My mom and I have what has become an annual tradition of taking the kids to a rented beach house on the Jersey shore. We're back now, and my mind has shifted from the big concerns of a beach vacation: Is today a beach day? Will tomorrow be a beach day? (I decided they all were, unless it rained, and it didn't. Much.) Will we make it to the end of the week without going to the laundromat? (We did, although now I have a lot of laundry to do.) Will I have enough yarn to finish these socks? (No.) And, will it be the Tilt-a-Whirl or the Ferris Wheel tonight? (It was mostly the Tilt-a-Whirl.)
I've given my last post and the response it generated a lot of thought. (You know, in between playing frisbee and watching the surfers.) Just to reassure all of you who are my friends IRL, and who have expressed concern for my marriage and my/our feminism: yes, darlings, of course Joe and even the kids do all kinds of things every day, to help me, to contribute to our household and my peace. It was rhetoric, written in a hurry on a day when I was overwhelmed. It happens. Part of me wants to say SHEESH people, don't you know a rant when you read one? It was a VENT, not a position paper.
But I think I really was trying to say something, unbalanced though it was. So I will try again.
It turns out that holding all of this together is a lot of work. Being a SAHM is challenging, and part of the challenge seems to be that nobody (including myself) expects it to be particularly challenging. How hard could it be, really? You keep doing everything working parents do, but you have the major bonus of NO JOB. Or, for those of us who are freelancing in one way or another, no job that expects you to show up at a particular time. Your time is your own, to schedule as you choose.
There's the problem. Scheduling. There is a lot to do. You've got to get the grocery shopping done, the house clean to whatever standard you have chosen, the children clean and fed. Then there's the homeschooling, which (like every other job worth doing) can take as much time as you choose to give it. It's not like you're ever 'done.' Add to all that an old house with projects that never seem to get completed, and then throw in an avid interest in reading or sewing or knitting or spinning.... poof, your days are full.
Now, tell me what it is you do to feed yourself. Everyone agrees that it is necessary for mothers, working or not, to take care of themselves, right? And for me, personally, it doesn't count as 'me time' unless my children are elsewhere, out of earshot and being taken care of by someone else.
So... what's it going to be?
You need a walk every day? A half hour of yoga? Meditation, tennis? Great, when are you going to do it? There's no money for a babysitter (you don't have a job, remember) so you've got do it when there's another parent at home. At 6:30 in the morning, before your husband leaves for work? After dinner every day, when you're already bone tired from the aforementioned never-ending list?
Do you see how sometimes, some days, it can be just a pain the ass to get that so-called 'me time?' How some days you're just going to blow it off and sit on the couch, or (more likely) get another load of laundry done or go out and weed the garden instead? Some days, it's just one more thing to put on the list, and since the list is endless anyway, why add another thing to it?
And yes, I can see that this doesn't make sense, that the most important thing is to take care of myself, before the laundry, before the weeding, before the damn dishes. But the reality is that it doesn't always happen that way, and on the days when I can't fit it in, the expectation that I find time to take care of myself feels like just another place for me to fall short.