Two Minutes

Not long ago, I would make the 35 mile drive from my office to my daughters’ childcare with one small hope in my mind.

Two minutes.

The drive could take anywhere from 40 minutes to over an hour, depending on traffic. The center closed at 6pm. If I left the office by 4:30 I was assured to get there on time, but one meeting running long or an impromptu conversation by the elevator would throw the whole plan out of whack.

Two minutes.

I would spend the drive with thoughts reeling. What I had and hadn’t accomplished during the day. What work I would need to do tonight to make sure tomorrow was as productive as a day jam-packed with meetings could be. And dinner- was it best to stop somewhere on the way home and risk being late or could I throw something reasonable together when we got home?

Two minutes.

Tuition was due today. Don’t have my checkbook. Husband can bring it tomorrow when he drops the girls off. Phone rings-hi honey. He’s stuck on the same highway I am, coming from the opposite direction. He’ll be late, no way he can pick up the kids if I’m late. No time to pick up dinner then, it’ll have to be something I can make or the pizza man again. I think the delivery guys at our local pizza place fight to come to our house because the girls are so excited when we order from there- always greeted with “pizza’s here! Pizza’s here mommy!”. If only the nights I make broccoli and whole wheat pasta were met with such enthusiasm.

Two minutes.

If I get them by six, we are home by 6:15. Dinner by 6:45. Bath night. Maybe an episode of Curious George if we have time before bed. Bed time is 8 but it is always a rush and there is rarely time to calm down, read a book to them, decompress. 9 times out of 10 my husband or I (or both) fall asleep during the 20 minutes of reliable babysitting provided by that cartoon monkey.

Two minutes.

Bedtime. No matter what it ends up being a mess. The girls share a room and keep each other up, often for an hour. Separating them occasionally helps but they also cry about missing each other. We have to yell, bribe, fight with them at least 3 times before they get quiet.

Two minutes.

Clean up after dinner. Do laundry. Constantly doing laundry. A friend remarked the other day that her daughter said “daddy likes to do woodwork, I like to finger paint, and mommy likes to do laundry!”, which made her realize that it is the main activity her child sees her doing, so of course she thinks mom likes it! Open up laptop, check emails sent since I left the office, try to clean out inbox. I like an inbox at zero. It makes me happy. I have a little folder on my desktop called “Empty Inbox” that contains screenshots of the times my inbox has been at zero. I haven’t added a new one in a while.

Two minutes.

Remind husband about check for tomorrow. Pay other bills. Review calendar for tomorrow. Prepare docs or other items for meetings. Work on reports and a couple other long-term projects. How can it only be Wednesday? And it’s 11pm. I’ve put in an hour or two of work at home, as has my husband, who sits at the other end of our L-shaped couch fixated on his laptop while some show on the TV provides background noise.

Two minutes.

But that’s all later. Right now I’m coming up on the exit with time to spare. It’s 5:45 when I pull into the childcare center parking lot. I choose a spot slightly back from the door, which some would find weird since there is one open right up front. I swing the car in. I turn the key in the ignition and the engine stops. The radio goes silent.

Two minutes.

I move forward, putting my forehead on the soothingly cold faux wood of the steering wheel and sit in the silence. No one, at this precise moment, needs me. Work is miles away, children are cosseted for the next ten minutes, my phone is silent. I breathe deeply, trying to clear my head, gain some mental energy for the few hours of my day that still lie ahead. Some people smoke, others have mid-afternoon coffee runs, still others yoga. I, if I am lucky, have this.

Two minutes.

Other parents move past me and at first I’m sure they think I’m nuts. But then I realize they are in the same boat I’m in, they totally get it. I wonder if they feel like they are rowing out of sync, moving in circles instead of fluid lines. Even backward would be better than the inertia of going round and round, day after day. Progress often goes forward and then back before lurching ahead again. It does not stay in the same place for long.

Two minutes.

A couple more deep breaths.I rub my temples. I shake out my tired, sore shoulders. Who knew sitting all day could be so hard on one’s back? I sit up, car keys in hand and open the door. Walking to the door of the center I check my watch to see how much time I have left.

5:58

Perfect.

Tick tock...

Tick tock…

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