One of my oldest friends visited recently. We had a lot to catch up about. We spoke about his blossoming career as a social worker and about mine (yes, it’s a job) as a full-time mother. And among other things, he wanted to know if and when I’d want to jump back into the workforce.
My daughter is two now, and she’ll attend preschool part time a few months after she turns three. Until then, I’m pretty booked. And while I could technically pick up some work during those forthcoming preschool hours, I had to shake my head.
He responded with understanding and pointed out that I could probably make really great use of that time doing things that are easier without a little kid around.
Laundry, laundry, laundry.
I’ve done it with a colicky newborn strapped to my chest, bending into a squat to load and unload the machine so she’d stay at a 90-degree angle to the floor, and thereby stay a-freaking-sleep.
I’ve had better moments, where she napped on a hand towel in a laundry basket and I ironed leisurely across from her. I’ve also turned the laundry basket into a playpen, tossing in a few rattles and an empty Kleenex box—even just a few random socks—to occupy my little independent sitter while I folded shirts.
My husband is very anti-doing-laundry, and I am very anti-hiring-someone-to-do-it (I’m way too particular and certain parts of it just feel too awkward) so I’ve done it throughout this entire journey of parenthood, and always with my baby in tow. Always. We even had a potty in there for a while.
And she was watching me.
By the time she turned two, she had all but taken over. After breakfast, she pulls the hamper out and drags it down the hall. She brings it out the back and into the little cottage where our washer, dryer, folding table, drying rack, and ironing board live. She loads the washer. She turns it on. I pour in the soap.
After naptime, we head back and she pulls all the laundry out of the machine and drags it over the dryer. In it goes. Out comes the lint trap and little fingers pull the grey fuzz away from the screen and neatly ball it up. She closes the door. She turns it on.
It’s really cool and sometimes annoying since it takes so much time. But on the other hand, it takes up so much time, if you catch my drift.
Anyway, I’ve talked a lot about laundry, but I’m getting somewhere, I promise.
There are things that you miss when you’re caretaking on a 24-hour shift. And when my daughter starts preschool, those are the things I want to do. More than anything, I want to stay in bed all morning cuddling with my husband. I also want us to go on a long walk, spontaneously, wherever that walk takes us.
I want to go to yoga because winging it on my living room floor after bedtime isn’t cutting it. I want to hear the instructor’s voice leading my body’s movements while my mind lets go of everything I’m in charge of organizing and wanders off into something philosophical or my heart explodes and water falls out of my eyes. Yep, that happens to me at yoga. Or it used to.
I want to go out to coffee with my girlfriends and catch up while maintaining full eye contact. I want to go to coffee alone and sit and write and write while the sounds of coffee orders and crossword puzzle discussions and beans grinding and the thwack of the portafilter being emptied again and again between pulls all buzz in the background.
I want to head to City Lights Bookstore and run my fingers over the cloth spines, searching for the perfect new book, and then I want to sit and read it for two hours on one of their creaky wooden chairs.
I don’t know if it’s the extent to which I’ve mastered the art of breastfeeding while washing dishes and filling up the long afternoons with domestic duties cleverly disguised as toddler activities, like baking and laundry, or if it’s just that I can’t bring myself to use my first moments of Mom Freedom to do basically the same things a little more productively, but I know for sure that when preschool finally starts, I won’t rush to get the chores done. Anyway, I would miss my little helper too much to do it alone.