My teenager is not keeping up her end of the bargain. During her senior year in high school, she is supposed to be so obnoxious that we cannot wait to ship her off to college. The truth is, she is a joy to be around. And I have no idea what I am going to do with myself when she’s gone.
Being a working mom is kind of an all-or-nothing proposition. Right now, “multi-task” is my middle name. I can bake brownies while editing a fundraising script, drive a car pool while devising a marketing strategy and plan Thanksgiving dinner during a conference call.
Last week, my friend made the mistake of asking what my plans were for that evening. As I rattled off my schedule, he looked at me and asked: “Do you ever, you know, just chill?”
I admitted that I do not.
Here’s how it goes down: I am preparing to leave the house with time to spare when my daughter produces a ream of permission slips that must be signed—and reminds me that she needs separate checks made out for each. I barely make the train, and plow through my morning. I plan to go to the farmer’s market at lunch, but then a young colleague asks if I will meet with her to talk about grad school. How can I tell her no, when I know what it’s like to need a mentor? Afternoon is busy but uneventful. I am halfway out the door to take an early train when a friend calls and asks me to recommend her for a free-lance job.
When I finally make it home, as I am cooking dinner, Amvets calls to ask if I have any items to donate (not now), Hubbard Street calls to ask if I want tickets (ditto) and another choir mom calls to ask if I’ll bring snacks to a school event (okay). During dinner, my husband reminds me that he has a rehearsal and needs to leave in a few minutes. He asks me to find the proofs for Jenna’s senior portrait so he can show them to his friends. After he’s out the door I deal with the dishes and several work e-mails and am pedaling away on the exercise bike when the daughter calls to tell me rehearsal is letting out early. I jump into the shower and get her, and make it home in time for Top Chef, my weekly guilty pleasure. This is my official Down Time! Except…five minutes after the show begins, Jenna asks me to test her on Spanish vocabulary during commercial breaks. I finally bite her head off, telling her to wait until 10 and let me watch my show in peace.
So let’s not engrave that Mother of the Year Award just yet. This is the downside of being on full throttle, at least for me. I periodically snap. And I don’t know how to sit and just “be.” It seems that whenever I try, the phone rings.
What does a woman have to do to get some peace and quiet?
I guess I should be careful what I wish for: Next year, I’m going to go from having no time for myself to having only time for myself. I will be able to read and watch TV and work out and cook to my heart’s content. But when the phone stops ringing, I know I will miss it. Just as I will miss the days when Jenna burst in needing to talk just as I was in the bathtub shaving my legs.
How long do I have to wait for grandchildren?