The circuit of my life

 Jared and I went for a hike last Thursday, just us. We were looking for ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) spores for a restoration project. We're not very good at spending our "free" time in a leisurely way. We like to work. Working makes us feel good. And so, we recently declared Sunday "family day" so we wouldn't work on our work-work, but fun-work, like digging in the garden.

"The circuit of my life is very narrow these days," I comment to my friend as she bends to pick up her one year old daughter's toys. "Sometimes I feel like I'm walking in circles putting things away all day long."

She agrees. "I don't mop the floor. There's food everywhere. She's into throwing food. We do vacuum often. She likes vacuuming. It's something we can do together."

I glanced at the vacuum a few feet from the door I had recently entered. I hadn't noticed it until now. As a mother, I accept that anything could be anywhere at anytime. Most things, so long as they are not nailed down, are not in their place. Ever. Or at least not until my son goes to sleep, and my husband and I tidy the house.

I often ask my friend who is an artist, a talented, sharp-witted artist with excellent craft, if she has made any work lately. "No," she says. "If I had time, I'd make something for my daughter."

Most of my creative work also revolves around my son. He's in my photographs, my writing. When he's not in my images, he's somewhere just off screen, present in the corner of my eye.

Occasionally, I get a break. Babysitting from my mother or mother-in-law. Once or twice a couple friends helped out. I haven't yet felt ready to find a stranger for childcare. After a little time away, I feel refreshed and ready to mother again.

Eight hours at work and an hour's worth of commute don't count, though. Today at lunchtime, I call my husband. I was lonely, sitting at a big wooden table with no one to share my meal with. Another grey day.

My son croons, "Momma. Momma. Momma. Home. Home. Home. Home." My throat and eyes burned as they did when I left him in my parents' care when he was just 4 months old. That was just short of two years ago. How I did not want to return to work, not even part-time, but our savings account, our future, our yet to be purchased dream shanty were slipping.

My doctor advised that I get out sometimes, just "to see how good it feels to come home." When I did, I was ashamed that I did not want to come home. Yet even more powerful was the terrible feeling of going away.

Then again, there are those days. "I just need a break. I need to get out of the house," I say to my husband. "Anything. I'd do anything. I'm going food shopping."

"OK, but don't waste your solo time by going food shopping," he replies.

I feel deflated. What would I do, if not some task that needs doing?

Later, my husband says, "I don't mean to tell you what to do. Go. Do what you want."

Forty-five minutes later, I am lovingly selecting Kerrygold Irish butter from the dairy aisle at Shop-Rite in Flemington. My cart is brimming with meats, crackers, apples, and milk that some other creature produced. I feel relaxed, certain, and productive. I choose foods I know we all like.

When I arrive back at home, I open the front door and call, "Heh-lloooo!" My son races through the house and jumps into my arms. I kiss my husband. I feel more open, affectionate, less grumpy and put out. I'm happy to be home.