Every day around 2:30, I get the same clenched-gut feeling. School is almost out. My time is almost up. The time I’m referring to is those six-and-a-half blessed kid-free hours that I get each day. The time when I can work and write and run errands unencumbered. The time when I am my own master. Every afternoon, I attempt to squeeze every last second out of that time, and I end up rushing into school late, my head filled with thoughts of all the to-do’s I didn’t cross off that day. We come home and I find myself sneaking off to the computer while Amelia is playing, returning only when she calls for me.
I have heard that some parents miss their children while they are in school. I can’t identify at all. My child is intense, and I’m not sure what I would do without this time away from her. But it occurred to me recently to wonder exactly what it is I’m dreading each afternoon. Is it being forced away from my to-do list full of fun things like: change sheets, clean fridge, pay bills? Is it being forced to shut off this computer where I waste too many hours to count? Is it spending time with the most joyful and enthusiastic person in my life? What exactly is it that I’m worried about?
When I was first laid off from my newspaper job, before Amelia had started kindergarten, I switched her from full-time to part-time daycare. Back then, I vowed to make being with her my job every afternoon. We did art projects and went to museums. We baked cupcakes. We explored new parks, went swimming and read books. And I loved it. But when she started school, I somehow lost my sense of how precious our afternoons together are. I forgot that being with her is as important as any other job in my life. And probably a better use of my time than procrastinating on Facebook.
As a new year begins, I’m ready to stop seeing taking care of my child as an impediment to the rest of my life, and start remembering that she is one of the best parts of it.