Today is the first day I am home while all of my kids are at school. Last week, during the first two mornings my little guy was at pre-school, I ran errands. It may have been to accomplish the mile-long list of tasks that had been waiting for some “free time”, or it may have been to avoid this moment. I’m. Home. Alone. It seems fitting that today is also my oldest child’s 11th birthday… on the anniversary of another life-changing day, I am once again experiencing a major life transition.
“But what do you do all day?”
This weekend I was talking with another mom of an 11 year old. Her daughter is an only child, so she’s been dealing with the concrete reality of this question a lot longer than I have. No one has yet had the chance to ask me… impertinently… accusatorily… what they think is rhetorically… about my lifestyle. She says she hears it all the time. That feels so wrong to me, but… now I’m fair game too, right? And haven’t I asked myself this same question? What the heck am I going to with these hours now that the baby is in pre-school? What can I possibly do with this time, other than find employment outside the home, that won’t leave me feeling ashamed of myself when someone asks me that question?
Isn’t that sad? (Now that is a rhetorical question.)
Mothering doesn’t stop just because no one is home. And neither does being a human being, for that matter. There will always be parental involvement spanning the “off hours”, no matter how many or few of those hours there may be. And perhaps, after 11 years of necessarily trading self-care for childcare, it’s okay to take a few extra minutes in the shower, or eat a meal while it’s still warm, or smell the flippin’ roses. I happen to have 4 kids, but if I had more or fewer that would not be material to this question. Mothering is mothering… it is many things but it is NOT a part-time job.
I don’t think that I should feel compelled to frantically use this time to clean my refrigerator, or better myself through further education or guilt-induced exercise, or get a paying job, simply so I can answer to the satisfaction of strangers about what I choose to do with my time.
So, do you know what I’m going to do all the blessed day?
I’m going to use my time to take care of my family first, myself second, other people third, and - if I have any minutes leftover - I’m going to do whatever the hell I want and not care a bit what anyone else thinks.
I know this a is a good plan because anyone could ascribe to it and the world would still be better off. If you sum up the heart of what the most admirable people do, you’d find this to be true as well. It’s universalizable… a hallmark of moral decision-making. Just ask Kant. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to ice some dinosaur cupcakes…