At thirty-one, my baby-making machinery is humming insistently, but I can't help but think that if I routinely feel this overwhelmed, working full-time at a job I truly love and also playing the homemaker role, how on Earth can a child ever fit into this equation? If I already feel like I don't have enough energy to go around between my husband, work, friends, and day-to-day chores and errands, what could possibly be left after a day spent caring for a baby?
I suspect my genetically inherited Catholic guilt wants me to suffer. I should be thrilled—my husband is thus-far supportive of me writing full-time, despite the major income hit. I seem to be good at it, and I possess the discipline and drive. No longer commuting, I have the time to exercise and relax and read when the day's writing is done. If the house is clean, that is. On paper, I have it all. But I frequently find myself crushed by the pressure to revel in it. I feel crushed by frequent feelings of inadequacy, when I should be all set up to thrive. Water, sunlight, and nice, nutrient-rich dirt, and still some days I wither.
I take criticism of my housekeeping and other wifely tasks intensely personally, because if there's truth to them, it must mean I'm failing miserably. After all, I work from home. Surely I should be able to accomplish X, Y, and Z around the house. But X, Y, and Z take time, and that times takes away from the forty+ hours a week I feel obligated to spend on my writing and related tasks, and that makes me feel as though I'm falling short in that department. If I tackle all the chores and write five thousand brilliant words and make a delicious dinner, I'm pooped, and then I'm failing at the role of affectionate and charming partner. Seriously, how much worse could a child make this? How do my mother-author-partner Twitter friends do it all?
I want to say I'm not neurotic…perhaps those who know and love me will disagree. But I welcome germs with open nostrils. I don't care what the latest trends are and if I'm hitting the mark. I don't generally worry about what people think of me, unless they feel as if I've hurt them personally. I hope most of my acquaintances would say I'm easy-going. The struggles I'm feeling…they don't feel neurotic or frantic, generally speaking. They feel more like hopelessness. Not quite depression (I know what that feels like), just a sense that I'm failing when I'm not living up to my various daily roles.
When I feel like a worthy professional writer and a creative person, I feel like a lousy partner. When I feel like a stand-up housewife, I feel I'm neglecting my duties as an-author-who-treats-her-work-seriously. If I nail both of those, I probably neglected exercise or friendships or blogging or items on my miscellaneous to-do list as a consequence. As I write this, I feel I should be hemming my husband's pants as I promised. I need to eat dinner, but I need to blog. I need to be reading my friends' books, because they're kind and supportive enough to read mine. I need to find an agent. I need to cure whatever's making my toes all itchy and fat like sausages because I haven't been able to work out enough. I need to schedule this and that and return this e-mail and get groceries and learn to make homemade curry sauce because the store-bought jars are so pricey. And I need to relax, because not relaxing makes everything impossible.
But of course, I don't need to do any of these things…except perhaps the groceries, from time to time. My husband probably won't leave me if I don't hem his pants tonight or schedule this or that utility. My writing career will probably not flop if I take a weekday off to relax or tackle some other project. My friends will probably still like me even if I don't read their books the month—or year—they come out. This blog will not cease to exist if I fail to write twenty posts a month. I do, however, need to fix my itchy sausage-toe problem.
How do you do it, Claire Huxtable?
With pills? It's pills, right?
Some days life, no matter how good it truly is, feels very difficult. And I don't feel as if I'm allowed to feel that way, given how much harder many, many people have it in the world and in this economy. In addition, I've semi-consciously designed my own life to be as simple as possible—don't acquire too many things, live in a condo that's a nice, modest size, only spend the energy cultivating friendships and acquaintances and family bonds that feel mutual and healthy, strive to do work that's challenging and creatively fulfilling… Generally keep things casual and manageable, so that when a child does enter the picture, they'll be part of a humble, adaptable, content family. And content is fine. Jubilant happiness is impossible to maintain for more than the odd fleeting moment, plus it's exhausting. Content is healthy. Content is doable.
Or it should be. So why do I feel so helpless some days, amid all the positivity and ease of my life?
I don't have an answer, and I'm sick of analyzing myself, trying to sleuth one out. I'm just pleased that today—or at least in this hour or minute or moment—I feel calm and content. Just this second, I feel like enough. If only it could last.