Pardon my French, but things around here might accurately be described as a Shitstorm of late. Look, I'm not complaining. I mean, privately, sure, but that's not what this is. Really, I'm just trying to convey to you some context. The context is this: there's been a lot going on and none of it has been going smoothly. I could go into details but . . . why don't you just trust me on this one? Great.
Okay. So, that's the context.
Here's what happened: I was at the playground with the kiddo after school. It has become a thing, now that the weather is nicer that, after school, many of the kids in his class head to this one playground. So we were there, and the caretaker of one of his classmates struck up a conversation with me that went something like this:
Her: So do you have a nanny too?
Me: No. We have some babysitting - there are two ladies who come, between them, three afternoons a week for a few hours - otherwise it's me.
Her: Oh, that's nice. It's important to have some "you" time.
Me: (beat) It's nice to get anything done.
Her: (necessarily walking away to continue caring for her charge) Yeah!
I know she didn't mean anything in particular. She's a young woman with no children of her own. I'm not mad at her. But (here comes the rant . . .) I am mad at this prevailing idea of "me" time for moms:
- If I were working at a regular 9-5 salaried job, no one would call it "me" time. But, the reason we have any regular babysitting is so that I can do what I consider my work: writing, producing, and cultivating my acting career.
- "Me" time makes it sound like I'm off at the spa. Good lord, I WISH I was off at the spa. Nope. Just doggedly pursuing my dreams.
- "Me" time, just in its verbiage, sounds selfish. Maybe I think that having my son spend time with some carefully-curated caregivers (instead of spending just about all day, every day with me) is a good parenting choice. Additionally, maybe I think modeling self-respect, work ethic, and passion for my career is also a good parenting move. (Hint: I do. I do think those things.)
- I try pretty hard to give my kid my full attention when we're together. Sure, I drag him to the grocery store and the post office, but those are things we can fruitfully do together. Still, there are things that need to be done - chores, if you will - that involve a telephone or a computer. As much as possible, I choose to do these things when I'm not taking care of my child, because I don't want to ignore him. So I save them for - you guessed it - my "me" time. (Ahhh, nothing like kicking back and calling customer service . . .)
- You know what? Sometimes I do go get a pedicure or go shopping or go to the gym, but if I didn't, I would frighten strangers on the street so, I'm not sure those things are fully optional. You know what else? I don't deserve to walk around feeling crappy about myself (no one does), and some basic maintenance is part of that.
In conclusion: we parents are an exhausted and sensitive lot. We artists (among others, to be sure) are likewise sensitive about the ways in which our efforts and output are casually and systemically devalued (separate rant). Almost everyone has more going on that meets the eye. There is no doubt that I have stepped in it a zillion times the way this babysitter did with me, and will a zillion more. Nevertheless, the more Shitstorms I survive the more I try to speak with sensitivity and support for my fellow humans; I think this is a sort of sensitivity that can help us breed empathy within ourselves.
Also: Your whole life is "me" time, young lady!