roll right on to the nightly bedtime routine happily. But me, I am amphetamine-deprived, and my kids, they are the normal, made-of-meat variety. We all arrive home on worknights in a precarious state. It does not take much to push three hungry and tired females into being cranky. And once cranky, it's just a little hop over to someone (everyone) becoming screechy. And there might have even been a little biting in the dinnertime mix. Because toddler Little A, she is not above taking an angry chomp out of mommy's shoulder, should that sippy cup of warm milk not fly out of the microwave fast enough. That child is silky angel hair and sweetness most of the time. But you do not screw with Little A's hunger, if you know what's good for you.
But then the summer solstice hit, and life suddenly shifted. Work started to wrap up. The crazy patchwork of childcare we'd put together for both the kids in the past year also got cut back and simplified. Plus it is July, when colds, flu, and pnuemonia take a plane to the other hemisphere. So nobody is sick, and the doctor's appointments are also fewer and farther between.
All of this has made a huge difference in our lives. That elusive quality time I have been fighting for? It now exists! Ironically, I got here by spending huge quantities of time with the kids. We've picnicked at the ocean, visited the zoo, tromped through the science museum, hit the amusement park, camped in the Sierras, gone swimming in our pool, wandered on the hill trails around our house, skipped along the bike path, watched parades and fireworks, and worn an entire extra-large box of sidewalk chalk down to the nibs. We've eaten more stone fruit, strawberries, turkey dogs, and ice cream than I fathom. Labor Day is over six weeks away, and we've already gone through two bottles of sunscreen. I'm lining up the empty coppertone tubes on my bathroom windowsill as trophies to the fun.
And the housework? It's as piled up as before. But now it doesn't vex me quite so much. There is a huge difference between trying to find the time between work phonecalls to launder your daughter's blankie quickly because she won't sleep in the hospital without it and trying to get the beach towels clean so you can head out tomorrow for another day in the sand.
Long story short, the not working for awhile thing? It's working out.
Maybe come September when Big A starts kindergarten I will again feel the tug of work and need to change things up again. But that's September, maybe. For now, I feel like I can rest, play, and breathe. Finally.