Friday, September 11, 2009

Personalities in Paradox

Fall bit in me in the butt today. As I walked to the subway after work, I realized that summer is over. It wasn’t the fact that Labor Day had passed. It wasn’t that I had distributed my syllabus to my first class of the semester. It wasn’t even the crowds of people returning to their regular routines on the public transportation. No, it was simply the fact that I was wearing summer sandals and bare legs rather than appropriate fall garb. My bright red, orange, and pink dress broadcast my desire to keep summer just a little longer. But fall laughed in my face.

Many of my Facebook friends have posted status updates that praise fall. It seems that I am the only one who laments the passing of summer, and this year I am particularly surprised that so many are happy that fall is here. Summer was short. Too short. We had only two weeks of quality hot, and even those two weeks were spread across the season. On top of that, the not-so-hot days were not-so-nice.

This brings me to one of the great paradoxes of being both a mom and a woman who works a portion of her career at home: It is much easier to be a mom when the weather is nice. It is much easier to accomplish career work when the weather is not-so-nice.

Any mom will understand the first statement immediately. For those of you who might question why being a mom is easier when the weather is nice, let me take you through a rainy day with my twins.

My son wakes early, probably around 6:30, and my husband and I begin our game of feigning sleep to each other and convincing our tot to go back to bed. (See previous post for more detail.) Finally, I cannot put it off any longer, and I go to my kids, change their diapers, sing appropriate morning songs, and begin the day. We don’t watch much TV in our house, but Playhouse Disney often makes an appearance while my husband and I shower and dress. (And ok, I’ll admit that sometimes I grab ten or fifteen more minutes of sleep rather than shower while the kids are engrossed by Mickey or Handy Manny.)

Breakfast is at 8, or whenever my daughter asks for “Oaptmearl.” (Note: I can’t quite get the spelling to match the phonetic sound she makes. But this is close.) I make oatmeal, or eggs, or cheerios, or some other delightfully deeeeeelicious!! breakfast. (This one sounds just like this. Exclamation points included.) After eating, we return to the nursery, brush teeth, change clothes, and tidy the room.

All of this activity takes us until about 8:45 AM. The kids start bedtime around 6:30 at night, and if I’m lucky, my husband comes home by 6 to help with bath and bedtime. That leaves about 9 hours to fill during the day…

Lunch, naps, and snacks take time, but indoor activities are limited to the kitchen, where we color or do painting, the basement and play area, which houses our various toys, and the couch in front of the TV, which I really, really try to avoid. While it may seem like we have many options, my toddlers are not quite ready to entertain themselves for extended periods of time – and I only have so many rounds of Mr. Potato Head left in me before I end up poking my own eyes out.

So when we are inside, we sing, we dance, we play cars, we color, and each activity lasts the attention span of a toddler – about 3 minutes. It’s exhausting, mentally and physically.

But when we can go outside, the world is our playground. We watch butterflies on the butterfly bush. We swing on the swing set and play in the sandbox. We ride our cars in the driveway. We go to the park. The kids run wild, exhausting themselves, and I sit on a bench nearby enjoying their play. Time passes quickly, and magically their attention expands. My daughter can play safely for an hour in the sandbox without intervention from me.

Thus, nice days are good days. Except, of course, when I’m working from home. I probably don’t need to explain to anyone how hard it is to stay inside on a nice day, eyes locked on the computer or nose buried in an academic article or book. It’s extremely difficult to hear my children’s voices, jubilant as they play on the swing set right outside my office window. As the sun streams through the glass, all I want to do is join them in the sunshine. And I often do, making my work productivity plummet.

So my life is a paradox. Mama loves the sunshine, but Dr. T needs it to rain - every day.


  1. You make me remember having young kids all too well. As the song says, "thanks for the memories."

  2. I agree completely about the summer. While I do love the fall I agree we were cheated on summer this year. Granted on the topic of kids I know it was better that way for Sarah being pregnant. Keep wearing the summer outfits, I plan to fir a while as well. Today was a perfect reason to hope.