I feel like summer is almost over and I'm sad, I said to a co-worker. Walking through the empty parking lot to work at seven in the morning on the first day of August. Already hot.
Oh I don't get summers anymore, she told me. Kinda scoffed.
I thought, do I look like I'm in high school? Isn't that the last time any of us had 'a summer'?
I was thinking about all the things we hadn't done. Hadn't gone camping, hadn't made it to Elitches, had only made it to the swimming pool once.
Count it: Once.
The season isn't changing yet, but is about to change. It's tilting but hasn't turned. At night I comfort myself with this mantra: We still have August. We still have August. Autumn begins September 21st.
But I had this secret, scratching at me with claws in the dark: I was going back to work full time.
I got home late from Bookstore Job one night. (The job that is part time and demands no daycare). Noah was in bed. The girls were asleep with 'The Sound of Music' playing at the best part--the part where Christopher Plummer is singing "Edelwiess", his eyes all misty with the weight of everything that is about to end.
I crawled into bed with Ayla and began to sob. I couldn't believe it was over all ready. The seasons of the earth change, but we are prepared. Change is on the wind. We see it in the light, feel it hovering in the air. The seasons of your life can change without warning. And they don't come back. Summer ends, but it comes again. The season of having infants only comes once. When it's really over, it's over. It shocks me, realizing the time in my life when I will be pregnant, await a birth, cradle a sleeping infant, change a diaper--it's over. A season that--barring a night of heavy drinking and extreme unpreparedness--will never come again.
And then, without much warning, another season was ending too. I was going to work full time, 8 to 5, every single Monday through every single Friday. I thought about my daughters, home on Christmas break. Except they wouldn't be home. They'd be at daycare. And we wouldn't be baking cookies and taking walks in the snow and trips in our boots and jackets to the coffee shop for lattes and hot chocolates. And if they got sick? If they just had a bad day and didn't feel up to school? What would I do? I'd have to go to work anyway. They'd have to be with someone who wasn't their mom, even on the days when mom was what they really needed. I thought about summers--next summer, the ones after that. The season of going to the library, to the pool, to the park with a picnic, was already over. Instead I'd be taking the girls to day camps, different ones throughout the weeks, while I went to work. 8 am to 5 pm.
Yes, I had gone out and sought a job. But somehow it still hit me without warning. Another season was coming to a close, and I?
I just wasn't ready.
All this time, all this time I've spent at home, and it's over before I know it. It's been so hard. I've enjoyed it whenever I could. I've felt deep insecurity. Low self-esteem over the fact that I don't have a job, that I 'just stay at home', that I spend my days bargaining and begging and pleading with two tiny tyrants. I've felt deep guilt over not doing it well enough, over not wanting to do it, over not being able to afford more toys or more pairs of shoes or fancy birthday parties, because I was 'just a stay-at-home' mother. All these days, day after day for six years, of being home alone with two beings who demand and drain and take every moment of it for complete granted, who may never, ever realize everything their mother--who was once a volitient, confident, independent human being, who had a life before and beyond them, who is something in her heart that isn't 'mom' or 'lunch-maker' or 'mess-cleaner'--has given up for them.
All of that was about to end and I held Ayla for as long as I dared and cried silently the way I do because I wasn't ready for the season to change.
(Then I got up pretty quickly and left because I'm sure I can't imagine anything more terrifying than waking to find your mother sobbing and clutching you in the dead of night. And lord knows I can't afford the therapy she'd need after that.)
The season was about to change. A huge change. A time of rushing to work and rushing home and wearing fancy clothes and talking to adults and bringing home a large paycheck. Of bagged lunches and babysitters and daycare juggling. Like it or not (I think I like it) the season of diapers and formula and tiny babies who want nothing more than to sleep on your chest and gaze in wild rapture at your own miraculous eyes has ended here. We are headed into a season of teachers, home work, art projects, science projects, spelling bees, math quizzes, book orders, lunch money.
And I could spend it being away from my kids every day from 7 am to 5:30 pm, at a job I didn't care one whit about--or not.
You can't stop what's coming. But you can stop how you react to it.
In the end, we went with not.
No lots of extra money. No fancy private education. No day care or babysitters or child juggling or summer spring and winter breaks at the office and day camps.
The lesson I have learned is this: If someone asks you, "Is this a position you feel you could be happy in long-term?" And everything in you screams, 'No!'--
Then just say it. "No."
Especially when, after you pay for day care, you're only going to be able to afford an extra pack of gum a week anyway.
Miss Indiana Sophie in August 2006/yesterday.
I am Vesuvius, and I can't turn back time but I can turn down office jobs.