“So what are you doing with all your free time?”
That is the question I started to dread last fall when Graham went off to kindergarten. I didn’t know how to answer in a way that would erase The Look. There are two varieties of The Look: 1) from the working parent, a mixture of disbelief and pity, and 2) from the stay-at-home parent, a mixture of envy and disgust. Of course, The Look, 1 or 2, is probably all in my head; I tend to project.
No, that’s not exactly true. If, when I was at home with 2 kids under 4 years old and someone told me they were taking a year off before they went back to work, I would have been absolutely sick with envy. I guess that should tell me I really needed this. I was bone tired, dead on my feet, completely unprepared to make the leap into life on the Outside. I needed a career break, a gap year, a sabbatical.
So that’s my answer now. I’m on sabbatical.
And then I shot myself in the foot. I made a To-Do list. Well… lists.
See? I even made it all pretty and everything. It’s posted on the fridge. These are all things I’ve been absolutely dying to do for eight years or more. And all of them benefit our family and/or the value of our home. So what’s the problem? Well, there are two.
First, I am in an absolute panic to get everything done. I may have been a little over-ambitious. It seems as though I have long stretches of time in front of me, until 2pm suddenly comes along with what seems like nothing to show for my time, and I have to go pick up the kids. And there’s the daily chores, and the physical therapy, and the appointments and the damn groceries and the cooking. Not to mention that most of September was swallowed by Robbery Fallout. So my sabbatical year is half over and I feel like I’ve accomplished nothing. Oh, the guilt.
That’s problem number two. The guilt. I am an absolute cartoon character of a human with a little devil sitting on one shoulder and and angel on the other. No. More like a guru on one shoulder and a CEO on the other.
GURU: This is your time. You deserve this!
CEO: No you don’t. Just think about all the hard-working Americans out there actually making money and contributing to society!
GURU: She is contributing to society. Home! Family!
CEO: The kids can go to after-school care. Hire a maid service. Only liberal elitist professors take a sabbatical. Get a job, hippie!
GURU: Don’t listen to him. You’ve been working 160 hour weeks for 8 years. He’s been able to carry on adult conversations all day.
CEO: sputter sputter unAmerican grumble sputter
Okay, so I have some issues. The truth is, I am very lucky to have this year. And I have completed many of my goals (not the least of which is time-consuming health stuff). But I still feel like handing people a summary of my accomplishments as proof that I am not a useless bonbon-eating freeloader when they ask me, “So what are you doing with all your free time?”.
The only realistic thing I can think to do may assuage both my problems: publicly track my progress. The CEO on my shoulder will have proof of my worth while the guru will applaud my effort. Shall we call it: To-Do Tuesdays? (Wow… that’s so cheesy it just might work.)
Take that, mid-life crisis. I promise I’ll get a job. It’s on the list.