So today, in honor of the fact that yesterday was Mother's Day, I thought I would give a quick rundown of an Average Day around here, and how I spend my time. (Because, frankly, I don't even know myself most of the time.)
Today: Up at 6 to have a little bit of quiet time with the newspaper and drink coffee to wake up my brain. At 7, dragged the seven-year-old out of bed, coaxed her downstairs, made her breakfast. Said goodbye to the husband, who's going on the road for three days. Coaxed the seven-year old into her clothes. Coaxed her into actually eating her breakfast; brushed her hair; screamed "I'M LEAVING NOW" in an attempt to convince her that it really was 8 a.m. and TIME TO GO...and drove her to school. Back home, in time to unload the dishwasher and clean up the kitchen and make a vet appointment for the cat, who has managed to get into another catfight and who is clearly got some infected bite somewhere. Helped the 11 year old blow-dry her hair. Did the second school schlep of the morning, which involved taking her and picking up her friend Briane, and dropping them off at school.
Home at 9:30. Into the office, where I worked for two hours on writer-y stuff. Then looked at clock, realized the house was still a wreck, and I had to get the cat to the vet by 12:20. Went into white tornado mode--picking up dirty clothes, making beds, tidying up. Dashed into the shower. Removed one load from the dryer, folded it, put another load in. Discovered I had no time to do my own hair. Threw a scarf on my head, threw the cat in the cat carrier, and hit the road. From noon until 2:30, I was at the vet's, at Verizon getting my cellphone fixed, and at the hardware store, where I bought spackle and the wooden stakes for the compost pile I'm going to create as soon as I get the time. Stopped at Wendy's to grab the least caloric thing I could find, then back to school to pick up the seven-year-old and her friend Lily, who is coming over for a playdate. Back at home. Check e-mail. Did one more load of laundry, checked phone messages, got a drill and fixed the broken curtain rod holder in the seven-year-old's bedroom. Swept out garage. Made a chicken pot pie for dinner out of the chicken that was thawed and is going to go bad if I don't use it. Helped seven-year-old with homework. Handed off Lily to her mom. Served dinner. In a spare moment, used the spackle I bought at the hardware store to plug the nail holes in the stairwell wall, which I have been meaning to do since we moved into this house six weeks ago. (Tomorrow, if I'm lucky, I'll find the touch up paint.)
Now it's almost 7 p.m. and I have reading to do for work, plus the 11 year old's homework to check up on, plus there's that last load of laundry to fold, plus a few random things that need to be ironed. Not to mention the nightly bedtime hassle, and an e-mail I need to send to the seven-year-old's teacher. And there's out of town houseguests coming this weekend, and last night the toilet next to the guest room overflowed. And I realized I have no towels down there that are not in rags, so there's a trip to Target in my immediate future.
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is what millions of unpaid caregivers do in America every day--the privileged ones, that is, who are not actually bound by economic necessity to punch a time clock five days a week. Many tens of millions more unpaid caregivers do all this, more or less, and punch a time clock. For those in the salaried work force, it's called "juggling"--as if all this were some kind of fun circus ball to play with. For those of us who do it full time, it's called "not working"--and someday our Social Security checks will record this period of our lives as "out of the labor force." None of the work we do will be counted as part of the Gross Domestic Product--even though it would certainly count as labor if somebody else, say a child-care provider, were doing it. Nor will this work qualify us for any kind of tax credit. It's just--poof!--not there. Nonexistent, in the eyes of the government and Wall Street and the whole academic army of economists out there.
If it strikes you that this maybe is not really fair, check out this website, and also this one, and do a little reading. And then maybe write a letter or two or three. And happy belated Mother's Day to us all.