“so. are you doing anything? are you going to be going back to work?”
she asks and i feel irresponsible because i haven’t thought about working for money in months. i stumble around and say no. i explain myself. i give reasons for living the life i do, making the choices we make and keep feeling smaller and smaller.
when the clothes of mothering were too tight i sat awkward most days and wanted to do something else, anything else. that kind of question sunk me for weeks.
what do i do?
its worth is not so high as strangers can peek in and casually suggest that i better pick up a few hours here or there, you know, just so that…i’m doing something.
i wake up after a night of being sick. joshua is out of town and i’m walking down the steps. i have to stop half way. abe sits down beside me and i tell him i threw up in the night and i feel really awful and dad isn’t here and i’m going to need his help. i’m going to need him to help me with breakfast. i’m going to need him to help me get the girls out the door.
“mom.” he answers. “you’ve asked the right person.”
i wonder at the unquestionable reasonableness of any other endeavor.
if i tell people i am working part-time selling shoes, it would mean more than cooking my family dinner.
if i said i was picking up a shift at starbucks, i might get an approving nod.
instead i trail behind children bundled up puffy and scarfed. i sit by the fire and go over homework. i meet a friend for coffee with toddlers in tow. i go to the grocery store. i write a blog. i paint a room. i encourage a man. i tell kids of their worth. i learn kindness. i drink too much coffee. i do the laundry. i sit lazy on the bed with cozy girls and read books. i’m at home. i stay at home.
why does making a home mean so little? is it only because it pays so little?
in any case, i don’t mind so much this time. when she first asks the question, i’m confused.
“so. are you doing anything?”
i don’t know what she means. i stare blank and she clarifies.
“are you going to be going back to work?”
oh. oh right. you think i should do something else. something better. something more.
he puts the oatmeal in the bowls and he pulls out the brown sugar.
“come on, girls! brush your teeth! we gotta go!” he calls.
he dishes up ella’s scrambled eggs and i can only sit on the stool in the kitchen and hold my pounding head in my hands.
“thanks abe.” i say weakly.
he looks back from the silverware drawer.
“anything for you mom.”
i am paid for my labor. i’ve been giving my life to my family and sitting there in need of help in the morning, my son offers his life unreservedly right back.
i have no pockets to hold this wealth.