I am sitting in my kitchen, a luke-warm cup of peppermint tea perched shockingly close to my laptop, staring at my eight year old daughter. She is telling me that she feels barfy, looking pitiful and waif-like, wearing a thin black vest, pajama bottoms, and wrapped in a blanket. She says she can’t lie down because it makes her feel barfy. She asks for tea. After I make said tea for her, she sips it thoughtfully, pitifully, and then asks for something to eat. It is only 11:30 in the morning or half eleven as they say, here in Ireland, and perhaps in other parts of the world like the UK. But I’ve never lived there nor noted it in the books that I’ve read. So, to me, it’s an Irish thing.
I’m beginning to think that she is less sick and more bored and wanting her mother to pay attention to her. I am sitting at my laptop, thinking about working (i.e. typing words into my laptop because I’m on a stamp 3 – if you’re an expat here in Ireland, you know the same strange doom or joy that brings), but am beginning to feel like this is a doomed endeavor. She has been up with me since 7am. Well, half past 7 is when she slinked into my bedroom to use our ensuite bathroom toilet because the boys’ toilet was disgusting. There was a brief respite when after I helped her with her breakfast, she sat in the living room watching cartoons for an hour.
During that hour, I managed to waste it looking at my email and then spent 40 minutes perusing articles on facebook and responding to a couple of posts. Huge waste. Why did I even bother reading that article about using your early morning hours to get the tough work done? Then I read a friend’s response to a post about Time Confetti which, of course, I have read before because I am always trying to work out how to be more productive and not die of boredom as I do the #WorldsToughestJob (motherhood, in case you’re not in the know).
It has now been exactly four minutes since the eight year old has left the kitchen, presumably munching on the last persimmon in the house that I just washed and cut for her, and then my 4-year-old has appeared in the kitchen doorway asking for food – specifically a persimmon. If anyone tells you that working from home when you have kids is easy, know that they speak rubbish. Sometimes, it is the best choice from list of other less favourable options. But it is never easy. And french doors are never a good choice if you decide that you want to go down that road.
I believe that I have gotten up no less than 20 times in the past 3 hours. I have fixed tea, cut apples, buttered rolls, searched for snacks. You would think this was an anomaly because the kids are home for two days for mid-term break. But even on a day when all the kids are in school, I have only exactly 2.5 hours (150 minutes) exactly to be productive and string enough coherent thoughts together to write a page. That is all assuming that I don’t need a little mind space between getting the kids ready for school, washing the breakfast dishes, and putting in the first load of laundry for the day before I sit on the computer with a virtual blank page in front of me. Time confetti. Such an appropriate phrase. These little pieces of time. Five minutes here. Ten minutes there. If I were Elizabeth Gilbert, I might tell you that you can squeeze a little bit of creativity during those precious moments as she talks about how she might write for ten minutes on an airplane or for 30 minutes on a layover of her jam-packed publicity tour.
But I am not Elizabeth, and I know that for my reality, that I cannot expect to expect to have my life not be interrupted by a small person for longer than 2 hours. My life is a series of interruptions and as Elizabeth specifically chose a path did not include motherhood, I specifically chose one that does. I know that the periods between interruptions will eventually grow longer because they already have from those days when they needed to be held, wore diapers, and drank from bottles. I know that some day, there won’t be interruptions for days, perhaps weeks or months as they move along in their own lives and families.
I recently told a friend that before kids, I just assumed that I would bounce right back into the work force. I had always assumed. I had always assumed, actually, that I would be alone and working as a physician in my 30s until I would decide to adopt my own child or maybe artificial insemination, no doubt to the horror of my parents. I always assumed I would have kids. Didn’t someone say “When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me?” Well, I did assume in that sort of way that you can only do when you are on the cusp of life at 18 and imagine that you can control the trajectory of your life by plotting a path in your head.
Then, when I was about 21, shortly before 22, I sort of decided that I was just going to say yes to random opportunities because I was tired of saying no to things because I was worried my parents wouldn’t approve or that I thought it might make me look bad, or stupid, or awkward. So, I leapt from the trajectory that used to say MCATs, med school, residency, life as a physician, into this strange other world and assumed that I could just leap right back when it suited me. Boy, was I wrong. Instead, I leapt into this unknown world that took me down a meandering path I could not have imagined when I was 18 which has included four children.
Now, here I sit, waiting for the next interruption. Waiting for the next moment to hold my daughter’s face in my hands and tell her that she should not kick her brother even though he stole all her toys. I have made food for half of the children including a strange sushi roll of leftovers and rice. They are all spread around the house and I think about what I am going to write about next.