When I was a stay-at-home mama of a young child, I described the difference between my everyday life and my old life as an employed middle-manager thus: You know that day when you have an important meeting and you oversleep and the blouse you want to wear needs to be ironed and while you’re carrying your briefcase and your lunchbox and your handbag and your gym bag out the back door you notice that your socks don’t match and just then one of your bags snags on the door handle and you spill your coffee onto the blouse you just ironed and as you’re pulling out of the driveway you notice out of your rear-view mirror that your cell phone and coffee mug are flying off the top of your car and smashing onto the neighbor’s driveway?
When you’re a stay-at-home mama of a young child, every day is that day. And some days every moment is that moment.
I came to understand that the indefatigable demands on my attention, the fact that no single task could be completed in a uninterupted linear progression, and the way in which every single thing I ever did was compromised, imperfect, in some critical way, consumed the totality of my patience. Life as a stay-at-home-mom consumed more than my allotment of patience in fact, daily compounding a patience debt that no single sweaty workout, uninterupted night’s sleep or moms’ night out could replenish. I was forever in the red.
The toll of being so overdrawn came in the loss of my resiliance. I was, frequently and suddenly, brittle, burned out, undone. Having used up my store of go-with-the-flow in a string of napless days, I freaked out when I burned the onions for supper. Allotting my available easy-does-it to grocery shopping with a toddler, I snapped when Sweetie wondered where her clean laundry might be. Creativity, compassion, laughter dulled as my flexible was spent on endless high-intensity unpredictable mutlitasking.
This winter reminded me of that time. I spent my resiliance, my rebound, on the first two feet of snow, then the next foot of snow, then the improbable next foot that piled on to the towering banks. I used up my roll with it the first week I lost a days’ income, then the next week when I lost two days’ income, then the days my clients wanted to see me but the school cancelled, or the school opened and the clients couldn’t come. By the time the roof sagged and leaked, we ripped the rear-view mirror off my car backing it out of the garage, the alternator blew, and the hot-water-heater spewed, I had no more flow to go with.
When the world became an icy slip-and-slide one Monday morning between the time I arrived at the gym and the time I attempted to drive home, I had no more cushion of resiliance in me. My tires glided over the blacktop and when I tapped the brakes the car lurched slowly into a grotesque piroette. The snowpiles rose up like bowling bumpers to slow my spin as I steered into the skid. My heart didn’t even bother to beat fast. I sat at the side of the road stunned and defeated until a public works guy slid his way across the street to tell me to try again, I was going to get hit if I stayed there. So I rode the snowbank down, crunching along at five-miles-per-hour until I found my way off that hill.
It’s slow going on the way to mud-season. It takes longer than need be and we are almost numb with the cost of winter before it comes. Insult adds to injury, my girl gets sick just as the snow starts to melt and we add sick days to snow days and wonder how to cover the bills and add to the kitchen fund. Roll with it we do, even if the roll is a sickening spin of the car and the late-breaking anxious pulse that comes the next time the sky looks like rain. We bow to the will of the world. What choice do we have? What doesn’t bend, breaks.