Fine, Loverboy, I’ll Work for the Stupid Weekend

Joanie is napping. I’ve just finished half the dishes, filled the slow-cooker, put the groceries away and found the first few minutes I’ve had to write this blog (with the exception of Friday night’s Grey’s Anatomy hour), in months. I took a hiatus from my weekly posts when I started working full-time in order to ease back into my usual overly ambitious list of projects. It seems fitting that my first post back should be about going back to work.

My intention was never to be a stay-at-home mom, but I did want to relish the first few month’s of my daughter’s life and to be physically present for as much of that time as I could. At least that was the way I approached the prospect of maternity leave during my pregnancy. After four long months of preventative leave and two months of maternity leave, I felt the walls absorb me as they did that poor woman in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wall Paper.” Okay maybe not to the extent that. No one was oppressing me, but I was feeling terribly anxious. To combat the cabin fever I picked up two shifts at a restaurant. Twice a week I’d serve brunch, meet new people, wax baby with other young couples, and make a little cash to help support my family. The walk to work was my favourite part; ten brief minutes under the early morning sun, with no one around, no crying, no chatting, not even another pedestrian. It was magical. Then winter came and the stroll became a trudge, so nuts to that.

When Joanie was four months old, a spot opened up at the daycare. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to let her go, but there was a time limit on the offer, and, as you’ll note in previous posts, it ended up being the right decision. Any job prospects I had weren’t due to start for a few months, so apart from my shifts at the restaurant I was suddenly flush with time, beautiful, luxurious to the point of naughtiness time, time which I used to tidy my apartment, write short stories, prepare lavish meals, and read the first three volumes of Knausgaard’s My Struggle. This was magical too.

Then January happened. I picked up four more shifts, then quickly changed to a new job, overlapped the two positions for about a week and watched the tidiness of our home erode and the vibrant green of my houseplants turn to a crispy brown. I now write in short unproductive spurts, have abandoned the dream of a clean sink, and order pizza more often then I should.

I can deal with a chaotic life. A woman at the daycare recently said to me, “It’s amazing what the human body can put up with.” I repeat that phrase in my head a lot, usually when I’m pushing a baby carriage through six inches of snow and stifling all sorts of horrible words. It helps me stay proud of what I’m doing and of all the good things I’m able to manage, even when so much is left unattended. The one thing it doesn’t ease, the one thing I can’t deal with, is the amount of time I spend away from my daughter. Today is the first day in months that I’ve spent a full day with my daughter. We woke up, drank some milk in bed, read some books, folded and unfolded the laundry and played with blocks. It’s been the best day I’ve had in ages and I wish it would last for several more, but I have to work tomorrow. Joanie will go to daycare. I will rush home from work to pick her up, push that damn buggy through a blizzard, and make it home with just enough time to shove dinner into her face, sing a couple Journey songs in the bath tub and put her to sleep.

I finally understand that stupid Loverboy song.

Note: All this is to say that I will now be posting every other week. Sorry for the long winded explanation.

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Next week… Next week… Wait… Next week, I promise

Standing in the middle of my living room, up to my knees in stuffed animals, discarded socks and receiving blankets, I remember a time when my apartment was tidy, minimal except for the alphabetically organized books. I might even venture to call it sleek. Order was maintained with little effort, but since Joanie’s birth, when we returned home and collapsed in an explosion of wipes and forms, pills and bottles, I have been frantically scrambling to catch up with all the annoying chores that compose my life. No matter how many post-it memos I leave myself I can’t pay my bills on time, I always forget items at the grocery store, I order pizza too often, and I still haven’t written my will.

On weekends I serve brunch at a restaurant in my neighbourhood. At the end of my shift on Sunday I slump onto the couch, order pizza and watch an episode of Gossip Girl, despite my promise that I wouldn’t watch that stupid hallow show anymore. In my state of exhaustion I say to myself, “next week I am going to be on top of everything.”

This affirmation reminds me of a similar pronouncement I would repeat when I was twenty. I was living in an apartment with my best friend, a performance artist, an international student, and a university professor whom I never met and would never meet. Most nights I’d work the overnight shift at a diner, then meet up with bartender friends for breakfast, go home and sleep until three or four in the afternoon. For an entire winter I didn’t see sunlight and on days I didn’t work I’d go to a carpeted bar to drink and dance. It was loads of fun, but outside of work and drinking I didn’t do much. My bills were left unpaid, the floor of my room was littered with pizza boxes and Lord help you if you expected me to respond to an email. And just like I do now, I’d wake up once a week and say, “this week I’m going to get my shit together.”

When friends hold Joanie on their knees and watch her wobble on her six month old legs, they laugh at a joke I’ve heard time and time again: “she’s like a little drunk person.” Babies may stumble through life as it they were intoxicated but I assure you it is the parents who live as drunks do. We’re sleep-deprived, we walk into doors, and we insist on talking about gross things nobody wants to hear about (see my other posts on poop). Most importantly, parents are constantly trying to catch up with their own lives, wishing there were twenty-eight hours in a day. Even as I write this, I should be calling Canada Revenue to wade through some bureaucratic nonsense. But it’s Friday. Tomorrow I work and I’m sure, come Sunday evening, I will make all sorts of promises about the week ahead.