Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Late night blatherings about motherhood. Warning: could be pretty boring!

I am so wiped out on Mondays. I have learned to discount any depressed feelings I have on Mondays because I am so tired, so blindlingly tired from the weekend, that I usually just weave through the day. After I get Mulan off to school, and Arden walked, it’s about noon and I just want to lay down.

I was lucky today because I got out of jury duty. I called last night with my jury number and my group number and the automated voice said that I had completed my jury duty and not to check in today. I was so shocked I decided I had to have made that up and I called back and sure enough that’s what it said.

But then, I didn’t get all that much done today anyway. I may as well have gone. I was just so tired. Is this because the show is so hard, or am I older and have less energy, or is it the child care? Or what? I don’t know.

My parenting duties are expanding. Mulan goes to afternoon kindergarten and she really doesn’t have to be there until 11:20. Then she’s done at 2:45. There are a few activities at the school after-care program she’s signed up for. So I can get her at three thirty if I want to on three of the days. And then, she has a few dance classes during the week – violin and tennis too. And I only use babysitters on the weekends during my show for the most part – unless it’s something huge I cannot avoid or want to do desperately. Something that I am willing to spend an extra $60 on for babysitting. But in the end, it means I am on duty all week. And you know, I love it. I really do, I am glad to be the person picking Mulan up from school. I get the first report, I get to talk to the teacher if there’s something wrong. I have gotten to know her friends at school. When she says she sat by so-n-so, I know who that is.

But honestly, how much can I expect myself to get done between eleven and three? I get the dog walked, that takes an hour and a half. I return a few phone calls and some e-mail and if I’m lucky, and if I’m Herculean, I get in three hours of writing on the book. And that often includes writing while Mulan is in a class and I’m outside typing away.

Except Monday’s when it’s hard. Because I’m so tired. All I think about on Mondays, it seems, is how I’m going to move to Kauai and look at the stars and just retire. But I can’t retire for a long, long time.

Next year will be the same. Mulan is going to repeat Kindergarten next year. She only started at this school a few months ago, this public school in our neighborhood. It’s weird, but the private schools often attract the people who have the most money AND the most free time. There is usually a spouse that is primarily in charge of the kid or kids, mostly one that is not working. And they have their kids at private schools, wonderful private schools and the kids can be there from eight a.m. to five p.m. and get all the best classes and activities in the world. Often these families also have a full time nanny as well. There is an abundance of child-care options, spontaneity is no problem for these parents. And it’s not like I think these richer parents aren’t working hard, they ARE working hard.

But at the public school, mostly, it’s people who need to work – work as much as they can, every hour is an hour they could be earning more money somewhere – money that they need. And yet, the school is set up for maximum parental input. There are no teacher’s aides, so parents are encouraged to fulfill that role. There is no money for all day kindergarten, so it’s only a few hours. There is no P.E. or music – or it’s very limited.

But I love this school. I love public school. I think everyone should go to public school. I don’t even think private schools should be legal! I love that it’s our neighborhood and that all these kids are from all kinds of economic backgrounds. Several parents in our neighborhood who could easily send their kids to toney private schools have opted to send their kids to this public school and I love that sooooo much. I feel very glad to be away from the pressure of contributing time and money at a private school that already charges a lot of money and has an abundance of parents trying to jockey for position to volunteer. I really didn’t fit in at the private school. I always felt a little less-than. I mean, no one made me feel that way, but I did feel that way. I felt guilty that I wasn’t giving more or doing more all the time. I felt jealous of the women who could spend their mornings directing traffic into the school as volunteers and then go out to lunch with each other. At the public school, if you write a check for a couple of hundred dollars, they practically burst into tears with thanks and gratitude. It’s almost embarrassing how different it is. And it all just makes me even more committed to public school. And even more proud to be there.

But here I am, at a school I feel much, much, much more comfortable at, but one that requires more of my time. It’s like I left a private school because I felt guilty for not being able to spend time there and went to a public school where I’m HAVING to spend a lot more time there.

Well, I wanted to be at a school that would require me to make less money so I could spend more time with Mulan. But as far as money goes: how low can I go? That’s what I’ve been asking myself. How much free time am I willing to trade for money? If I let my once-a-week-housekeeper go, that is going to make it even harder to get writing assignments done. I am caught. I want to be the mom who’s always there. But I also love my work, I love to write, and I love performing too. And I feel I am really getting good at it and I also feel that this show I’m doing now is the best thing I’ve ever done. So I really want to do right by this show and by me. PLUS, I need to work. Even when I redo our budget to really be spare, it’s still a whole lot. It shocks me how much we need to live, just to get by, without saving anything. I mean, I’m not complaining, and I’m not totally broke by a long shot, but…y’know… It’s all a very hard balancing act. And yes, I know, I know everyone has a hard balancing act. But I’m just saying…this is a hard one.

Also, this public school – jeez. You should just see the homework. Mulan has about an hour of homework a night. FOR KINDERGARTEN. There is such pressure to keep the grades up and the testing up, I think. Or maybe it’s just way, way, way harder than when I went to school. When I went to kindergarten, you basically learned the alphabet. At this kindergarten, you are expected to proficiently read by the end of the year. And Mulan is beginning to read, but she is very far from reading easily. Or even getting most of the words.

Mulan and I, we spend our whole evenings doing homework. Often, that is the case. I keep thinking that if I had no other job, this job with Mulan now, is a good full-time job. You get a little recovery while she’s at school to make the beds and fill the dishwasher and run an errand, and then back on the job – baby. But adding work and the normal frustrations of writing…

I could get a job. I mean, a job where I went in to work. And like…got a salary. In fact, I may take or get a job in the coming few months. But I have really mixed feelings about it. On Saturday I went to a lunch on the beach with several girlfriends who I know from working on Sex & the City. One of the women is getting married and we were all celebrating. These women are all writers and all very successful. Their lives are dream lives in many ways. And they are all smart, talented, hard-working women. None of them have children. And there was a moment when one of the women said that she was going to Palm Springs for five days for a shoot and to break story ideas for episodes of the show she’s working on. And I was seized with jealousy. I want to do that!!! I remember when I did do things like that!!!! That can be really fun.

But also, I remember it being really hard too and boring a lot and frustrating. So I realized I felt both jealous and lucky not to be going at the same time with the same intensity. I couldn’t get myself to any clear view of it.

Plus: what’s the deal with all this homework for kindergarteners? I heard one parent say that because it’s only a half-day of school, they expect you to work with your kid for the missing part. If there were all day Kindergarten, they would do this work at school. But I don’t think so. I see the homework that the kids in the other grades have – it’s a lot. And I want Mulan to be in an academically challenging school. And she actually enjoys the homework for the most part. She loves that we have so much more interaction. And I like it too, it’s just…like this extra new full-time job.

I realize that having kids is really like going into business. It’s a business. You are now in the business of kids. Or Kid. And you need a big support team. I have heard women complain about other mothers who have nanny’s and lots of help and they are women who have their mother’s around to help or cousins or family. So they don’t really get it.

I want a tribe. I need a tribe.

Well, I sort of have one to a small extent with this family that Mulan and I spend a lot of time with.

Oh jeez. I gotta go to sleep. We have violin in the morning.

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