“Is it poop or pee or blood?” my 6-year-old and 3-year-old daughters demand to know, pounding on the bathroom door as I sit inside on the toilet.
This is the scene on a random Saturday four years ago. My bones ache for a respite from my lovelies.
Is excretion not one aspect of my life that could actually remain my experience alone? Once my children emerged out of that region, couldn’t it be mine alone again? I have already acknowledged that I do not own my children (thanks, Mr. Gibran), but can they acknowledge that they do not own me?
But right now, my body is not my own. Even my bathroom is not a sacred space anymore.
“I don’t hear pee-pee,” the 3-year-old announces, trying to deduce my status.
I feel guilty, wanting to strangle these beings that took seven years of adoption and fertility treatments to produce. I remember the years preceding the pregnancies vividly—they were heart-wrenching in a way that no other pain or feeling can match. Those years were full of wanting and longing, and I remember the literal pain in my womb I experienced when I saw a pregnant woman. And yet, here I was, wanting these miracle babies to get the heck away from the bathroom door.
“Maybe it’s poop, but I didn’t hear the water splash,” my older one says to her sister with a snicker. Okay, I do value these reasoning skills, but I’d value them more in a different context.
“You said the ‘P’ word again,” the 3-year-old says and chortles with sweet delight.
My mom had indirectly warned me about the lack of personhood that comes with being a mother. When I was pregnant, she told me to eat more, and to eat extra healthy, because the baby will be fed by grabbing every bit of nourishment first, and my own body would only get what was left over. And now, the kids, my wife, and my job get the majority of my love and nourishment, and I give myself the scraps that are left over.
In one respect, I reason, it is a sign of true love that these children want to know every bit about me. Then, no, I realize, their life is about them, not me. This poop or pee or blood game is about them—pushing boundaries, being silly, saying forbidden words out of context, and bonding with each other.
So, right there and then, while sitting on my porcelain loo, I gained a cathartic perspective. I wondered, for a brief moment, if the great thinkers captured their great ideas on a commode. Did Sartre and Plato conjure up their theories of the universe in the bathroom? Was the bathroom really Virginia Woolf’s “Room of One’s Own?”
Later, I put the kids to bed, tucking them in with hopes and kisses. I realized that I needed to create my space, both figuratively and literally.
I have spent four years cultivating my own space, and I am a better mom and a happier person for it. My space became writing. Writing to try to make sense of it all, letting myself taste the absurdity in what felt so overbearingly burdensome the first time around. My space became a “writing room,” a room that is decidedly mine, all mine, clear from clutter and distraction. My space became a mom’s writing group that I started with three other lovely, nourishing moms. My space became Fridays after I found a job that I could work 32 hours a week.
While Saturdays through Thursdays are still filled with the beautiful chaos that is parenthood—my Shabbat, my day of rest, is Friday, the day I’ve chosen to be home. Saturdays through Thursdays are the days I forget 10-year-olds’ and 4 year olds’ lunches and sweaters and sunscreen and homework and thank-you-cards, but I remember hugs and baths and games and potion-making and listening, really listening. Saturdays through Thursdays are when everyone is in the small bathroom at once—plucking and flushing and bathing and brushing.
But just when I think I might collapse from the weight of parenthood, work and life, Friday comes around, and it is all mine. At least until 5 p.m. It is the day I steal a small crevice in time to write, to be me. The day in which the sounds of silence and birds chirping break through the chaos of the life that I so willingly, desperately chose. On a recent Friday morning after my wife left for work and the kids had gone to school, I looked out my window and wondered when the trees became bare. I breathed the silence into my bones, and felt rejuvenated by the stillness, yet again.
But Fridays are not special without Saturdays through Thursdays. And Saturdays through Thursdays are much more special because of the space I give myself on Fridays. My writing space is the Yin to my home’s communal space’s Yang. I have my own space, and I have shared space. My life is two wonderful and awful giggling, playing, adventuring, exhausting girls. My life is about trying to juggle relationship and parenthood with my wife. It is about honoring myself, my family, our growth, and the process of it all. My life is about writing. And my life, like all good writing fodder, is messy. Messy with the graceful imperfections of poop and pee and blood.