I have two new contracts. They came to me randomly and in quick succession. Someone needs a minor variance; someone else needs a zoning by-law and official plan amendment (exciting!) and they found me. Great! But also crazy.
My work comes in fits and spurts. When I’m busy I’m really, really busy because there isn’t much give in the kindergarten-grade-one-three-meals-a-day-bedtime-at-eight-don’t-want-to-live-in-filth timeline.
My usual week has mum-days and work-days. When I’m busy the work-days blend into the mum-days so that Malli (whose school day is shorter) finds himself eating lunch in the car while being dragged along on a site visit to assess building heights in the neighbourhood of my client’s desired new development. Every small boy’s dream!
Malli and I know how to make work fun. Or rather he knows how to make everyday things fun and when I’m smart enough to listen to him then I know how too. It helped that our friend came along and stayed with him in the park while I did the bulk of the site visiting. And we let him pee on one of the trees. He helped us spot the tallest houses for me to photograph. Then, at our next destination, he decided we should park at the top of the parking structure because the ramps are so fun and not at all nauseating and dizzying. At least it’s easy to find a spot up there:
We had just enough time to fill the tank before rushing off to fetch Akka from school. Once again he reminded that me that allowing the extra 45 seconds it takes to unbuckle him, let him pump the gas and re-buckle him can turn a mundane chore into a highlight of his day. And we weren’t even late.
Today I had a meeting for my new consulting gig. I got up, tried on my suit, felt briefly elated at how well it fit until I realized it wasn’t my sleek, fitted, pre-child suit, it was my fat suit. The post-partum-and-early-pregnancy one. Still, it looked pretty good. K. packed the kids off to school and daycare and I enjoyed a rare few moments alone drinking tea. Not wanting to show up for my meeting with icicle hair, I spent some time tracking down the hair dryer. It was at my next door neighbours’ house and had been for quite some time without being missed. Hair dry, quick polish of the shoes with a diaper wipe and I’m out the door.
I got home at noon with no particular plan for the afternoon. I’ll admit I was feeling rather pleased with myself having landed a consulting job and organized the part-time child care required to carry it out. This will be, I hope, the start of a new rhythm of work and parenting for me. I’ve done all or nothing on both sides: full-time work and full-time childcare, no work and no childcare. I’m edging my way toward something in the middle.
So, I got out of my suit and took the kids skating. They were amazing. Akka can really wobble along and Malli picked up quite a bit of speed pushing a chair. They were happy and excited and full of energy and lovely and encouraging with each other. They invented falling-down games and chanted “falling is part of skating!”. They slid in the snow piles and then walked all the way home kicking chunks of ice until they disintegrated under their boots.
At home, Akka and I made two sock puppets. This is how we occupy socks that have lost their mate.
Malli played doctor. He donned his stethoscope and wandered about looking for hearts to listen to. He’d walk up to K. and say “this is going to hurt a little bit. A teeny tiny bit. [poke, poke] … How old are you? … ok. Where is your heart?” He’s not quite cardiac surgeon material yet.
Lying down with both kids in bed, Akka asked me to tell her a story from when I was a little girl. She often asks for these and I usually conjure up an image from childhood and just describe it to her. They’re not stories, really. I always try to think of myself at her age and see what I can remember from that time. Today I told her two stories:
- When I was a little girl we went to visit my grandparents in Florida. They were my Nana and Pappa. The grass outside their house was different – it had thick blades and didn’t really stick up – it grew close to the ground. There were big round white stones in the grass that made a path. I used to jump from stone to stone and try not to touch the grass.
- When I was a little girl and we were in Lesotho we went for a walk one day along a river. My dad carried me. We had to stop and wait our turn to cross a little bridge and when we stopped, my sister looked down and saw a baby cobra right in front of her foot. The cobra stuck its tongue out because that’s how snakes smell things and it licked my sister’s toe.
Then I told the kids I’d had such a good afternoon with them. Akka snuggled in and asked me “are we the best kids you’ve ever had?”.
One month in to Chapter 4, I can see the potential for monotony in this at-home life. But I’m still having fun and I still get little thrills in the mornings from realizing that I don’t need to pack anyone up and get out the door and be on time for anything.
However, the mid-morning weighing of options is getting repetitive: library? park? drop-in centre? museum? backyard?
I’ve had monotonous days in every job I’ve had. And there was a certain amount of repetition in powerpoint presentations, zoning by-law amendment applications and planning rationale reports. So it’s to be expected.
At the end of the day yesterday, my response to the monotony was to wait for K to get home, announce to him that all four of us were going to the pub, pack up diversions for the kids in two backpacks and set off down the street:
It was a moderate success. They didn’t play with any of the toys in the backpacks but we did sit under a lovely grape trellis which afforded them a supply of unripe grapes to launch at one another. They only annoyed half the clientele (and charmed the other half). We didn’t manage anything so luxurious as an adult conversation but I only had to chug the very last quarter of my pint before it was time to pack up and march home.
It’s very interesting how people react when I tell them I’ve quit my job to stay home with the kids. Eyebrows raise. Most people say “good for you! … it goes by so fast … you’ll never regret it”. But there have been a few instances where people pause, look concerned, and then conjure up a “oh, how nice for the kids”. I’m starting to wonder if they think that, by staying home, I’m somehow judging them negatively for not doing the same. I’m really not.
Tomorrow is my first daycare day!! My one day off per week to do exciting things like grocery shop, pack for our trip to see the cousins, and resurrect my planning skills to prepare a minor variance application for my aunt.
Letting the kids in on a little bagel-making action this time.
Trying on winter clothes to see what’s ready to be handed down to baby Ian.
Akka waiting to be picked up for her play date. Malli… hard to say… maybe looking for his other boot.
I’m liking this at-home thing (she says on day three). This morning I made spaghetti sauce from scratch in my pajamas. It’s still a novelty being home so it’s still a novelty to be able to cook when I feel like cooking rather than rushing to make something while the tired, hungry kids are hanging on my legs.
Yesterday I made bagels (bagels!). We easily go through 4 or 5 bagels a day and the good ones at the neighbourhood grocery store cost 65 cents each. Baking bagels fulfills my two goals of saving money and occupying the kids. Actually, I got excited and made them while both kids were napping but next time I’ll share the fun.
Today we went to the park where the kids braved the freezing-cold wading pool and Malli, despite strong discouragement, insisted on using his shoe as a boat. K. came home to find them both (not me) naked in the backyard wearing only rubber boots. It’s nice not having much of an agenda.
I’ve made a switch: no more rushing kids to daycare before the 9am team meeting. No more leaving them crying at the daycare door because I can’t stay a few minutes to get them settled in. No more scrambling for childcare when one kid is sick and both of us have meetings we can’t cancel. No more yelling at Akka who won’t eat her breakfast and won’t put on her socks: “I don’t have time for this! Come ON”. No more paid work. I’m staying home.
No more feeling relevant and smart and engaged? No more sense of satisfaction from watching projects that I worked on actually get built? No more crazy-fun-busy days debating how this urban region should, could and will grow?
I arrived here, a stay-at-home mother of two, reluctantly. But I also can’t wait to dive into it. I’m an urban planner and I had a great job doing almost exactly what I wanted to be doing at this stage in my career. But the rushing was too hard and too stressful and not fun. A few months ago it dawned on me that while I can have it all, I can’t have it all at the same time. So it’s going to be kids now, and back to urban planning later.
And, it hasn’t even started yet. I’ve got 6 weeks of work left. Then it’ll be me, Akka and Malli all day, every day. Yikes.