Weekends are better. On Saturday and Sunday when I hear the first wind up trill of the word Daddy I lovingly kick Jeremy's ankle and mumble, "You're being paged." Then I roll over and pretend it's someone else's problem. Because it is. Because if Jeremy is anywhere in the house Elisabeth will find him. Her birth marked the end of sleeping in, as far as Jeremy is concerned. I really do feel sorry for the guy, but nothing I can do is going to relieve the burden of being The Chosen Parent. And come Monday I've got my own problems.
Garfield had it right. Mondays are hideous and lately I've been making a big effort to correct that problem. On Sunday evening I refuse to go to bed with crusty dishes piled up in the sink. I ask my girls to lay out their school clothes, I double check my calendar to be sure I know exactly what's supposed to happen on Monday, and I try to go to bed early.
But come 6:45 am my "alarm" begins to screech and there is nothing I can do to make the situation right for Elisabeth. Her dad has returned to work. He slips out of the house into the darkness of the early morning while his girls are still sleeping, and as the remaining parent I'm apparently responsible for this injustice. I've taken to lifting Elisabeth out of her crib, doing my best to dodge her punches and kicks, and leaving her on her bedroom floor to console herself. It's a workable routine. I go downstairs and make breakfast while she cries herself hoarse and thrashes around upstairs for awhile. It's usually the smell of hot food that lures her down to the table.
In my life I've woken up on Monday mornings to face the reality of working full time, going to school full time and working part time, and being left home alone with a house full of kids. You can't compare apples to grapes, but what I know is that regardless of what my day looks like, Mondays are hard. You can get kicked in the face by your toddler or spend two hours reassuring a disgruntled employee. Does it matter? The longing to be air lifted out of the mess and dropped onto your sofa, preferably in your sweat pants with little elves standing by to bring you cold drinks and little cakes with chocolate frosting is universal. When I worked I often spent Monday morning wishing I could quit. When I quit I often spent Monday morning looking at my online bank statements and wishing I worked. Come to think of it, I think I've spent most Monday mornings wishing myself somewhere else. I like what I do and I like where I am...but I don't see my wishing well disappearing anytime soon. Mondays are hard.
When I had two little girls under the age of three we had some friends over on a Sunday evening. As they prepared to go home they groaned, thinking aloud that Monday morning would come quickly. I know what you mean, I said. They looked puzzled. They didn't have children and from a distance my life appeared as one of those little tupperware containers that keep everything fresh. I could see myself through their I haven't had kids yet goggles. The view conjured picnics at the park and steaming bowls of homemade macaroni and cheese. There's nothing about getting kicked in the face in those sort of pre-parenthood fantasies. One of them finally mustered a response. But you don't have a job. You can do whatever you want tomorrow, can't you? I wanted to hug them for the innocence of that remark. It takes having a child to know that your time will never be your own again, or so it will feel for many, many years.
My sister has been enduring an unreasonable amount of job-related stress in her life. Today she told me that every Sunday evening she cries before she goes to bed. I wanted to look her squarely in the face (through the telephone of course) and say I know. Everyone feels that way sometimes. Your Mondays will get better soon. After we hung up I stood looking out the window for a while, thinking about how the hard times feel relentless. The days keep coming at you on schedule, the sun rises and Monday returns whether you want it to or not. This all feels very doom and gloom until you remember that one day you will wake up on a Monday morning and realize you aren't feeling slick with dread because you don't work for that company anymore. Or maybe you do, but they've given you a dazzling raise and relocated you to the London office. Or you will wake up and find the house quiet except for the happy thrum of heavy breathing because everyone in the house except for you is still asleep.
What I really should have told my sister is that she should wipe her Sunday night blues away with a dishrag and then use it to make her kitchen counters shine. I cannot emphasize enough the positive effect a clean kitchen can have on starting a new day. And once she's done scrubbing away her anxiety she should make a mug of hot chocolate and put on her oldest, softest, most beloved pajamas and curl up on her couch with a candle lit nearby. When she finally heads off to bed she should take a moment to pull an outfit out of her closet and lay it out for the morning, and she should fall asleep thinking about which country she would buy first if all the countries in the world were suddenly on the market, conveniently within her price range. None of these suggestions are prize winning solutions, but when you're stuck in the Monday morning rut sometimes the solution is simply coping. Change usually arrives on its own accord.