staying at home

I’ve been thinking a lot about work, and what I’m going to do about it, this week. I know I wrote in an earlier post that I have a ton of different writing projects I am lining up and working on, and that remains true – what also remains true is my lack of interest in considering writing my only work. Since I was a little girl, I’ve always dedicated time to writing – it keeps the voices in my head at bay and my “what if” nature quietly in check. Certainly, I am spending more time at it now than I previously was able to, and I’m excited about the myriad possibilities before me, but I am not in a place – and probably never will be – where it is my income. And I am fine with that – there is still joy in it for me, and for that I am so grateful.

Currently, I guess, I am a stay at home mom. Well, there’s no guessing about it. My kids go to school a couple of days a week but Duncan is with me for five of the seven, Evangeline for four of them. This time with them has been a gift – it’s given them time to develop their brother/sister relationship instead of spending the majority of time in separate daycare classrooms, and it’s given me time to get to know them individually on a level that frankly, I didn’t before. It’s also been really, really hard. It might have been easier in Pittsburgh where I had a strong network of mom friends but here, because my oldest isn’t yet in kindergarten, I don’t have a support network or tribe to rely on, or any other mom friends to talk to. Right now I desperately miss having co-workers to talk to in the morning, and big ideas to discuss.

But, of course, when I was working I longed for the kind of time I have now. I don’t have to worry about vacation time or checking my email at night while the kids sleep. In my old position every vacation I took for five straight years was interrupted by a crisis back at work – I never took a vacation where I didn’t routinely check work email while I was away. That was difficult for me.

I think part of the reason I don’t ultimately want to remain at home is because, a part from cooking, very little of what it entails interests me. The kids are great but, as Sam pointed out last night, I’m not particularly crafty (although we have done some crafts!) and I’m not fascinated by interior design or home repair projects or any of the like. I basically see everything but the kids, and maybe cooking, as a big impediment to writing or, if I’m not writing, being out in the world. And since that is the case, I should probably, aside from spending time with the kids, be writing OR out in the world, not staring in despair at our bedroom because I just don’t want to paint it.

I recently attended a dinner party with Sam – it was great fun even though I was recovering from food poisoning because, PEOPLE. Several of the women were stay at home moms and several of the women held high-level jobs throughout the city. I enjoyed talking with all of them (PEOPLE) and never had an answer when they asked me whether I planned to continue staying at home or whether I was looking for work. You can’t really answer BOTH to that kind of question, but it’s where my heart is right now. I want to stay home and drink coffee and snuggle my kids under warm blankets while Sesame Street plays in the background and watch my husband emerge from our bedroom, all suited up and ready to tackle the day but I also want to wear my own suit and greet morning co-workers and talk about women’s health issues, and I want to spend time writing all the things I want to write and by the way, I would also like to audition for some plays again someday please and thank you. And also cook delicious meals but never ever again google “how to clean marble.”

The internet has become such a stratifying place when it comes to working moms versus stay-at-home moms. Popular websites publish completely shitty articles like “Things Working Moms Will Never Understand” and “Why I don’t hire moms” and all sorts of similar junk and it’s all so stupid. It’s ALL difficult to figure out. (I have two more minutes to write. I have no idea how I am going to wrap this up). We are all just trying to do the best we can, working or not, partnered or not, parents or not. The either/or of our situations is a society construct, and not true to how we really exist in the world, but yet we abide by it, making it so difficult to answer questions like whether we “work” or not – whether we want to “work” or not. Oh, but while I am here, let’s settle one thing once and for all…stay at home moms ARE working. And there is no income for scrubbing yogurt that has solidified into the crevice of the floor with a toothbrush because you ignored it for days in favor of keeping your toddler from killing himself because he climbs the china cabinet every time you blink. Not that I would know anything about that.

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Winter

Winter arrived yesterday, bringing its full Arctic glory to Ohio. Extremely cold air and just enough snow to play outside with Evangeline for an hour. She spent much of that time making obstacle courses in the snow for us, and I spent much of that time standing by the bank of pine trees in our back yard, just breathing the Midwestern winter in. Winter is in my bones, and I remembered so many winters when I was a child, playing in the snow, ice skating, skiing – it’s a season I embrace, although with a little less enthusiasm now that I have little kids and hats and mittens keep getting lost and the younger one absolutely hates his winter coat.

Last night Duncan was coughing in his sleep, hard enough that I ended up going into his room to help him prop up his pillow. This was a difficult decision because he is a light sleeper and any appearance I make in his room signals to his baby brain it’s time to get up for the day. This was the case last night as well and he repaid my concern by taking nearly two hours to go to back to sleep, during which he repeatedly tried to drive me like I am a car and escape his room to wake up his sister. I eventually got him settled and went back to bed.

I toyed with the idea of moving my alarm clock later but it is that kind of decision, I think, that has kept me from achieving some of the goals I am aiming for in 2016. I keep waiting for things to “settle down” – for the kids to sleep perfectly and consistently, for all of us to be healthy, for the minor crises that have plagued us since we moved here to stop – and I’ve come to the realization that, as a grown up, none of this is going to stop. The night before last Evangeline woke from a nightmare and begged me to sleep with her, so I spent hours with her freezing feet tucked into my back. Recently she has been diagnosed with a minor health condition – nothing to be alarmed about but something that will require management – and I realized, all of this would have happened in Pittsburgh, but I would have been working full-time. At least right now, at this particular time in my life, I can give her care my full attention, and if both my kids keep me up at night I can sleep during Duncan’s nap time. None of this is the end of the world, and sleep loss and, well, life? They aren’t things to fear.

So I woke up to the bitterly dark morning and came here to type for half an hour before the rest of my family wakes up. My goals for the month include finally updating my resume and all my subsequent social media profiles, reviewing my old writing projects to see if there is anything I want to continue to work on, and starting to write again. I have a memoir-y type book bouncing around in my head, as well as at least one hundred other ideas (incidentally, I think it’s on the floor of my son’s room where I write my best work…in my head, rubbing his back). I am also going to look toward teaching some courses at the local universities as an adjunct, and follow what interests me here in Toledo.

Happy Monday, world.

We are all so close together now

As it turns out, moving is no joke, but you probably already knew that. The last month has been out of control – within the last four weeks I ended my job with the hospital system I worked with for over eight years, packed the marginal amount of stuff I could manage in addition to the children and our dog, and joined Sam in a two-bedroom apartment in Toledo, Ohio. Our dog promptly grew critically ill from a wicked virus he picked up at the kennel where we boarded him – twice I drove to the emergency veterinary hospital prepared to put him down – more on that whole story later. It took a little over a week for Skylar to heal, and as soon as I brought him home Evangeline and I immediately departed for Colorado for a week to celebrate my brother’s wedding. The trip turned out to be a much-needed buffer between our relocation and actually living in Toledo, and I fell madly in love with Colorado. It is my experience that like people, you can’t have too many places to love. If we are lucky, life is long and wide and you don’t know where it will take you.

The apartment we moved into is the opposite of the house we left behind – one floor of modernity that has benefits and drawbacks. Benefits include an incredible easiness to clean – I feel like a housekeeper extraordinaire! There is storage here so I can put things away. For every nook I clean, there isn’t a cranny leaking century-old coal dust onto the floor. If Duncan races into another room my heart rate remains the same because there are no stairs for him to topple down (he long ago figured out the secret to baby gates) and the amenities of living in a complex designed mostly for doctors and lawyers and such to wait out relocation can’t be beat – a large pool that Evangeline prefers I refer to as azul and parks for kids, a park for the dog. But it’s small, and after our entire family life spent a house with many cavernous rooms, we are all getting to know one another a lot better. Duncan and Evangeline are sharing a room, which they enjoy but is a little trying for me. Evangeline is a hard sleeper but Duncan likes to wake up in the middle of the night and chatter – no problem when he was in his own room in his own bed but a habit my daughter finds trying, understandably so. They are working it out. On the occasions when Sam’s snoring grows too much for me to bear, or if I’m racked with insomnia, there aren’t the two extra rooms for me to escape to with my pillow and book, just the living room couch which is comfortable but not the same. And this situation is fine for me, but Evangeline was the one who alerted me to the fact that if one of them gets sick, there isn’t the “extra” room for them to sleep in with me, which I am sure I’ll miss mid-winter.

Truthfully, though, while part of my heart broke off and shattered the day I left my church and my friends behind in Pittsburgh, I don’t miss living in a city. The first time I took the kids out for ice cream and we sat on park benches looking at trees instead of concrete I knew we had made the right decision. Don’t get me wrong – Pittsburgh is a wonderful city, and a great one to raise a family – there was so much I loved and will continue to love about it, but I wasn’t born and raised there and I feel much more peaceful returning to the Great Lakes region. I’ll return to Pittsburgh a couple of times a year to visit my friends and their families and stock up on homemade pasta and prosciutto – Pittsburgh will always have a huge part of my heart, but Michigan IS my heart and to be so near again? Well, I’m home.

I have so much I want to talk about! My transition (for a while, anyway) to a stay at home mom and how I totally underestimated the snack preparation involved in staying at home, and rededicating myself to a reading, writing and teaching kind of life (what even WAS that corporate detour? Okay, not really – I loved my job for a long time and have a lot to say about it, actually) and the limbo living between Pittsburgh and Ohio, but there is time to discuss all of this. I mainly wanted to say hello, revive my blog posting and start putting my fingers to keys again. I am going to finally get with the times and probably create a Facebook page for this blog, but in the meantime you can reach me through this blog or on twitter at CPMcCrimmon or on Instagram at bookgirl1977.