You think you've become enlightened—a serene zen master levitating in the lotus position with your eyes closed—when suddenly you backslide into your most resentful, crankypants self and everything is awful and you hate everyone.
Or at least that's how it seems to work for me.
For me, the most recent backslide happened on the day I asked my husband to pick up the halibut.
It had been A Day. I had gone to the supermarket and, not only was it Senior Citizen Day, but it was also Restock Day. The already narrow aisles were cramped and cluttered with dollies piled high with food product and older shoppers piloting their carts at the speed of asthmatic elephants traveling uphill.
Perfectly lovely asthmatic elephants, but asthmatic elephants nonetheless.
When I finally wrestled my way to the fish counter, I was told the halibut wouldn't be in for another two hours. There then ensued an interior struggle after which I was somehow able to smile and thank the person at the counter for their time. I then completed the rest of my shopping and went home.
Later in the day, my husband—who had recently begun working from home full-time—announced that he was going out to get his hair cut. I asked him if he could swing by the market for the halibut on his way home.
Maybe 45 minutes later, I received a call. "This is ridiculous," Michael ranted. "These people don't even know what halibut is." It eventually became clear that Michael had gone to a different market, one in which the people behind the fish counter were not actually familiar with fish. I asked him to go to the market I had originally specified. "I don't have time to run around doing your shopping for you," he said.
And then my head exploded. And my levitating self crashed to the ground and maybe considered murdering people.
He was the breadwinner. I was the everything else.
Only a month before, my husband had started his new job. The one that had eliminated his commute and that would supposedly give him the ability to help out more at home. As we grappled with how to handle this new development, I'd come to the conclusion that I was still the default parent because that was what we'd initially decided. He was the breadwinner. I was the everything else.
Still, we'd discussed how he might provide a bit more help. Provide me with a bit more flexibility. And that was that.
But it's odd how having him home only seems to highlight the imbalance of our responsibilities. For the majority of the day, his office door remains closed as he concentrates fully on his work, almost as if he isn't even here. When he has a moment to breathe, he relaxes in the back room with a coffee and whatever TV show he happens to be binge watching.
I, meanwhile, feel as if I am flopping around frantically like a fish that has accidentally flung itself out of its tank. I push my work aside to go food shopping. I end my work day early to cook dinner. I sprint between the laundry room and the nursery and the kitchen and my home office, trying to do everything at once. I feed Em her breakfast and lunch, eyes on the clock, thinking of all the work I am not doing.
Even though we have a setup I imagine many parents would be envious of, I am still an utter mess.
And Michael sits in the back room, laughing at something on TV, his legs stretched out, his coffee warming his hands. Or he sits behind his closed door, doing his work and only his work. Because he couldn't possibly multitask. He has a job to do. And obviously I have all the time in the world.
Since he has been home, I have also slowly let go of all the tiny acts of self-care I had allowed myself when it was just me and Em. The 15-minute meditations during her nap time. The yoga done with her beside me on the play mat. Because I am afraid that making time for these things will only validate what I imagine my husband is thinking: that I do have time. That my work doesn't really count. That he doesn't have to worry about picking up our daughter's vitamins or retrieving her from her crib because I'm there. I will always be there.
And even though he sometimes allows her to crawl around his feet while he works, it still feels uneven. I still feel acutely how my work simultaneously does and does not matter. Even though we have a setup I imagine many parents would be envious of, I am still an utter mess.
And maybe I will always be a mess.
Maybe we are all messes.
Maybe we feel as if we are the only ones who don't have their shit together because no one ever talks about how they're falling apart.
It's a working hypothesis. I could be wrong. I could, quite possibly, be the only mother who does not have her shit together despite the fact that she has everything going for her.
What living/working situation would make it all better, if not this one? Such a situation does not exist, does it?