~ Greta Garbo
Good Lord -- I sound just like my mother!
My mother never returned to the workforce after the birth of her second child. Granted, there is a huge difference between taking care of six children and taking care of two. I kept on working, albeit part-time, after both of mine were born.
Once my youngest started school I had the luxury of six and a half hours, two days per week, to myself. If I wanted to spend them cleaning or shopping I could do so, undisturbed. If I wanted to get a manicure, I could. If I was tired, I could get the kids off to school and go back to bed for an hour or two. My friends, it was the perfect balance of mom/work/me time; one which I enjoyed for nearly eight years.
Long story short: expenses increased, the economy tanked, and now I'm pretty much back to working full-time. Mommy works days and Daddy works nights, so I rarely find myself alone anymore. Alone time = quiet time. When the kids are around and I'm the only parent home, quiet time is practically non-existent. Children, even when they are in their early teens, are rather noisy and demanding creatures.
If the child is a girl of fourteen, she will operate under the mistaken belief that Mom does not notice when she turns up the volume on the television five minutes after being told to turn it down. She will interrupt Mom while she's trying to write and ask for help with chemistry homework. (After all, Mom did take chemistry twenty-nine years ago when she was a freshman in college.) While she is at it, she will solicit Mom's opinion as to which color nail polish is prettier -- Green With Envy or Blue Me Away -- or whether Mom thinks Channing Tatum is cuter than Toby Turner. (Who?) Frequently she will want Mom to drive her to the mall, to the library, or to a friend's house so she work on a history project that is due the next morning.
If the child is a boy of twelve who has Autism, he will be especially noisy and demanding. He will try to cope with his altered ability to process sensory input by stimming -- obsessively chanting a cadence of random phrases and sounds...
... and by sniffing -- repeatedly grabbing Mom around the neck and sniffing her head as if it was a bouquet of roses. He will crave oral stimulation and will routinely chew on things that are not meant to be chewed, such as earphone wires and watch bands.
He will need Mom's help with every bit of his homework. He will squawk about having to do it. Once homework is done he will cruise around the house and stim some more by scripting a bit of a favorite TV show:
To learn more about Dragon Tales, visit PBS Kids.org
This obsessive behavior typically elicits shrieks of, "Will you please SHUT UP!" from his older sister -- particularly if she is still working on homework -- coupled with loud door-slamming.
He will take his clothes off once or twice every evening and get into the shower because he likes the deep pressure of the water. He will make the water burning hot unless Mom comes in to supervise. He will need help getting toweled off and dressed again.
When urinating, he will often miss the toilet completely. If Mom is not watching, he will sit down to use the toilet and forget to use paper. He will get poop all over himself, the sink, and the bathroom towels in an effort to clean his hands. There will then be more shrieking from the older sister. "M-OM!!"
Hmm. Perhaps when you throw in the autism, two does equal six!
Will I ever be able to marry the Writing Life to the Working Mother Life? I don't know. Writing requires a certain amount of solitude, while parenting -- particularly special needs parenting -- requires a whole lot of engagement. If only they would "let me alone" as Ms. Garbo was fond of saying, I could get so much more accomplished! But, at what cost?
Tonight, as usual, it took almost an hour to get my son to go to sleep. There is a certain amount of ritual involved. First, I prompt him, step by step, to change into pajamas and to brush his teeth. Then I read him a story. When I finish the book and turn down the light, he always begs, "Mom, will you snuggle with me?" Ugh. This is a killer -- I always end up falling asleep before he does! If only I could tuck him in, give him a kiss, and be on my way. Alone time! Quiet time! Writing time!
"Mom, will you snuggle with me?" He grabs my wrist, turns to the wall, and pulls my arm across his body like a seatbelt. I settle in next to him and kiss his cheek. He sighs, safe and secure. "Good night, Mom." I wait for him to fall asleep.
Some time later, I wake with a start. Drat! Fell asleep with him again! Quietly, I shut the door behind me. I hear my daughter taking her shower -- perhaps it's not so late after all! Yes! I only lost an hour this time! Usually I don't wake until after midnight and by then it's too late; I just go to sleep in my own bed. But tonight, it's a different story. I put on the kettle and boot up the laptop. I've been working on this blog post for three days now; perhaps I'll finally get to finish it!
No sooner do I take my first sip of tea when my daughter comes downstairs. She sits across from me at the kitchen table and tells me about the meeting she had with her guidance counselor regarding classes for the following year. I put the laptop to sleep. (When your teenager actually wants to talk with you, you talk.) The discussion turns into a "Maybe I want to be ___ when I grow up" conversation. Important, yes, but eventually I point to the clock.
"We could have talked about this earlier," I chide. (When your teenager wants to talk at 7: 30, it's usually because she needs you. When she wants to talk at 10:30, it's usually because she doesn't want to go to bed.)
So, here I sit at the kitchen table having just finished this post at 12: 46 am. Such is the life of a mother-writer. Sure, there are times when I wish my children would let me alone so I could hear myself think and get those thoughts down before they slip away completely. But I know what's most important in my life right now.
With all due respect to Ms. Garbo, she never had kids.