For the past two years we’ve lived mostly off of my income. For fifty hours out of every week from the time that our son was six months old, I’ve been away from him and away from the house. We’ve spent our weekends cramming errands into every waking hour and what little time was left after the workday was done, giving anything within reach a hasty cleansing on the way to bed. During the times that work was slow for Spencer, our house always ran more smoothly. There was never a day in my life that I regretted Spencer being home to take Matthew to a doctor’s appointment or an afternoon I didn’t appreciate being able to come home to a kitchen free of dirty dishes and a floor cleared of that morning’s blueberries. When he did work, a few extra bucks in the bank account never went far enough to be worth him not being around to take care of the things that I couldn’t while I worked longer hours. Whether it was starting dinner or filling out paperwork or taking kids and pets to their appointments, he was always making sure that my time at home was spent doing the least amount of unnecessary work as possible.
The plan has always been for him to return to full-time work so that I could be the one to take care of house and home once the last child was born. For two years we’ve worked toward that goal, planning and saving and souping up resumes -- sometimes our plans actually panned out and sometimes they didn’t. But now that Spencer’s new job will actually afford us the luxury of seeing that dream materialize comfortably, I’m eager to see where this new role reversal will take us.
For the past few weeks we’ve been thrown into an exhausting transition period. He’s working fifty-five to sixty hour weeks while my eleven hour days aren’t slowing down. With Mary starting school and Matthew returning to daycare, I always seem to have to be in two places at once. I’m cooking eggs at 4:15 in the morning and walking the dog before 5:00 a.m. I’m ready to crash at 2:00 in the afternoon, but at 7:00 in the evening I’m still scrambling to assemble some kind of dinner while Spencer’s fighting just to stay awake to eat it. And even though there hasn’t been any time for it, I’ve had to keep the kitchen and dining room both clean after dinner so that breakfast the next morning can be thrown together as quickly and painlessly as possible the next day.
Meanwhile, baby Scarlett is packing on the pounds, making just about every move I make less comfortable as the days push forward. Anything that requires bending down is a virtually impossible feat, when she kicks the skin on my abdomen stretches nearly to the point of tearing, and - honestly - sometimes just taking in a good breath can be painful. I’ve taken up drinking coffee again, which isn’t good for her or for me especially when the summer heat has me fighting to stay hydrated as it is… but I’ve got to cut corners where I can until these last few weeks of work are over.
Spencer and I both get through the day fantasizing about what it will be like in a few short weeks. When I can spend my day cleaning our sheets and marinating our dinner and organizing our storage room in the morning hours while he’s at work. When I can start dinner at 2:45 if I need to that day so that we can eat and put the kids to bed and maybe still catch a show or two before forcing ourselves to bed -- which we haven’t been able to find time for after dinner since he started this job. No more toting the kids to daycare at 6:00 a.m. on freezing January mornings or missing out on every one of Mary’s field trips. No more squeezing in time to help with homework at 7:15 in the evening because that’s what time I get home after picking up Matthew from daycare. No more barking at Matthew to hustle into the van so that he doesn’t make me late for work while I scramble to get my lunch in the passenger’s seat without spilling it on the driveway in the dark of an early winter morning.
I’ll eat a leisurely breakfast of eggs and sausage and milk with my husband before sending him off to work. I’ll have breakfast ready for the kids before they even wake up. Mary will never have to rush through a morning shower or be yelled at for making me late. Matthew and I will wave Mary goodbye as she gets on the school bus and then we’ll walk the dog and wave to neighbors and pick wishies on our way around the block. I’ll throw in a load of laundry and take out the trash before packing Matthew up for a morning at the park. We’ll play tag and catch and kick around a little soccer ball the way that we only get to do on the days that I was able to take him to work with me this year. Then he’ll eat a snack at home while I go through boxes that have needed to be organized since before Matthew was born. We’ll have vacuumed carpets and a fridge that maybe doesn’t smell so bad. I’ll plan days that I’ll come to Mary’s school just to have lunch with her. When the baby is here, we’ll listen to music and read stories and dance in the kitchen while I put the dishes away. Matthew will take out the paints and make a horrible mess that I’ll have time to clean up when the time for play is done. The meat for our dinner will always be defrosted without the aid of a microwave and recipes will consist of more than just whatever I could find on the internet after work from typing “quick and easy dinner ideas” into the search engine. Spencer won’t have to wait until he’s falling asleep to eat.
It gets me through the day.