Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My love affair with work: Oct. 16, 2005

The years when I had very small children were tough because I worked weird schedules and odd days and at home and on multiple jobs and kind of all over the map of my profession so I could stay connected to my career but still be around for the boys a lot.

So I worked constantly and I parented constantly and I slept very little. It was kind of perfect. And I am so glad it's over.

Getting just enough of a good thing
    I love Fridays.

    Every Friday morning, after I drop my 5-year-old son at school, my mother comes to my house and takes my wriggling, sticky baby from my arms.

    The baby is thrilled to see her. She is thrilled to see him. I am out of the house about 10 seconds later.

    I head to the office. I sit at a desk where no one has gotten grape jelly on the computer mouse. I work, uninterrupted, for hours. I talk to grown-ups. Sometimes we eat lunch together. No one spills their juice or gets peanut butter in my hair. No one spits up on my shirt or flings baby food at me. I do not change a single diaper.

    It is paradise.

    One of my more tactful bosses recently observed that I look really, really tired. "You should go home and take a break," he said.

    I laughed. "I AM taking a break," I said. "Home is where I get tired."

    "Well," he said. "Come back to work and you’ll get a break every day."

    That’s the rub, isn’t it?

    Children all day every day is too much of a good thing.

    Work all day every day is too much of a good thing.

    So I work from home a few nights a week, and I come to the office a day or two a week, and I see my children a lot. And I’m really, really tired. But I’m pretty sure I’ve got the perfect existence.

    Back in April I attended a birthday party at the Creative Discovery Museum. The room was packed with kids hopped up on cake, ice cream and the prospect of present opening. My then-4-year-old was licking the icing off a piece of white cake and slugging down pink lemonade. My then-3-month-old was snoring in his car seat.

    Next to me, another mom was trying to nurse her 5-month-old son while her two older boys clamored for her to look at the crowns they’d made from one sheet of paper and five pounds of glue and glitter.

    "So you’re working part time?" I asked her.

    "Two days a week," she said. "It’s saving us a fortune in therapy."

    Amen, sister.

    When I was growing up, it seemed like my mother was pretty much always around, baking things and taking us trick-or-treating and making us elaborate Easter baskets. She helped me create the costume for my starring role in the fifth-grade play. She came to my interminable horse shows.

    She also earned a Ph.D., wrote a book and taught college classes. She loves her work, and I have always known that about her.

    For years, my mother told me that raising children was the most interesting and fulfilling thing she has ever done. She also told me that she was sometimes so tired after the birth of my younger brother that she would just sit on the floor and quietly weep.

    From her I learned the invaluable lesson that raising children may be the most rewarding thing I ever do, but it certainly doesn’t have to be the only rewarding thing I ever do.

    And it’s OK to be really, really tired.

    So I love Fridays. But not only because I get to spend them doing work I enjoy in a fluorescently lit paradise of grown-up discourse.

    I also love Fridays because when I get home after work, I am so happy to see my kids.

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