Another 5:00 a.m. wake-up call. I punch the snooze on my phone 1 or 2 or 20 times. Another morning of wishing it was Friday. Another day of picking something up off the floor to wear. I curse myself as nothing fits. Then I curse this life because I'm too busy to plan a healthy meal...or to exercise. I gave up the only exercise I really loved to move here, only to become a fatter, slumpier version of myself. I find the pants I wore yesterday, slide them on, and pray no one notices.
It's 6:15 a.m. Noelle's awake, her little biological alarm clock is trained to go off this time each day. The poor thing started school at 5 months old and won't finish until she's 22 or older. These sad thoughts fill my mind and will her not to resent me in the long run.
I enter her room and I see the shadow of a fuzzy-headed toddler standing in her crib. She's saying my name (to her, it's Mama) and bouncing up and down. I pick her up and hug her for nowhere near long enough because I'm working against the clock. I have 30 more minutes.
I bring her into the bedroom and toss her onto a sleeping Luke. She enjoys waking him up this way. I move to the bathroom to stare at myself. I'm tired. I'm unmotivated. I'm not excited about anything but the thought of picking Noelle up at the end of the day. I tell myself to stop with these thoughts-- to be grateful for the opportunity to teach-- but I can't fight it.
Luke needs to shower, so I manage to brush my teeth while succumbing to the endless request of "Mama hold you." I apply makeup to myself while she wears my bracelets. I put my hair into a ponytail for the 100th day in a row. No time for style. No time for "pretty." I just need to be appropriate.
I have 15 minutes. Change the diaper. Find clean pants. "Not those pants," she says. Find a clean shirt. Brush bangs out of eyes and pin with a bow that she will remove when I'm not looking in the car. New socks. Boots or tennis shoes? She chooses and we move toward the door.
As we round up her jacket, we say our goodbyes. Goodbye to Papa. Goodbye to Bella and blankie. I tell her she will be eating breakfast soon, which is about the only thing that makes her excited about walking out the door.
I open the fridge and look for something to eat for lunch. Leftovers. Hard boiled egg. Rotten fruit. Shit. I open the freezer and pray that one of the Lean Cuisines sounds good. I grab one and tuck it under my arm. No time for a lunch box. No time for breakfast, either.
I give my husband a kiss and I load Noelle into her car seat. I wonder what time I'll be able to get her this afternoon. I wonder what time Luke will be home. I wonder if we'll have time to be a family...play together...eat together...exercise together...clean up a little.
On my 5 minute drive to the daycare, I don't have near enough time to process my thoughts like the last 4 years when I had a 60 minute drive. Noelle points at the moon. She sings me a song. She chatters happily in the backseat. Inside, I'm dying because I have one left turn and a right one until we're there. Until I hand her over to someone else for the better part of 9 or 10 hours. Someone else will prepare her food. Someone else will change her diaper. Someone else will read her a book. Someone else will hold her when she cries...or will they? I don't know, I guess. I just hope she gets the best care my $120 a week can give her.
We walk in and my heart breaks. I sign her in. She's the first one. I curse the other parents as apparently they don't have to be at work as early as I do and their kids don't have to be in the room alone like mine does. It's quiet. It's sterile. It's not home, and she knows it. She hangs her coat up on her hook and looks around as if there's got to be something more exciting hidden in this room. Same old toys. Same grungy books with missing pages. Same red and green chairs. Today, she took her own chair from a stack in a corner and pulled it up to the table. She sat down, put her hands on the table, and waited. She looked sad. I contemplated just taking her out the door and back home with me, but I have far too much to do at school and a sub couldn't see the top of my desk anyway.
My guilt weighs 100 pounds on my chest as I stay for one more kiss. I hug her and tell her I love her. She's distracted by the breakfast being made at the kitchen area, and so I slip out the door. Tears fill my eyes as I fumble for my keys and my phone. Who could I call right now who could talk me out of feeling this way...or who could at least understand and feel this pain with me? No one comes to mind so I hit the Facebook app routinely and drift away into other people's pointless status updates.
I drive to school and get there with about 1 minute to spare. Even after waking up early and getting out the door on time, I'm never at school early enough to get anything accomplished before the kids flood my room and ask me 100 questions that I already answered yesterday.
I race into my room to prepare some things in the 10 minutes of freedom I have. This just isn't fun anymore. Why am I doing this? Does any of this matter in the end? I wonder what Noelle's doing right now. Will they call me to pick her up because she has a fever...I hope? I should be with her.
I muster a "cheerful" "Good morning," to the first student who enters my room.
The day passes. I teach the subjects. I do a good job. I'm so overwhelmed and exhausted by the workload at the end of the day that I decide to just shove it all in a bag and go home. Papers from 2 weeks ago linger in my bag as I heave it over my shoulder and race to get Noelle.
I walk in to see that whatever she had for lunch is all over her shirt. I'm glad she's feeding herself, but I hate seeing her with dried food on her shirt. Can't they put a smock or bib on her, I think to myself. I pick up her paper to see she pooped twice and "ate good; slept good." I cringe because it should say "well," but oh-fricking-well...I'm taking her home. Most days she doesn't want to leave, which I have been told is a good thing, but it only makes me feel worse and more like a failure as a mother. We'd have fun if we were home together, too, I think. We'd play and do crafts and play and read and when you ate I'd put a bib on you.
We get home and she's exhausted. She asks for Bella and blankie and her pacifier. She makes the unmistakable tired toddler sound, and all she wants to do is snuggle on the couch. She doesn't want to play. She throws a fit at the first "no," and is so tired she could go to bed right then and there. I fight to keep her awake and happy.
If I'm lucky, I get 2 hours with her. In those two hours, I make dinner. I try to unwind. I think about exercising but realize that I would either have to put her back into a gym daycare or do something that somehow involves her and how productive can that really be? Luke gets home and is equally exhausted. He answers pages or returns phone calls. He plays with Noelle and tries to make the most of the waking hours he gets with her.
By 7:00, she's so tired that it's pointless to resist the bedtime. We read her stories, sing her songs, and lay her down gently. We say a prayer and linger as long as we can before it's time to turn out the light. As we walk away and shut the door behind us, our hearts sink a little. Our time with her is done for the night. We can't help but feel like someone else got the best part of her that day.
Feeling tired, helpless, and a little hopeless, I start work on my 2nd job-- editing photos on the computer. I do that while trying to find meaningful conversation with my husband and with one eye on the TV. I answer emails, live vicariously through others on Facebook, and when I can't keep my eyes open any longer, I head for bed.
5:00 a.m. will come too soon.
This isn't what I envisioned for myself when I was younger.
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