Afternoons in offices are the longest stretch of the day. They’re hard to make through. After lunch, while all of your brain blood is rushing down to digest your food, you start feeling bored, tired, ready to go home. But it’s only like 2 p.m. You still have a few more hours left. It’s hard to even pretend to be productive at that point.
Two p.m. at home with a kid is the same way. If my son hasn’t napped by then, I’m right on the edge of sanity. Disappointment about not being able to do my own work while he’s up is at its peak. I can’t write, I can’t grade, I can’t do anything.
The only thing I can do is read. But by that point, I’ve been doing that most of the day already. I’m ready to produce, and I just can’t because if I’m on my laptop, he wants to be right there with me. Even that nap comes and goes so fast. How is this my life—scrambling around for two measly hours of alone time?
It’s lucky that I can read around him, though. I wake up and grab my book. I’m making coffee and reading. I’m drinking coffee and reading. I don’t think I’d get through the morning without it. Being in my own head for long is pretty exhausting. Reading reminds me intrinsically that there are other people in this world right now. There’s more than this. It’s the cheapest escape. I go through a book every couple of days or so.
My two-year-old, on the other hand, spends his mornings trying to get my attention from my books. Read his books. Play with him. Fight him. I do this stuff in between reading. I try to remember that the nap will come, and I’ll be free. I know I’m privileged to be raising my own kid, even if I’m doing it alone.
But it still sucks. The other day I started noticing the time frame of my anger. All morning, I’ll be fine. But I’m always miserable by 2 p.m. Anything beyond that time without a nap, I’m pretty much ready to run out the front door or curl up in a ball. Those early afternoons aren’t just annoying, they’re enraging.
The problem is, I’ve been hanging on bitterly to resentment. I’m mad that I’m stuck alone doing everything every day. Every expense, ride, hug, meal, everything—I do everything. And I’m broke as hell on top of that. Sometimes I feel like the only person in the world.
So why are these thoughts hitting me at 2 p.m.? It’s not 2 a.m. when the world is spinning, and people are in bed thinking about all of the mistakes they’ve made. At 2 a.m., I might be somewhere (probably my bed) looking at his pictures on my phone like a sucker.
When he was a newborn, people told me to nap when he napped. I was like, should I also clean when he cleans? I’m not a baby. I want to be alone for a while. I’m trying to carve time out of the day for myself, cramming a full day’s work in to someone else’s sleeping schedule. I’m desperate for the one to three hours of freedom because I want to work.
It also feels dumb to be finally flipping my laptop open at like 5 p.m. on certain days. Yes, I’m working with what I have, but eight hours straight with a kid is like finishing up work too. Except you can’t just clock out or close the door behind you. The last thing you do is crucial—fight for that nap. Then you get your break.
But whether it’s 12, 2, or 5 p.m., when he goes to sleep the productivity can really begin. It’s like the day has just begun. It’s at that point when I can finally step outside to smoke too. And that’s when I get dressed because I don’t go out in house clothes. I throw jeans on at least before going outside. I don’t undress when I get back inside (like I do when I get home from work). I’m sitting immediately to plug into Word.
Is it because I’m dressed? Is it because I’m high? Is it because I’m alone? I don’t know. But for a couple hours, I just have to write. I feel I’m in the trenches typing away, listening out for his feet’s little pitter-patter as he comes to find me when he wakes up.
A lot of the day’s drama seems self-inflicted once I’ve had some time to work, even if I don’t want to stop. I haven’t been considering that my life would be a completely different story if my son wasn’t here. And he is here. I was avoiding my personal life to write about things I can’t forget. I was literally working against myself. Fantasizing only in other people’s literary realities and in a false version of my life was holding me back.
I started paying more attention to the life that my son and I are living together, and things got a little less frustrating. Instead of trying to get away from him to sulk, I pull him in and give him the attention he wants. I give him time, instead of fighting over it, so that when I have my own time, I still have energy. If he wakes up on time, stays busy, and gets read to, he’ll be worn out by early afternoon. And I’m the one who needs to make that happen.
I also started reading to him before he goes to sleep for a nap or for the night. I wasn’t doing that because we read so much during the day. And I was thinking that I didn’t want him to think reading was just for sleep. Adding that to the routine at least keeps him in his bed now. Then he’ll fall asleep on his own.
I keep reminding myself that babies are people. They also want to escape through books. And they’re tired by 2 p.m. too.
Image Credit: Pixabay.