We loved our nanny. We still love her, but she’s no longer our nanny. Right after the beans first birthday (December 7), our nanny received a phone call that her father was in intensive care in DC, that he’d been in a car accident, that she should come. She was gone for the week, and we prayed everything would be okay. I felt sick for her, and then did what I always do, thought, what if that happened to me? What if I were in that situation with my father. It can happen to any of us. And I felt sicker. It was the week my book edits were due. And with Phil and I both working from home, it wasn’t as taxing as I’d thought, but then again, Phil was doing most of the work, since I was on deadline.
A week went by, and then we got the news. Her father passed a few days later. She decided she wasn’t returning to Austin, that she would stay in DC with her mother, indefinitely. She’d be back for a visit, but she wouldn’t be returning to work. We talked for a long time about grief, about how she worried she was already forgetting him. And I cried when I hung up. It was something I couldn’t fix for her. And she is just the sweetest girl with an angelic laugh I can almost hear as I type this. I miss her, not just what she did around here, but her.
I was actually looking forward to being full-time super mommy. I’ll puree spinach and blueberries. Make whole grain muffins, and get to dress them up all darling. And I’ve been doing some of that over the past month. Signed them up for a music class once a week. We play the same songs in the house, and I sing and dance, make silly faces. An ass of myself really. But it’s me. Totally Free To Be mama. Yes, I change the diapers and give vitamins and sippy cups. Still weaning them off the formula, down to one dose of it before bed. Except Phil says I’m a poser. He says I talk a good game, but really, I don’t take care of them the way I think I do.
"You disappear," he says. "When you’re taking care of them, and I’m here," he says, "you disappear, go downstairs to do one thing or another and I’m left with a conference call and screaming babies in the background."
I have to work, too, I say. You’re not the only one. "Yeah," he says, "but you’re not really working. What you do is busy work. Writing articles for magazines before they sign off and officially give you the assignment isn’t the best use of your time." Then I get angry because I’ve already earned for this year more than I would have earned in a whole year in advertising. "Yeah, but you don’t have the same expenses you did then. We have a mortgage and car payments. It’s different now." And I think, he’s taking on all the financial worry. It’s what he does because I never think like that. I don’t spend outrageously, either. If it were up to him, I’d definitely be the breadwinner (I am not)."Yeah, and what do you have coming in 2009? What about next year? What do you have lined up?" Well, I’m going to be starting another book. Why can’t I write books, start working on the idea for my next one? Brainstorm, read, do what I do? Why is that "busy work?" It’s part of my process. "Why can’t we hire someone new to take on some of the responsibilities around here. A cleaning service once in a while, a babysitter, a part-time nanny." And then he stresses over money and says it’s a waste of it. And then I start to cry. Because I cannot win with him. Once he’s made up his mind, he crosses his arms and that’s it. And it upsets me. "Well, then earn some more money," he reasons, "because I know if we got a nanny again, you wouldn’t really work. You’d go get your nails done, or you’d just do busy work." And what’s wrong with that? I need to take care of my own mental health, to be inspired, to read, to write, to cultivate new ideas. And I cannot do it while singing the hello song. The way I see things, and the way he sees them, and the way we communicate it all, is leaving both of us angry, frustrated, and sad.
I said I need more structure, that I need to be alone with the kids, without him there. That he should go to the office (translation: downstairs) during the day, so I don’t end up relying on him to watch them while I run downstairs. Because I don’t want to hear about it later. If he’s in the room, one way or another, I will say, "Oh, just watch them a sec," or "oh, can you grab me that towel" when one of them sneezes, instead of getting up myself to do it. Then he’ll say, "are you watching them, or are we watching them? Because I thought you said you’d watch them." I am watching them. Ugh! Why do you have to be so stubborn and strict and difficult? "Why do you have to be so lazy?" And it is just not working. I need him not to be here, for him not to criticize how I do things, to tell me I’m not stimulating them enough. And when his day ends, then he can take over while I get some me time. Except, what about work time? When do I get work time? And when does he get his own me time? It hasn’t been easy to figure out.