Every day is the weekend, if you’re on sabbatical. (I suppose every day is also Monday, but that’s not a problem for me this year.) My actual weekends are spent chasing after little ones, who have even more energy now that it is too cold to play outside for long. It took several years before I realized how creatively draining it is to parent, at least for this introvert. Hence, when Mondays roll around, I am one happy camper.
I’m a bit of a puzzle to the other parents at day care; our versions of “dressing up” vary. Most of them are in fabrics that are dry clean only and (the women at least) are wearing makeup. I’m usually wearing my jammies underneath my jacket. (There’s a reason the blog is Cemeteries and Pajamas, after all.) I’m also a bit of a puzzle to some of my colleagues and other people I encounter in daily life, who tell me how nice it must be to spend so much time with my kids. I’ve finally gotten over my shame of saying, “Well, they’re in day care.”
Why the shame? I love my kids and would do just about anything for them. Yet doing just about anything for them doesn’t translate into having them home with me full time. After sitting with this question for a few months, I realized that deep down I wondered if my reluctance to take them out of day care sprung from some kind of cap on my love for them. In other words, the narrative I told myself went something like this:
- If I really loved my kids, I wouldn’t hesitate to keep them home with me full time.
I’m aware of the inherent sexism in parenting; no one’s ever asked my husband (who is also on sabbatical) if he loves having the kids home full time, while I get this question all the time. I also can’t count the number of times I’ve had people give me a sympathetic smile when I talk about my careers (both library and writing) and say it’s too bad I have to work and can’t just stay home with the kids.
I’m not wading into the work vs. stay at home debates. I know women who love staying home with their children. I know others who stay home because of economic reasons just as I know some who work because of economic reasons. I know men who stay home with the wee ones or wish they could or who would hate it. My point: we should speak the truth of our experiences and not denigrate others for speaking the truth about theirs.
One of my goals in life, as I edge toward middle adulthood, is to be more assertive in my actions and speech. (Note: assertive, not aggressive.) So this is my truth: I love my kids. Unconditionally. And I love my work. Those loves aren’t mutually exclusive. I also love the time and space sabbatical gives me to pursue my writing full time and to recharge each weekday before those little feet start pitter pattering through the house. (Read: leaping off the furniture and chasing the cats.)
Barrier to the page: Today’s barrier is very personal – a feeling of shame that I am not with my kids full time
Solution: Examine the narratives shaping those feelings, listen, kick back with a laptop and a warm fire to spill my thoughts onto the interwebz