There are few places that make me feel happy the moment I walk through the door. One is my parents’ house – where I grew up and feel unconditional love and can open the fridge and eat or drink whatever I want. Another is my own home, where my husband and I have made new memories with our kids and we play games and have birthday parties and eat pizza – lots and lots of frozen pizza.
A third is Target. Because — well — you know.
So imagine my surprise when a few weeks ago, I was standing in the book department at Target – one of the happiest of places – letting Anna browse through the Doc McStuffins books, and I started to cry. I had picked up a novel from the New Releases end-cap, turned it over to the back and started reading about the author. “Mrs. So and So is a mother of two children under the age of four and enjoys horseback riding and swimming with dolphins,” or some other nonsense like that. And all I could think was HOW? WHEN? and finally WHY CAN’T I??
And that’s when the tears began to flow. In Target.
I mean, I’ve taken on freelance work a few hours per week, and even started this lovely little blog to release all the random thoughts in my brain. But how on God’s Green Earth, with all the “Mom – Mom – Moms” and the laundry and the cleaning and the puking and the taxiing and the obnoxious banging of the indoor basketball hoop, would I ever be able to concentrate long enough to write a book?
At first I envied her – hated her – for making something I can’t accomplish sound so easy. But then I remembered what I’ve learned in the past twelve years as a parent: If anyone ever seems to have it all, you don’t know the whole story.
Maybe she ran out the door to the library every night as soon as her husband got home, and let him read to the kids and give them snuggles before bed. Maybe she has family around who played with them all day so she could sit quietly and compose her thoughts. Maybe she has an amazing ability to concentrate amidst chaos and clutter. Or maybe she just didn’t sleep for a year. However she made it work, she chose to do so because it was important to her.
I love my snuggles at bedtime. I love talking to Anna about the letter of the day, and being home when the boys get off the bus. I LOVE my sleep. Those are the things important to me.
I guess my false perception of that mom’s perfect life is similar to the one some have of me when they hear that I stay home.
“Pshhh (insert eye roll), I WISH I could afford to stay home,” they say, as if I have a fat bank account and live in a mansion and drive a Porsche. They don’t know about how in the first year after I quit my job, we charged groceries on credit cards. Or that we didn’t have cable for ten years. Or that I drove my van until it was the last one in the drop-off line at school with a manual door — or how many times the principal walked away from it with the door wide open after helping the kids onto the sidewalk (poor Alex always had to rush back and close it himself). Or that the only way we were able to afford vacations was by using airline miles and hotel points that my husband racked up by being away from us for weeks at a time.
It hasn’t been as easy as it might sound to someone else, but it’s what we wanted, so we chose to make it work.
After a few minutes of scowling at the supermom’s novel, I put it back on the shelf and wiped the wetness off my cheeks, then walked over to Anna and squatted down to talk to her about the book she was reading. And as I looked at her tiny hands flipping through the pages, I thought about how I chose to have this baby the year the boys would both be in school — the year I could have had time to start MY book. But if I had made a different choice four years ago, then this chapter – the one about the brown-eyed girl who loves puppies and blue Tootsie Pops – would be missing.
Six months from now, Anna and I won’t be browsing through Target on a Monday morning, because she’ll be in kindergarten and I’ll be back to work. Until then, we’ll take our time in that happy place, looking at dresses and dolls and toys and books. And as she flips through pictures of Dora and Mickey Mouse, I’ll check out the New Releases by ambitious authors, imagining how they’ve managed to accomplish their dreams, and taking notes on how I can someday soon accomplish the rest of mine.