Tag Archives: stay at home moms going back to work

Pardon the Delay

OK, so two years is a pretty long coffee break. Especially when you’re a tea drinker.

What can I say? Working part time, raising a daughter, being a wife, having a home, trying to exercise, learn Mandarin, volunteer at my kid’s school, keep two pets alive and have a moment now and then to read a non-first-grade-level book–it’s a lot. This seemed like the lowest priority, and it just fell by the wayside. Fell and broke both legs. Did I mention the concussion?

But I had an awakening recently. It’s not working for me. Not writing–or having any creative output at all–is making me brittle. I’ve got to get back to it. For me. No one else much cares, but a life with all work and no words feels hopelessly incomplete. So I am hobbling back to Thumbstumbler, casts on both legs–figuratively speaking, people!–and a little pink in the cheeks. I suppose I’ve exposed myself as a dilettante.

Or a human. You choose.

Either way, not writing is not an option anymore. Something in me cracked when, the other day, I had to give someone a link to this blog. I hadn’t looked at it in over a year, but just logging in and seeing “No Towel for Owl” all hung out to dry like that, the last post in a series that wasn’t meant to stop, well, it made me melancholy. And irritated. It really doesn’t take much time to do this writing thing. Just a little commitment, some nimble scheduling, maybe one fewer “Grace and Frankie” episode. Still, I’ve been known to be a quitter in matters of personal endeavor, and that lone suspended owl reminded me how much I enjoyed doing this and how much I’d lost by letting it go.

Even then I worried. “There’s just no time. Where will I fit it back in?”

Then today I was at the Natural History museum with MJ–she’s six now–and I had a moment of clarity. I’d just snapped a picture of her, standing before her beloved Bird Gallery, crooning over her favorite taxidermied fowl (the Golden Eagle, in case you’re wondering), and I thought of that dangling, well-loved owl. And all the things that had come before.

And the things that are yet to come.

And I knew I had to find time.

So here I am. Because I do work part-time, and clean my house, and raise my kid, and love my husband, and read books, and jog, and volunteer, and try to be a friend, and watch too much TV, and grocery shop, and meditate. And it’s all a lot, and, as a result, I do none of it as well as I’d like.

But if I’m not writing about it I’m giving up the one thing that can make all of that OK.

And that would be for the birds, indeed.






Even Picasso must’ve come up empty sometimes. And I’m no Picasso.

I’m starting to run out of ideas. For postcards, that is. Somewhere along the line Myra-Jean persuaded me that three was not enough to assuage her grief at my newfound part-time employment. I should be leaving her four. Four postcards, three days a week. I’ve been working for about a month and a half now. You do the math.

No? I’ll do it for you.

Seventy-two. That’s how many postcards I’ve made so far. Seventy-two original drawings. I’m running out of subject matter!

I’ve drawn cats, dogs, owls, camels, elephants, sheep, snails, and flowers. I’ve gone exotic, drawing sloths, okapis, and octupi. I’ve crayoned pastoral scenes, gardens, planets, and the sun. I’ve made up creatures. I’ve drawn MJ herself. And still, three nights a week, I have to come up with more.

The results are getting increasingly random.

Last night, for example, I started with food:


Then moved on to a landscape. Which is not my strong suit. The result looked perfunctory.


Next there was my old standby: a dog. But I put a flower in front of him, to change it up a bit.


Because, you know, dogs and flowers are a logical pairing. Kind of like white wine and fish.

Finally, I sketched a dinosaur. Not a very good one, I might add. It looked more like a seal with legs. Plus, I forgot the tail until the last minute, then squeezed it in on the right. To deflect from this obvious error I put a cat on its back. Walter. Why not? At least up there he’ll be safe from Mina.


I tried to make the accompanying text expand on of the image.


It didn’t really work, but that’s another conversation.

The point is, I don’t know how I’m going to keep this up. And I have to. The postcards are the only thing keeping MJ from having a nervous breakdown on the days I work. But I’m getting a nervous breakdown making them! I need ideas. I’m not an artist. I was a philosophy major, for God’s sake.

Perhaps each card should feature a fragment of Socratic dialogue.

Or maybe I should move on to collage.

Party of Two

Every cloud has a silver lining. Right now Myra-Jean’s is distinctly Daddy-shaped.

The up side to my working three days a week? She gets more time with him. By about three thousand per cent. Her entire life there’s been me at home, and Mike working. Usually 50-hour weeks. Sometimes she’d go days barely seeing him. That’s all changed. Now, as they spend more time together–and not just weekend “Let’s go to the carousel!” time–her father’s form is filling in for her. He becomes more familiar every day–in the true sense of the word. And she to him. Their love, already deep, is growing wider. More solidly drawn. And more quotidian. Which everybody knows is the best kind.

It is a huge boon for all of us.

So today, while I sold silver on the east side, Mike took MJ west. To the silver-shored sea.

It was a drive–an hour and a half each way–but he wanted to show her some tidal pools. He did, and more. There were pelicans. A pod of dolphins. A seahorse (of dubious authenticity). And a sea cucumber (authentic, although who’d know?) Even a helicopter in a parking lot. The latter, of course, was her favorite. But it was all damn good. Or so I was told.

And weirdly–although I wasn’t there–I enjoyed the trip with them. My body may have been in Pasadena, sheathed in a snug black dress, but my heart was ocean-bound, enjoying their enjoyment, watching my own absence with a bittersweet pleasure. I was there when they first saw the sea. When they spread their wool plaid blanket. When Mike lifted MJ high to the sky. When they wet their pale feet in the surf.

There. And not there.

Mostly the latter, of course–there was no sand in my shoes when I got home. But I did receive a jar of it. One they’d gathered together on their trip. Just for me.

I loved it–said I’d keep it forever. And I will.

As for the memories? They belong to the two of them.

Fortunately they’ll share.


Three Card Mommy

The postman may always ring twice, but at my house he delivers in threes.

Three postcards, that is. And, strictly speaking, it’s not the postman who delivers them. They’re from me. I make them myself, then hide them for MJ to find when I’m at work. It’s a game, an amusement, and a lot of fun for both of us. But, let’s be honest, it’s also a salve of sorts for the great sadness we’re still feeling over my return to work.

Here’s how it goes: In the morning, I hide three handmade cards in places MJ will find them throughout the day. One goes in her school lunchbox, another in the mailbox, and the third somewhere else–today it was taped to her car seat. Each contains, on one side, a simple picture (the only kind I’m capable of), and, on the reverse side, a short message. Basically, I adore you. I miss you. I wish I were there. I’ll be with you again soon. The same things a regular postcard says, more or less, but without the stamp. And with more one-syllable words.

The idea was suggested by one of MJ’s teachers, and, I must say, it’s genius. Today’s only the second time I’ve done it, but the reviews yesterday were glowing. MJ was thrilled. And best of all, I got a postcard in return. I found it under my journal when I went to bed last night, and the sight of it, with its “two dog” drawing and words of love and sweetness dictated by my girl, made my day. I hadn’t gotten to see her since early that morning, so finding it was particularly poignant. Sniff.

Because she’s not the only one doing the missing. I might have needed that little card more than she did.

Anyway. Who’s looking forward to mail call now? Take one guess.


Happy Meal

Happiness is:

  • Hating your new co-workers a little less.
  • Coming home to find your daughter still awake, even though it’s an hour past her bedtime.
  • Being so excited to see her that you almost break your nose on her head as you embrace her.
  • Her being so happy to see you that she doesn’t even notice the collision.
  • Lying next to her in her wee bed, your feet hanging over the endboard, talking about her day.
  • The way she says, over and over again, “Mama. You came home.”
  • Her new painting–almost miraculously beautiful–of Mina and an octopus.
  • Finding that not only has your husband prepared dinner, but the plate waiting for you is covered with paper towel then plastic, so you will not ingest hormone-disrupting chemicals after microwaving.
  • Knowing that, since said husband is going out, you can eat the aforementioned plate at the table like a zombie while binge-watching “Orange Is the New Black” on your laptop.

It is incremental improvement, even when this seems impossible.

It is knowing that you don’t have to work tomorrow. Or you do, but at home. Your favorite place of employment.