Years ago I worked for an editor in publishing who was really the most productive person I have ever met, she couldn’t figure out how to print anything or access her email or voicemail, but she could read like ten manuscripts on the two-hour jitney ride between The Hamptons and Manhattan, and she could whip out jacket copy in five minutes, or have ten semi-famous authors read galleys and send in blurbs for a new book in only a few days. One time we were at an editorial meeting and one of my fellow assistants leaned over and told me that she had felt guilty earlier that morning sitting on the bus just staring out the window, “your boss would never waste time like that, she would have been editing something!” It was true. She was an expert at taking a pocket of time that someone might think is not useful enough to really do much of anything and knocking out several short tasks.
I am in the Whole Foods parking lot right now. The plan was to leave work and go straight to Fed Ex with my son to drop off several packages and then go on to the gym, slide him into day care and then get a few emails accomplished and maybe a swim—but he fell asleep, and no matter what anyone has ever told me about waking a baby, I will NEVER wake my son.
So here I am, existing between naps and feedings. There are many hard parts to motherhood, but to me the hardest is making use of the pockets of time that–before a child–I would have wasted. When my son naps in the morning I whiz around the apartment gathering dirty laundry and putting in a load, packing my bag for the day, pulling out the clothing he is going to wear, getting dressed for the day and planning what he is going to eat, slamming out emails and taking calls; an hour and a half goes by so fast, faster than The Hamptons jitney!
When my son was first born I had this really intense rush of adrenaline that lasted for weeks, when it wore off it was replaced by depression, fatigue and sometimes rage over the fact that I felt I could get nothing done. People close to me (none of whom have small businesses or really even work outside the home) told me that THIS is the most important work I will ever do, and nothing should come before my son. I don’t want to put anything before him, I just want to find out what I can fit into the static moments, like when I am nursing him, or he is sleeping in the car, or he is laying on an activity mat staring at his toys; how do I be present for him, and still get shit done?
It’s been almost a year since he was born and every few weeks he has gone through a major change that upends whatever routine I think I have down pat. We have a sitter twice a week so I don’t have to take him with me everywhere and I do take him into work with me. I don’t think I ever will be the type of person who can master tasks every second of the day—never be idle. But even though my car is a total trash heap overflowing with the debris of this past Thanksgiving’s road trip, I can still pull into a parking lot, flip open my computer and try to produce something that makes me feel like myself; a person who most of the time is just trying to keep it together.