all work no pay

How Am I?

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos Courtesy of Amil Niazi

A lot of well-meaning friends have been reaching out lately asking how I am. It’s very sweet but leaves me feeling like any option other than “I’m fine” is overkill. Because my honest answer to that question would have to be, “How AM I??? How AM I?!” Well, like a lot of other women right now, I’m not good, bitch!

I mean, I’m working full-time from home while taking care of an 8-month-old and a 3-year-old with no child-care support. My husband works outside the house and is gone before we all wake up and returns late in the afternoon. I know we’re lucky at the end of the day, but still, each day feels like a Sisyphean task only to have the boulder roll down on top of me by bedtime.

Here’s just one example of a typical, all too real day that recently happened.

7 a.m. The baby’s been awake for the past hour. Just as she’s starting to calm down and close her eyes so we can both go back to sleep for a bit, my 3-year-old son stomps down the hall, busts through the door, and shoves a pointy, plastic Spiderman in my half-awake face, proclaiming, “Mommy talk to this guy!” For no reason at all, I think of my husband who left the house an hour ago to go into the office, a place I haven’t been in a year, a place I once loathed, that now represents a kind of mystical, holy land free of pointy, plastic superheroes and sticky, screaming faces. I groggily take Spiderman and start to say, “I’m Spiderman and I’m tired,” until my son cuts me off with a high-pitched “DON’T SAY THAT!”

7:05 a.m. I pour a coffee, put on PJ Masks, and stare into the middle distance between life and the great unknown, contemplating all the choices that have brought me here, surrounded by two wonderful, hilarious, kind children who are ever so sweetly draining my lifeblood.

8:30 a.m. An almost illegal amount of television is being consumed and the baby is napping, so I take this sliver of opportunity to start sending a flurry of work emails, begging for extensions on overdue work and desperately revising the stuff I can’t push to tomorrow. Tomorrow, of course, I will beg again, because somehow during this special part of the day, when the nap comes easy and the PJ Masks holds the children rapt, I think, “Yeah, I can do this, man, I just need one more day and I’m good.” After sending 2.5 emails, my son screams, “Let’s do Lego,” so I do Lego because that is, of course, the sacred Lego-doers creed.

9 a.m. to 11 a.m. There is something particularly quixotic about these two hours each day. I either manage to actually do the majority of my work, carried forth on a hypercaffeinated wave of motivation, or like today, they pass in a kind of fugue state, with nothing accomplished but staring at the walls covered in a thin film of sweat and breastmilk and sending emails with at least seven exclamation marks at the end of each sentence. Apologies if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of such missives as, “Sounds good let’s do it!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

11 a.m. to noon While making a third cup of coffee, the crack that’s been slowly growing in the kitchen floor starts to open up and like, of course this would happen today of all days when my husband has to work late. I cover the steaming, fiery mass that appears to be oozing below the crack with a pasta strainer so the baby can’t get to it while I shuffle somberly to the couch to take a Zoom call that could have definitely been an email.

12:11 p.m. to 1 p.m. The kid rapidly cycles through whatever hypnotic cocktail of PJ Masks, Super Monsters, Youtube, and Blippi works best while I toggle between my stories (gawking at Twitter and Instagram on my phone), balancing a baby and a laptop on my thighs. Several Google Docs are open. Several email draft windows are open. An online shopping cart beckons. And it’s clear at this point that the massive crack in the floor is in fact a portal to hell?

1:15 p.m. The hole beckons angrily to me, begging for a human sacrifice. I loudly but politely shush it, making it clear the baby is trying to nap and I absolutely don’t have time today to round up a single virgin for the ungrateful and frankly selfish demon in the hell hole.

2:33 p.m. The work is piling up, and thanks to the demonic pit that’s now spewing lava, neither child will nap. My husband is usually out of the house by 6 a.m. and comes home around 3:30 p.m., so around this time I start sending a steady stream of “WHERE ARE YOU?” texts even though I know exactly where he is.

2:36 p.m. Today, I’m feeling a bit sensi, so I wait a few minutes and then send, “btw the crack in the floor turned out to be a portal to hell,” as a kind of marital olive branch.

2:40 p.m. I text, “I’m losing it, can you grab something to appease the kitchen demon on your way home?!” My husband writes back, “K.”

3:15 p.m. I decide to get everyone dressed for a walk to the park so I can avoid the nagging demon who won’t shut up and make some work calls while both kids are strapped in the stroller. It’s January in Toronto, so this is a multistep process involving several layers including long johns, snow pants, thermals, and sweaters. I make the classic mistake of getting myself ready first, so that by the time I have one child halfway dressed, I’m soaked in sweat and hyperventilating from frustration. Every time I say “Let’s go” to my son, he says “Not yet,” and then I foolishly say, “Okay when,” and by the time I realize I’m trying to have a rational argument with a preschooler, the sun starts setting. The demon screams something unintelligible at me just as I’m getting my boots on and I turn to it and angrily and mutter, “You’re obviously not used to kids, are you?!”

3:22 p.m. As soon as all four layers are on, including snow pants, regular pants, and a park diaper because all the public washrooms are still closed, my son proudly announces he has to pee and refuses to go in his diaper.

3:30 p.m. Just as I’m about to send a “WHEN HOME, ENTIRE KITCHEN ENGULFED IN DEMONIC FLAMES?!” text, my husband comes through the door and I physically throw both fully dressed and ready-to-go children at him before he can get a shoe off.

3:32 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. Finally, I sit down and approximate a regular work day crammed into a roughly hour-long block away from distractions and kitchen demons. I debate more coffee and do a lot of apologizing for missed deadlines, missed emails. I punish myself for failing at work and failing at parenting and then add failing at keeping the house free of satanic pits to that list because the one thing I’m not failing at is making myself feel bad about failing!

4:45 p.m. to 6 p.m. When my family comes back from the park, I take the laptop into the bedroom and demand total privacy so I can “work.” I put my headphones on and watch old episodes of Dateline, because formulaic murder mysteries are the only way I can be remotely soothed these days and I tell myself that I can’t be productive if I’m not relaxed. Before I go upstairs, I throw the demon in the kitchen an old hot dog to appease its haunting howls.

6 p.m. to 7 p.m. I tear myself away from Keith Morrison’s soothing silver-haired profile to put the baby to bed. Over the next hour of nursing, rocking, shushing, and cradling, I stare at my phone and dive into some petty internet drama just to feel even remotely alive. I type out a “moms are NOT ok, there’s a devil hole in my kitchen!” tweet but change my mind because it feels desperate.

7:10 p.m. to 9 p.m. I attempt a bit more work, feeling listless and uninspired but also wildly anxious and panicked because if I don’t finish this work now, when will I? When I finally give up, I tell my husband that I’ll “wake up really early and finish my work tomorrow.” He asks me if I can call someone about the hell portal too and I start sobbing. I CAN’T DO IT ALL!

9 p.m. to midnight I lie in bed and stare at my phone until the news and memes and Instagram posts from momfluencers who sew their own clothes all blur together. I notice with annoyance that none of them appear to have a demonic hell pit in their farmhouse kitchens. Huh.

12:01 a.m. Okay, now finally time to get a good night’s rest so I can wake up nice and early and finish all this work and shit, the baby’s up.

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