Today is the last day of school.
And it would have been my last day of maternity leave. Tonight is the night I would have found myself crying in my sleep, just as I did eight years ago.
Instead, I quit.
This time, I won’t spend my energy on work that doesn’t quite matter enough while my baby sleeps in a crib with plexi-glass sides. I won’t spend evenings scrambling to get breast pump supplies cleaned and a diaper bag filled for the following day. I won’t squeeze the important parts of my life into the margins of a workday.
I spent over two years of hemming, ha-ing and worrying that a move toward self-employment would bring catastrophe (foreclosure, food stamps) down on my family. But now, facing two alternatives, one that pulled me and one that repelled me, the choice was clear.
Writing is now my real job instead of my side thing. And lo — I’m still paying the mortgage and the grocery bills.
It’s harder than I thought. I half expected to discover some rent in the space-time continuum for weeding the tomato beds, baking bread and diving into the neglected pile of books at my beside. No such luck.
I’ve been trying to find my groove for two months now. Writing during naps and between diaper changes. Keeping the baby far enough from the electronic devices that I don’t suffer mommy guilt over the potential hazards of Wifi waves. I’ve found there’s no sense trying to stay in the groove. It’s best when I jump in and out of it — or rather, I jump from one groove (the smiles and tears of my children) to other (inside my own head, writing), knowing I have little control of when the jump happens.
If I try to ride the ridge between the grooves, I’m breaking my own rule — if the baby’s eyes are open, my full attention is with her — and I pull myself back to what’s important. The time she is little, I remind myself, lasts about as long as a truly deep breath.
I know that now, as I look at my eight-year-old, with her enormous-seeming head. I was never resentful of her getting older and bigger. Never wanted her to “just stay little.” She’s doing the hard work of growing up, just as she should. She doesn’t need to feel me pulling her back into babyhood.
The more I settle in to the moment and soak up the crying, the eye contact during feeding, the smiles, the diaper changes, the more I can let go when time inevitably lurches into first steps and first days of school.
And now, with my own work, I’m finally comfortable with the example I’m setting for my girls.
Everyday, softly, my life will whisper to them: many things are out of your control, but you can take risks that make room for love.