The summer before my youngest daughter started preschool, I fantasized about what I was going to do with all the free time I had coming, making mental notes every time I drove by an antique shop; imagining myself splayed out in the steam room at our gym. “I’m starting to prune,” I would declare to all the other steam room moms with nothing else to do on a Thursday morning. “I guess it’s time to hop out, and go catch that movie.”
I planned to work my way through the Lost Generation section at the library and then, inspired, finally bang out my novel at one of the legendary local coffee shops without a drive-thru. There would be well kept flower boxes and thoughtful holiday dressings adorning my windows, nice relaxing car rides listening to explicit throwback gangster rap, and no one fighting in the back seat as I puttered about town.
Every time I saw something I wanted to do but couldn’t with kids, I squirreled it away in my ever-growing pile of Fantasy Plans. All my dreams were on the verge of coming true in the two hours and 20 minutes I had all to myself, two days a week. I’d always been a big believer in personal time to recharge—filling my pitcher so I have something to pour my kids and all that jazz. It had been two long years, and my pitcher was spitting sawdust.
The first week I needed to take care of some housekeeping: a doctor’s appointment I’d been putting off for several months. The following day I had new brakes put on the car. No matter, my Fantasy Plans could wait—I had all year.
The following week it was my middle daughter’s birthday, and I had to get presents, cake, party decorations, a piñata and piñata candy and reserve the park pavilion. By the time I arrived at pickup on the second day, I was lathered in a frantic sweat and still had yet to do one enjoyable thing for myself, but so what! I had a whole year of free mornings coming my way.
Then the next week, my eldest daughter came down with whatever virus was in fashion that month, and I began to feel frustrated. “What do you mean I can’t drop her off if she’s vomiting?” I yelled at the teacher, dragging my daughter’s pale, lifeless body back to the car. “You told me yourself all the other kids already have it so there’s no harm, right?! Just give her a trash can and stick her in the corner. I want to go to the steam room!”
It didn’t take long before one thing turned into another.
“Sure I’ll come in next week to collate and bind the buzz books,” I told my middle daughter’s teacher later that day by accident. “Of course I can help you set up for the book fair on Friday morning,” I blurted to my eldest daughter’s room mother the following day.
Wait, you need how much home made purple Play-Doh by tomorrow?
Yeah, Friday is fine to get my teeth cleaned.
I’m sure there’s a dance studio somewhere in this city that carries size 4 Capezio tights in Light Toast. I just need to drive to five places to find it first.
Are blueberry muffins OK for Grandparents’ Day tomorrow?
Congratulations on your new baby! I’ll be by Thursday morning to drop off my famous veggie lasagna!
Can you send out a cable repair guy next Thursday between 9:20 and 11:40?
Of course I can host a wedding shower at my house this weekend!
I already explained why chardonnay is a write-off. Why do we need this conference call with our accountant? Yeah, I don’t want to go to prison either. Friday morning it is.
What’s a “staff development day,” and why can’t they have it on a national holiday?
Before I knew what was happening, it was December, and forget about doing anything for yourself with stocking stuffers hanging over your head. May the Gods of Pinterest have mercy on your soul if those Christmas Eve jammies don’t match. There were presents to be bought and morning parties and programs to attend, and then I blinked and every spare second was sucked right up.
Always the optimist, I was sure the new year would bring with it all the Fantasy Plans I’d been dreaming of. My four hours of weekly rest and relaxation were right around the corner. No matter what came up, I promised myself to hold these mornings sacred and no errand or chore would eat up my precious free time.
I believe it was sometime around February, when I spent the morning shuttling between three separate Office Depots looking for Canon #124 color printer ink when reality set in. Two weeks of spring break were right around the corner, and my novel was still nothing but a bunch of scribbles in a ratty spiral bound notebook. I wasn’t even sure if our gym had a steam room any more. It was March, and our Christmas wreath still hung, albeit cobwebbed, on the front door. The antique shop was having a going-out-of-business sale.
Just as I fumbled around trying to find my bearings when the kids were born, always underestimating the amount of time and energy it took to care for something that only ate and pooped, I was once again looking for familiar ground—underestimating the amount of time it takes to keep a household running like a machine. Why does their school need so many cookies? Why are we always out of stamps? Can’t I just remove this mole myself?
As much as I’ve resisted, the line dividing my life from the lives of my kids has slowly but surely blurred. We are now in our third year of preschool, and there have been only a handful of days my Fantasy Plans have seen the light of day: a walk here, breakfast with a friend there. Every once in a while I get to take advantage of the opportunity to come up for a quick breath of air.
And I just keep reminding myself that kindergarten is only two years away and then I’ll have all the time in the world. Please don’t tell me otherwise.