No Outlet

Yesterday Noah, Rosie and I took a short afternoon stroll to get out of the house and to fill thirty of the 90 jiznillion minutes we have at our disposal every single day. Rosie was riding in style in her hot pink stroller as Noah alternated between lagging behind to balance heel to toe on the curb and racing ahead of us, hair parted down the middle by the wind. We turned up the hill by our house and followed the road to a street in our neighborhood whose dead end is separated from a busy highway by only a few yards of trees. “Mama, I hear the cars!” Noah said, skipping ahead.

The cars were loud, but the street, being a dead end, was quiet. No one was out in their yard, no one drove by. And I was struck then by the fact that it felt like I was walking down a metaphor for the way I’ve been feeling about life lately. I wouldn’t call what I’m doing a dead end by any means, but the sense of having nowhere to go is real and constant. Every day I’m home with the kids I hear those cars in the distance. And I imagine the people in them, headed to meetings, to appointments, to jobs, to social scenes. They are strategizing, moving, creating, important.

And I am in my house. Folding towels. Changing diapers. Cutting up hot dogs. Sweeping the floor.

Now I’ll just take a break and serve up the big fat I Know What You’re Going To Say sandwich: what I do is important. Raising small people is valuable work.  Half those cars I hear are filled with people going to clean prison toilets with toothbrushes. Etc. I am aware of all these things and more.

But sometimes it’s hard not to feel like life is happening without me.

And to prove I did, in fact, receive a PhD in Hypocrisy, you might recall that I’ve said several times that the reason I left medical school was so that this life I’m living now wouldn’t happen without me.

Oh you double-edged sword. Fuck off.

Summertime has notoriously put this feeling into stark relief for me, since that is the time I am home all day with Noah, and now this year, with Noah and Rosie. And this week has been easier than most, being the week right after a long vacation. It took me four and a half years, but I finally figured out that making a schedule (like actually writing one down on paper) for each day not only makes the day go easier for Noah, but also for me. I’ve actually accomplished a few things.  Packed some boxes. Cooked dinner every night. Established a good nap schedule for Rosie. Etc, etc., etc. Actually, one of the best things that has come out of this week is the discovery that if I feed Rosie exclusively from a bottle, it cuts the amount of swearing I have to stop myself from doing down to about an eighth of the previous amount. So profoundly has this changed my relationship with her that I wish I could go back three months, hand my three-month-ago self a bottle, slap myself in the face and say “Put that boob away, you moron.” It is that much better between us.

But the fact that I still feel this stuck feeling in the midst of so much stay-at-home success is shining a thousand watt bulb into my soul and making me ask myself What’s next? Because I am feeling very acutely that there is Something That Is Next. And it’s ok with me if my car has a back seat full of car seats.

I just need some open road.

11 comments

1 Jill Tolbert { 07.23.09 at 4:21 am }

I love you so very much! Your posts really get to me. I wish I’d had them to read back when I needed that open road. But even now, it helps me to know that the way I felt “back then” is still the way moms often feel today, and was very likely how many moms felt way before our times as well. In other words, we are not crazy and we are not alone. We are, in a word, moms. And all is well. :-)

2 Abigail { 07.23.09 at 6:35 am }

Thank you, Rachel, for this post. I have so often felt this way since Helen was born. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one with such conflicting feelings!

3 Darth { 07.23.09 at 10:09 am }

I want to be consoling but fear that anything I could possibly write would come across is trivializing your frustration. Nevertheless . . .

In the Horatio Hornblower saga (more than a dozen novels, probably not read by anyone reading this comment) there comes a time when our hero realizes he is damned to always be unhappy: when he is at sea he dreams fondly of home; when at home he misses the sea. I have experienced this and don’t have an easy answer. I’m sure the Buddha would advise you to “enjoy the moment” for what it is, know that things will not always be thus, and that you will look back some day . . . . yeah, I know how unsatisfactory that advice is. Still, cliches become cliches for a reason.

Meanwhile: you are an incredibly gifted writer. I don’t know if you LIKE writing, although you sure “sound” like it. Among the college students in my classes not one in a hundred (maybe not one in a THOUSAND) can match you. Have you thought about some serious writing? (Not that blogging isn’t serious, but . . .)

4 Gramps { 07.23.09 at 10:13 am }

I second the idea in Darth’s last paragraph.

5 Kimie { 07.23.09 at 1:06 pm }

Oh girl you have so captured exactly how I am feeling right now!!!! I just quit my part time job to be home with both my boys, 16 months and 6 weeks. I sometimes feel like a robot, feed, change, put to sleep. Do it all over again, never any time to even get dressed or have a life outside the house. When the rare moment comes when they are asleep at the same time am I ejoying the quiet? No! Then it’s time to clean. Oh what fun :)
I too am super blessed and was so happy to quit my job and leave the world of youth ministry behind: even though it’s been my life for the past 8 years. My babies are amazing and motherhood is such an ethereal state. But STILL!!!!! I think we all must feel this way at some point right? God bless ya for sharing about it so others realize they are not alone :)

6 Allen { 07.23.09 at 1:30 pm }

candace and I are going to a cookout on Saturday, come with!

7 racher { 07.23.09 at 1:33 pm }

You guys are the best at inviting me out. Unfortch, I’ll be in Mississippi. We need to do some SYTYCD get togethers after our move though – before it’s over for the summer and life has no meaning anymore.

8 Elissa { 07.23.09 at 3:27 pm }

I’ve got that “Something That Is Next” feeling, too and I haven’t a clue what to do with it. If you find the answer, please, PLEASE pass it along.

9 rebekah { 07.24.09 at 11:51 am }

I think we should trade lives for a while, since I am feeling the polar opposite. as in I am on the open road and it is good but I left my kid at home. If we can figure that out, perhaps we will find the elusive “perfect balance,” patent it, sell it, and be on oprah and stuff.

10 ginnymom { 07.24.09 at 5:37 pm }

Racher and Rebekah: to see you two on Oprah even I, as in (aye!) would stay home. Great idea for the whole TV watching world.

11 Anna { 07.27.09 at 3:09 pm }

Rachel- I third what gramps and darth say- please write a book in your 1/8 of a second of free time!!!

I love what Jill says, but would amend it to say we are all women, we are all people. We all contribute, we all share, we all connect. And we all MATTER.

Also, my sister and I were just talking about this last night, except in a different way. Neither of us are married or have kids (and unfortunately aren’t those successful & rich 80s career women, either!) and we both feel like WTF– are we really this old and HERE?? We aren’t where we thought we’d be, we don’t know where we are going, or even where exactly we want to be…. but who does???

I hate to add some mustard to your sandwich, but ALL of us do something important. Your blog is important. Your kids are important. Even those damn hotdogs are important. Because when you add up all the little things in life, you can see the whole picture of your life- and that whole picture, much like your family photo collage- is of meaningful goodness.

haven’t seen you in years, but love love love you!

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