Thursday, April 23, 2009

1 am posting

It's 1 am. I fell asleep with the baby around a little after 9 pm, woke when Husband stumbled into bed, lay awake for a few minutes, then followed the silent glow of the computer monitor (calling me from all the way downstairs) to this place.

I could be editing pieces of a Challenge Grant that, in light of the gazillion impending applications this Monday, has a vanishingly small chance of being funded. Or I could read a review article or write another paragraph of the RO1 that I think may actually have a chance. These thoughts actually flickered through my mind as I walked down the stairs. But of course, I instead spent the last half hour wandering aimlessly through the blogosphere.

Because I need the down-time, people.

Husband and I feel that we have no down-time. And it's not even so much to do with work, really. It's the work plus kids thing. And heck, if I weren't working outside the home, it would just be the kids thing alone. In some way, I thought going back to work would actually free up more time for myself--more of a mental space, at least, where I could think about an intellectual subject for more than two minutes straight before being pelted with the demands of toddler/pre-schooler. In a way, I was right about that. But although it's a nice change of scenery for someone who sincerely needs to work outside the house for her own sanity--still, work isn't exactly downtime. (A reason, I suppose, why it's called "work.")

Fretting about the future, sorting through a tangled mix of ambitions and plotting (or rather, trying to plot) my way through a new, undefined career--that's not "downtime" either.

Only this--alone, completely alone, while all the family sleeps. Mad Hatter had a nice post up about work/family balance a few days ago. A number of commenters mentioned their need for "alone" time. Isn't it funny, when the commute to work becomes the most cherished portion of solitude in the day?

Not too long ago, I had lunch with two other mothers after Bean-girl's ballet class. Our children ran about the nearly-empty pizza parlor as the mothers chattered over the ruins of lunch. Yes, one of the other moms exclaimed, I so understand about getting time alone in the car! That commute time is the best! And the other mother, who works part-time with toddler twins and a preschooler, said ruefully I don't even get that much! I pick up the kids and drop them off from school, so I never get time alone in the car. And my husband just doesn't get it!

And then we chatted about kindergarten, and the mother of three nearly teared up as she talked about placing her oldest girl in a full-time kindergarten this fall. We nodded sympathetically. Five minutes ago, this mother (who is at home part-time) had sighed for a break from the kids. And now, at the prospect of a small break, the mother was sad about letting her daughter go. No one commented on the contradiction.

Parenthood is weird.


ScientistMother said...

even though it is way easier having monkey on campus with me. I totally miss(ed) the commute. I have very little alone time which is why I find it hard to focus on "work" when monkey goes with his dad.

PA said...

One of the inexplicable paradoxes that you just can't explain to those without kids. I can't wait to go back to work, but I can't stand to leave my baby all day either.

Thanks for these glimpses into your life with work and kids.

Mad Hatter said...

I think how much "alone" time someone needs is partly dependent on personality too. I have a friend who is very extroverted and feels "recharged" after big parties or socializing with other people. I, on the other hand, need to not be with people for a while to recharge.

I have to agree...I've started to really enjoy my commute to work simply because that's often the only time I have when I don't feel obligated to do something else.

Hope you get a chance from some down-time soon. Perhaps a free afternoon while your husband watches the kids for a few hours?

ScienceMama said...

I so know exactly what you mean. About all of it. The mixed emotions are the hardest part. Because even when you get what you want, it still doesn't feel right...

Life As I Know It said...

You just summed up what I feel all the time.
I always try and remind myself that I will miss them terribly when they are older and want to be with friends more than us...but still, oh, that alone time in the car is precious right now too!

ophelia rising said...

Yes, parenthood is FILLED with these paradoxes, wanting one thing, then another, scrambling for time alone, and then missing your children anyway...I'm going through very similar things, as I'm sure all mothers are, in that I find myself increasingly needing my time of intellect, sneaking on the computer to write, getting frustrated when I'm interrupted, and at the same time, wanting to be around my kids, to see them grow and change and experience their lives.

It's never easy, and every choice is laden with bittersweet. I suppose as long as we are all true to ourselves, and to our children, we can never go wrong.

You describe it all so well, with such eloquence.

(By the way, I totally get the whole mini-vacation-in-the-car thing. Sometimes when I'm driving, and the kids are all buckled in and even sleeping, I breathe easy and relax as I drive. Sometimes it's the one chance during the day that I have to just sit and think).