By Matthew Koehler– DC Daddy’s Wine Time
There I was. Sitting in an empty apartment with an infinite number of things to do and places to go. Yet I remained immobilized. A lassitudinous silence had descended on my person, an unsettling calm that hardly lived up to the adjective used to describe it.
The TV had been off for at least fifteen minutes but I continued to stare at its dull reflectiveness. From the partially open balcony door, the sounds of the neighborhood bled through, inviting me out. Nothing and everything frenetically moved between my gut and head every fifteen seconds.
The constructive potential of this moment, and its simultaneous chaos, were not lost on me. Without my little “why machine” trailing after me, my time, thoughts, and work anxieties had returned to take her place. I wasn’t just free. There had to be a goal to work towards; otherwise I’d drift aimlessly, an unemployed house parent with no kid to keep him on track.
Every thought I’d had about this moment in time was swirling around in my head, sucking me down. Being free of my parental obligations had ironically enslaved me to indecision.
My kid hadn’t been in school and hour and I already felt lost. I had no pressing parental duties, no job, and no purpose other than a few tenuous prospects.
It was 9:10 am and the apartment was utterly still.
After recovering from the stellar-like birth of your first child, the pieces of your former life coalesce and condense into a transitioned life. Much like the ordering of a young solar system, the transition forms you into new heavenly bodies with altered gravitational patterns. An ordered solar system is born and emergent properties… Well, they emerge. The next several months are spent understanding your place in the new solar system as it drifts through your personal cosmos.
Beautiful. The imagery coaxed a loan tear from my left tear duct, the evil one.
However, after the new baby glow cools, the frantic, somewhat chaotic first year eventually gives way to order and regularity. Reality sets in and you find yourself adrift in open space. There’s time to contemplate how much of a winner the galaxy at large considers you at this moment. What sort of heavenly body are you? A moon? A planet? A star perhaps? Or just some useless debris trapped in the orbits of greater bodies?
Enough of that metaphor… Shot of tiger blood anyone?
Society had been out there waiting for you, and now you need to reengage. You need to work. Find a path. Increase your job experience. Build your résumé. Hone that perfect elevator speech to fucking laser-like “sell yourself” focus! You should’ve been on this every free moment you had!
If you’re not catching my drift, let me remind you that there are super parents out there who’ve been running online businesses and getting graduate degrees just during naptime. They also run the PTA afterschool, nevermind the nanny!
So, what have you been doing?
Don’t say parenting! That doesn’t count.
You might as well erase these past few years from your professional record and never bring it up during an interview. You lose economic value when you haven’t been working- professionally working, I mean.
“Staying at home with the kid(s) and playing all day,” they begin, “Hell, I wish I could’ve done that!” You and another house parent lock eyes at this, a tacit thought passes between you, and together you toss this sad soul out of a window. Staying home with the kid(s) was not a vacation. It’s enriching and wonderful but there are personal and professional consequences.
Pardon my hyperbole, here, but this isn’t entirely an exercise in subjective whining. Anyone whose played the stay at home role long enough, has seen the looks people give them when talking about their work, “Ah you know, I pretty much eat, breathe, and shit parenting all day; it’s a 24/7 job. It’s not like I get to sit down and mindlessly loose myself in spreadsheets and social media profiles all day! Am I right?”
No, they don’t get it. They, like you, are a part of the same culture that finds working an easily quantifiable endeavor. Full-time parenting, however, seems to happen in the nether regions of society, removed from economic considerations. It’s something people choose to do in their own time, and few concessions are made for families raising children. We are a culture that highly values work, but only pays lip service to child rearing. People may not admit it or be aware of it, but being jobless, no matter the reason, is a bit of a turnoff.
But, I don’t have to worry about the existential problems of a privileged stay-at-home parent anymore. My child is off being indoctrinated in DC’s universal Pre-K program, and look at that! There’s a horse waiting for me outside.
So, I’m not gonna wait for the dust to settle in my part of the solar system (coming full circle now)- time to down that shot of tiger blood and hop behind the controls of my rocket ship…
… To pursue a longtime pipedream of mine.
“Ha ha!” my imaginary interlocutor laughs, “No really… What’re you gonna do?”
I wasn’t laughing. Clown school here I come.
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