One of our City Moms Blog Sister Sites started a series where each of its contributors recounted a typical day to their readers. I thought this was a wonderful way to showcase the diversity we do have as a mom blogging team.
I am a single working mom to one little boy.
My son’s father is not involved in any way, financially or otherwise, though they have met on five or six occasions in my son’s eight years of existence. My son does have an active and loving relationship with his paternal grandmother, great-grandmother, and other family, as well as my own family and long-distance partner. All have helped with my son when I have been sick or needed to travel for work or had any kind of emergency, and I know they will continue to be in the future. But in the six years of his daycare/preschool/primary schooling, there has never been anyone else taking him to school, picking him up from school, taking him to the doctor/dentist/birthday parties and school events. I struggle with balancing my responsibilities and time management … and have extreme stress about finances on a daily (hourly?) basis. I feel the weight of moms toeing the poverty line, even though I know the majority of women in the world face far more difficult days than I do. This fact does not make me feel better.
For a living, I design, install and maintain sustainable landscapes. I focus on placing native, edible, rain garden and other beneficial plants in the built environment. I have two Masters degrees in environmental fields (and so, so much education debt) but graduated in 2008, which I’ve heard was a really bad year to look for a job. So, I did what many people have done when they couldn’t find work:
I created my own job.
I looked to what seemed to be an upward climb in environmental consciousness. Being distraught at the nepotism in environmental politics and non-profits, I chose to start a business encouraging people to take a role in sustainable development by starting in their backyards. The one place we mostly have control over and something where I could use my own life experiences. I love and believe in my job, and for this, I am very lucky.
What does sustainable development in New Orleans mean to me? It means preventing storm water runoff by capturing excessive rain in intentional areas like rain gardens, maintaining a balanced ecosystem with diverse plants that are beneficial to native wildlife, using native plants to filter toxins from our soil and watersheds, growing food close to home instead of importing it, teaching children a hard work ethic and how to provide certain things for themselves, and creating jobs that have a healthy long-term vision for both the local environment and the community.
I decided to share what a random week day during the school year looks like for my tiny family.
I get up around 7am to get my son ready for school. That’s a lie … actually, he wakes me up and tells me to make breakfast for us. I am aware at how lucky I am to sleep in until 7am. We live about a mile from his school, and even when we have accidentally slept in until 7:40am, we still make it to school on time (before 8:05 am). I argue with him about wearing a coat when it’s cold outside, but he points to my clothes and tells me I should put anything on but my pajamas (active wear, kid, active wear).
Some days, we walk to school and bring our new dog along. Sometimes, we have to use large Magnolia leaves to pick up poop because we already used our poop bags. I’ve recently realized having a dog is much like having a toddler.
When we get to his school, I watch my son walk all the way up to the doors of his school, where he usually remembers to turn around and wave goodbye to me. On seeing him disappear into the school, I am usually happy to have some time to myself on my walk home (he’s quite the chatterbox) … then I feel guilty for that relief, and then usually a speckling of internal terror and worry about some kind of a tragic phone call or a freak tornado or gas explosion. And then I start jogging and try to be zen as hell, remembering that this type of worrying does as much good as locking us up in a basement would do.
Luckily, I don’t have too much time to worry as I am always already late by the time my day has started. The first task of each day can be anything from picking up rabbit manure to composted leaves from someone’s clogged rain gutters (to use as fertilizing mulch), and then heading out to a local plant nursery to figure out what I’ll put in the ground that day. My clients are throughout New Orleans and Metairie, and I generally have two clients a day and it’s rare that I am in the same place for more than 2 – 3 days. I love that I see different communities and scenery every day … especially during Carnival season. I really wished the rest of the world could experience a “traffic jam” where people get out of the car and cheer for the high school marching band.
During the day…
During the time my son is at school, I am normally working alone and outdoors. I joke that the reason I am socially awkward is because the only conversations I ever have are with plants and children. Thankfully, I’ve discovered podcasts. Hundreds of podcasts. I listen to personal stories (The Moth and This American Life), historical podcasts on specific New Orleans events over the last 300 years (Tripod), science/nature/technology podcasts (Radiolab) and comedians (too many to name). I am sure that many clients have seen me both crying and laughing hysterically by myself listening to these podcasts while working outside their homes or workplaces. Hopefully not in the same few minutes.
At the end of a work day, I pick up my son from after school activities. I’m pretty sure some parents think I roll around on a filthy floor all day because I am usually that dirty. And sweatier than most people I’ve seen coming out of the gym.
When my son sees me and comes running, I hug him tightly but ask no questions about how school was that day. He’s way too HANGRY (hungry+angry) to give me anything at that time. This realization took me two years to figure out. After a hearty snack (an apple with peanut butter, a granola bar, a smoothie, a sandwich, etc) has been digested, he will generally tell me about his day: what his behavior chart color was, what happened in class that day, a few French words he learned, what sport he played during recess, a little bit about the girl he likes. He is about to turn eight and has started exhibiting some pre-tween quirks that I am not a fan of, such as being non-responsive to questions and purposefully making me angry or overwhelmed by doing things he knows not to do.
Ages four through seven were remarkable bonding years between us. I find myself getting very frustrated with this newly subversive stage and pining for those sweet moments when we laughed so hard we made strangers around us giggle. I am certain this is one of those natural transitions we all have from one stage of life to the next; as we each get more independent of each other and involved in our own responsibilities, I’m scrambling to adapt and I find him taking advantage of it. Normal behavior … but exasperating.
In the evening…
On most evenings, I make healthy dinners that at least partly came from our community garden plot a couple of blocks away at a park, which is also where his community basketball and soccer leagues happen on Wednesdays and Sundays. During weekdays, I try really hard to keep my son away from electronics with board games like Clue or Monopoly or letting him play his electric guitar (I wear my headphones), as well as making him do his chores. We also recently started reading together for 20 minutes a night, which is nice but he usually wants to share all the Calvin and Hobbes with me, so I don’t get much reading done. The evenings go by way too fast, and lately I’m very aware the sweetest years of his life are waning, so I try to do as many things that bring us together and build the happiest memories for us both. Which, of course can end up in screaming matches about our different ideas on what that means …
There are also frequently times when I fail miserably at my parenting goals, too. Those days include watching Parks and Recreation for the thousandth time, snuggled up with my son, laying on a heating pad and drinking cheap wine. Sometimes the wine comes out of a box and dinner is just one big bowl of thawed lima beans with too much salt on it.