Ok, ok…so most of you have a life that is as busy or probably more than mine…you have jobs outside the home, more than one child (some with particular challenges), classes, volunteer work, etc., so the following is going to sound kind of whiny. On the other hand, I feel compelled to let myself complain, because I have always maintained that no one should ever work a 24-hour, 7 day-a-week job with not so much as a lunch break. This is what we ask women (and occasionally men) to do when we have a system without universal childcare, when we live in isolated homes without a sense of community, when our workplaces do not allow for the needs of the family (including the needs of working fathers who are often the sole support of a caregiver and children at home), when housework and childcare is not financially compensated and barely acknowledged. Understand that I’m not asking for pity–maybe sympathy, comraderie, and support–but trying to understand my experience as a stay-at-home mother/student attempting mostly unsuccessfully to balance my responsibilities as a parent, the running of a household, and the demands of graduate education. I also feel guilty about not reading more than a paragraph of that article.
So–here is my daily schedule, roughly:
7-8 Rise and nurse.
8-9 Shower, dress, and breakfast while the Snapper wiggles and babbles in his swing. Attend to the Snapper when he asks for social interaction, which is often.
9-10 Nurse. He’s too big now to nurse with one hand and do other things, so the best I can hope for is to watch something good on Link TV or catch up on my stack of pleasure reading. Schoolwork is more challenging because I can’t underline or take notes. If anybody has suggestions, I’m all ears.
10-10:15 Put the Snapper in the wrap and force a nap. He will absolutely not nap during the day unless I compel him to. If he doesn’t nap he gets cranky and miserable and everyone is unhappy.
10:15-12 Do dishes from night before. Start laundry. Catch up with checkbook, pay bills, general cleaning, prepare and eat lunch.
12-1 Nurse. Attic Man comes home to eat and take the dogs out. We are fortunate that he lives close enough to do this.
The afternoon isn’t as structured, but I try to get him to take another nap if I can. Things start to unravel as I try to finish the laundry–hard when trying to time it just right to coincide with the end of a nursing session–and realize that the kitchen will never, ever be clean. I am not a perfectionist about the house. I just want to have a clean glass to drink out of once in a while. The afternoon sees 2-3 nursing sessions of 40 minutes to an hour each. I find myself making ridiculous choices: should I do another load of dishes or have a snack? Take a walk or finally put on makeup? Read an essay or read to the Snapper?
4:45-7 Attic Man arrives home. He works out or puts the Snapper in a carrier so I can. On a good night, make a good dinner. On some nights, nurse again.
7-8:30, 9:30, or even 10 Nurse. I am not kidding. We have been trying to settle him earlier in the evening but he seems to want to nurse for 2 hours straight every night, one hour each side. The idea of having Attic Man take him in the evening so I can work isn’t working out. He will just scream and become over-tired and miserable. He needs to nurse and be held all evening, and guess who is the only one who can do that? I really wish men could lactate.
Wake up once or twice during the night to nurse, an hour at a time. If I can’t keep him awake to nurse for the whole hour he will be up 1 1/2 hours later for more.
So I am nursing anywhere from 8-10 hours a day, running a household (Attic Man does a lot but he’s working full-time and finishing up a Masters thesis), and trying to write a dissertation. I didn’t know that my child would nurse so much–the books all say he should be more efficient now, but he isn’t–or that some days I would have to choose between showering and eating.
I am actually quite happy. I love being a parent–it’s extremely rewarding and a wonderful challenge. I just would like to be able to have a more balanced life. I don’t want magazines telling me that I should meditate and have a positive attitude and accept my circumstances, blah, blah, blah. I do all that. But there’s a difference between working with what life gives you and resigning yourself to it because it’s a ‘personal’ problem. This isn’t personal–it’s intensely societal. I am an incredibly fortunate woman to be doing all this with a partner who is supporting me financially and otherwise, to have healthcare, to have a great extended family, and to have had such incredible opportunities educationally, but even I am struggling.
Something just ain’t right.
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