Monday, May 18, 2020
From the Atlantic:
My husband is a self-employed architect; we are roughly equal earners. Until a few weeks ago, child care was the biggest line item in our monthly budget. At times we have spent more on it than we could rationally afford, a fact about which I have felt largely unconflicted. I have respect for parents who choose to stay home with kids, and respect and empathy for those who have no choice in the matter. But more than once, I’ve joked that my only regret about hiring Finn’s first, beloved babysitter when he was four months old was not having hired her sooner. My best advice to pregnant friends is to line up child care. You don’t have to do this alone, I tell them. Subtext: I cannot do this alone.
It took me about three days of being home with my boys to recognize that our new lifestyle was not completely without precedent. Certain aspects of confinement had an eerie familiarity: the 24/7 relentlessness, the isolation, the satisfaction of small domestic victories. I’d done this before—twice, on maternity leave.
On one late-night, wine-fueled Zoom call, I listened to my women friends commiserate. One had lost her job; another suspected hers might be next. A third, a midwife, was delivering babies in a hospital with insufficient protective gear, worrying about what she was bringing home to her kids. All, meanwhile, were managing families and schooling young children. So I felt sheepish sharing the idea taking shape in my mind, that somehow I wasn’t hating this time as much as I was supposed to. I’d begun to wonder, in fact, if it was a reset that my family—or really, that I as a mother—sorely needed. Maybe I didn’t have to scramble for new assignments. Maybe I could reframe quarantine. It could be my third maternity leave.
As for the children’s perspective, I’m pretty sure social distancing is the greatest thing that ever happened to them, the windfall of their short lives. They get all of us almost all the time. Finn chatters about his friends, but little evidence suggests that either of them misses school. This realization is, for me, bittersweet. I can’t think about how happy our kids are to be with us—just us—without acknowledging the fact that that’s the one thing we’ve never given them. It is the one thing that is truly off the table.
I’ve always relied on a convenient certainty that preschool is a win-win. High-energy as they are, surely our pups would chew the legs off the table if we kept them at home, and they’d miss out on the early socialization that I’m convinced (and remain convinced) has put them on the road to becoming tolerable human beings. But the truth is, they are there not because that’s what they need. They’re there because that’s what we need. And when school reopens, they’ll be right back there again. I’m okay with that, but maybe not as okay as I used to be. Yes, I have to work to pay the bills, and I’ve always known that working is essential to my sanity and sense of self. But now I have a keener sense of what my boys—and I—will be missing.
Read more here.