I have nothing to show for my day. If a manager came knocking on my door and asked to see what projects I’d completed, I’m afraid I would have to avert my eyes, create a diversion then hide under my desk. On my balance sheet, today comes up as a big zero.
Much of the time, for many at-home mothers, that’s how it feels. We don’t really produce anything that the economy calls significant, so all of those little things we do seem to add up to not very much. How many of us have laughed uncomfortably when someone, usually someone who gets paid to work all day, asks, “So what do you do all day?” It reminds me of the time a friend’s husband insinuated that my life is one protracted coffee morning. (He didn’t use the word, “protracted.” That’s my word. I guess coffee mornings improve one’s vocabulary.)
What did I do today? If you took everything I did and tried to hold it in the palm of your hand, it would be a crumpled wad of apparently insignificant offcuts and clippings. This morning I sawed thin slices of brown bread from a loaf, and with bleary pre-coffee swipes, spread peanut butter on one side and jam on the other. I broke a few eggs and tossed them into a pan for breakfast. I unloaded, loaded, unloaded and loaded the dishwasher, a dress rehearsal for tomorrow’s loading and unloading. I turned my son’s clothes right-side out, sliding my arm up into the space his small, buttery limbs would soon occupy. I clicked the line of snaps that runs up his pyjamas until I got to his chin, where I planted a small kiss.
I walked my eldest to the bus stop. She held my hand until we got in sight of the other children there, then walked confidently ahead. I walked away, and at precisely the right time, turned around and waved goodbye, just as she did. Along the way, I gently guided my nine year old to the inside of the pavement, so I could walk on the outside: the car side. We paused to strip two leaves off an oak tree: food for some hairy, hungry caterpillars in a plastic Indian takeaway box under our kitchen table, the five year old’s “pets.”
Later I leaned over a railing and stared into a pond with that five year old, watching damselflies flit from reed to reed. At his request, I extracted their tiny, papery exuviae from nearby reeds—the left-behind husks of their former water-bound selves. As we talked about the dragonflies before us, I brushed his hair from his eyes. I held his jacket when he decided it was too hot. I put it back on him when the breeze came up and our walk took us into shade.
Tonight I lay down with him when it was bedtime. I read him his current bedtime book—a book he chose, which I can’t stand, about meerkat ninjas in Antarctica (yes, you read that right. Feel my pain.). Once he was asleep, I took down the laundry I’d pegged out earlier. And later, when my husband came home from the supermarket, we unloaded bags and put the food away.
This is my life. It is the gentle, unremitting attention to the everyday. It is presence in micro-moments. It is releasing what happened yesterday. It is immersing myself in what today, and only today, asks of me. It is surrendering myself to what is required in the here and now.
It doesn’t seem like much. I don’t expect the Prime Minister to clap me on the back and thank me for raising well-adjusted, happy children. What I do doesn’t factor into his GDP. To him, I’m just on an all-day coffee break. But still, what I do has value and I need no one’s validation to believe that.
What’s more, I can use the word, “protracted” in a sentence. Pass the cappuccino, friends.
©Lisa Hassan Scott 2015.