Posted by Duff


I’ve been home, full-time, for over a month now. And despite Atticus’ gums waging war against seven equally irritable teeth (gums-6, teeth-1; nobody wins), and The Dervish having fine-tuned a teenager’s nasty attitude in retaliation for her schedule change, there has only been one day out of 37 where I thought it might be nice to go back to work.

This comes as a surprise to me.  I remember thinking I wasn’t cut out for child-focused day in and day out, and maybe long-term, I’m not. But the combination of an unseasonably warm March and early April and more un-rushed time with our whole family in one place has been — good.

But I’m not comfortable here yet – maybe because it wasn’t my choice, maybe because I don’t know how long I’ll be in this situation, maybe because I’m surprised to learn how much of my identity was subconsciously wrapped up in the title working mother (and again, I realize all mothers work, whether we’re paid or not, and often the unpaid part is exponentially more challenging).

Maybe because I think anyone I come in contact with cares one way or the other how I’m spending my days.

For instance: I take Atticus for a walk or two every day around the neighborhood. He loves it. Anyone who’s outside (and in my neighborhood, on a nice day, that’s lots of people) stops to say hello, and he loves that, too. But I wonder if they notice that I didn’t used to be doing this on weekdays between the hours of 9:00 am and 5:00 pm, and now, almost three years into my residence, they have a new neighbor.

They don’t ask. They probably don’t notice. They don’t care, and not because they don’t care about me, but because the why doesn’t matter to them. They’re just friendly. But I find myself telling them, non sequitur.

Yesterday, I took Atticus to Baby and Me at the library, and the group leader came over, introduced herself, and was genuinely interested in getting to know us. But instead of saying, “This is Atticus. He’s 11 months and likes music and clapping and I’m thrilled to be his mom,” I took it further than she needed to know, and gave her my whole spiel about how I used to be working and now I’m  not working, and would I just shut up already and be glad to be there?

After circle time, when the veteran attendees moved over to the refreshment area to catch up on the stuff that parents of babies talk about, I stayed put, while Atticus sat on a blanket and drooled partially-softened crackers onto blue fleece, enjoying the change of scenery. Another mom came over to say hello, and I plied her with the same unnecessary information about how I came to attend the group.

Um. I was there for the same reason any other parent was there. I had a baby who liked other babies and music, and I’m a parent, who likes being around other parents.  These are reasonable states, and they don’t require explanation.

After another mother came over, because her son decided I really, really needed the kind of hug that only a sweet, guileless baby can offer (he was right), I learned my lesson. I accepted the hug. I returned it. I chatted with the mom about being a mom, like she is a mom, and having a son, like she has a son. And I told her I’d see her next week.

And when I went to the main floor to say hello to the mother of my high school best friend (this mother volunteers, and my high school friend is doing post-doctoral work while I pick stray crackers out of the publicly-funded carpet), I introduced her to my baby and didn’t explain while I was there.

I was there with my son. And that’s reason enough.