I am tired. My day starts before dawn, and I’m showered and dressed before the sun has a chance to rise. I make lunches and snacks and a vat of strong coffee. I change the 2-year-old’s diaper and wake up the 4-year-old and convince both my children that yes, it is necessary to wear clothes. Una the Unicorn has gone missing, and the 4-year-old’s lip wobbles dangerously. Neither child wants to eat the waffles they insisted on me making minutes before. My husband and I load two children into the car and buckle them in as they try to wiggle free.
I drop the girls at daycare, and as I’m leaving, the 2-year-old cries. Tears burn my eyes and my vision goes blurry and I turn away before she can see. I hate leaving her that way. But I have to go.
I sit in traffic on the parkway and side streets of Queens or take the train to whatever professional development event I’m expected to attend. The day flies by in a blur of paperwork and meetings and students in crisis. I start to put plans in motion for the upcoming year.
On my lunch break, I check my email. There are messages from the realtor or the lawyer or the bank. There’s the ongoing group text from my college friends, as we plan the details of one friend’s wedding and a gift for another’s new baby, coming sometime in June.
I go home. There’s cat puke on the floor and bills in the mail. Dinner is sitting in the slow cooker, the timer long since expired.
There’s dinnertime and bathtime and bedtime. The 4-year-old is OK on her own, but I stay with the 2-year-old until she falls asleep. There are work emails to answer and articles to write and the behind-the-scenes work of my town’s full-day kindergarten campaign. Then kitchen clean-up and living room clean-up and packing boxes and boxes and boxes and boxes. (Good grief, when did we buy all this stuff??) And I am tired.
I slide into bed next to my husband and fall asleep immediately, but I wake to the sound of the toddler crying an hour later. She had a bad dream, again. I rock with her on the glider. I creep back into bed, sometimes bringing her, sometimes alone.
And I wake before dawn, to do it all again.
Each day, I see glimpses of us, of the “us” my husband and I used to be, before our days turned into a routine of family responsibilities and work. But though our love for each other might look different, it is there. It’s been branded by Parenthood, dinged by Life, and currently buried under the cartons that have taken over our living room…but it’s there. I feel it.
It’s in the small moments and gestures that mean everything, like when I prepare his favorite meals. It’s there when he wakes up at night to stay with the crying toddler, and gives me a chance to sleep. It’s even there during our petty fights (and making up is still fun).
These days are challenging, and they will change and change again. And I’m fortunate to have a partner through it all. Blessings take work to maintain them, but I haven’t been putting my marriage first. I hope he knows I’m trying to change. It’s been seven years since we stood under a chuppah made of white flowers, and my love for him hasn’t faded. Not even a little bit. Despite the uncertainty of the world around us, I am absolutely sure of one thing: Home is wherever he is.