The first two weeks of my stay-at-home-ness went remarkably smoothly. Not counting the spilled Colman’s mustard and the busted high chair and incidents of that nature, the whole thing seemed eminently do-able. Everyone was on best behavior and trying to be helpful. It worked.
This past week, though, it’s started to dawn on us that this isn’t some wacky fun experiment but rather it’s how life is now. We’re all at loose ends with the realization that our old life is gone. It’s weird how long it’s taking us to get wise to that. (Me especially, I’m afraid.)
I would say the biggest challenge for me is not actually the cooking. (Surprise, surprise!) Not that I’m suddenly Julia Child, but Bill made it pretty easy for me by whipping up a huge batch of his flawless pesto, and even I can make a decent quesadilla or black beans and rice…
No, the biggest challenge is being able to give each child enough one-on-one attention to fulfill his needs. In the ancien régime, that was easy, and it was one of the coolest parts of our lifestyle. Akiva loves books and would in a perfect world have someone read to him all day every day, even during meals. Gideon has no particular interest in books and reading (what’s up with that?) and would much rather run around and write on the walls and climb up to impossibly high places to see what breakables he can find. With only one grown-up on hand, there’s very little quiet reading and quite a lot of mess-making. After a while of not having sweet time with me, Akiva starts to crack. I’ve yet to figure out how to head that off. It would be good to learn to do that, because when he cracks, I crack. (I also need to figure out how to head that off.)
A friend commented to me that it’s good the kids are young enough not to have gotten used to a life of luxury, and in a sense she’s right. Nobody’s asking me for designer jeans when the $3.99 ones from Target are just as fine. But there is a luxury my kids have gotten used to (as have I): that of having both parents around most of the time, and relatively relaxed and focused most of the time. Being unable to give them that heart-filled time is a special kind of sadness.
On top of that, with Passover coming up, there is extra housework and food prep. And I am feeling a heavy emotional weight. Passover is a big family holiday for me, probably the biggest of the calendar. In the past thirteen years, I’ve only missed Passover with my family on two occasions, when I was doing professional theatre and couldn’t travel. This year, there’s no way we can travel for Passover. It’s too expensive, and Bill would have to miss work, and Akiva would have to miss school. For a while it looked like my parents might come to us for Passover, but in the end, they decided to stay put, since they’ve been doing a lot of traveling recently. Bottom line: I’m missing my family a lot, and the sadness of that is making it hard for me to be the kind of person and mother I would like to be.
I know this stuff will all work itself out in time, but it has not been pleasant being me this past week, for the most part.