The Emperor’s (Free) Time

Due to vehement public demand – as in, my mother and mother-in-law both said ‘you haven’t written a blog in a while’ – I am returning to this space; older, more harried and currently wearing the same outfit for the third day in a row.

It would be a fair assessment to say this year has not unfolded at all in the manner in which I envisioned it. When I mentioned this, nearly verbatim, to the professor, his response was ‘that would be a good opening line for a book,’ instead of the hoped-for ‘oh, why?’

The ‘why’ being a mixture of circumstance, an overwhelming desire to sit at Sunterra Market – drinking bordering-on-terrible coffee and chewing the fat like the clusters of 60 (err, 70)-something men and women around me – and my prevailing inability to say the word ‘no’.

Case in point, I was sitting in Percy’s parent-teacher conference, next to the professor and Senora perched on their tiny chairs. ‘I have my police clearance,’ I offered when she mentioned classroom volunteering and how most of the (first-time) Kindergarten moms hadn’t yet gotten theirs. ‘Oh, do you want to be my classroom mom,’ she asked. ‘Yes,’ the word left my mouth in a panic.

Because here’s the deal, of all the things one can do on a voluntary basis at a school – being a classroom mom (as in, organizing the parent volunteers) and serving on parent council are probably the two things I would be least interested in doing. I might actually prefer cleaning toilets over assuming pseudo-leadership roles.

For instance, when the Gort came home after school one day and announced ‘I’ve joined the Leadership Committee,’ all I wanted to say was ‘why would you do that?’ But this being my firstborn, and I being a parent who’s supposed to try and encourage his interests without saddling him with my personal aversions, went with the slightly more neutral ‘great, what do they do in Leadership Committee?’

‘We get to do fundraising,’ he shared, as if this was something special, and all I could think of was the vast (and I mean vast!) amounts of chocolate I consumed and paid for when I was in French Club in high school because I couldn’t be bothered to try and sell the chocolate.

(Adding to my fundraising-dread was the pile of entertainment coupon books sitting on my desk at that particular moment, courtesy of three boy-children charged with selling them to friends and grandparents. I was having coffee with a friend whose child attends a different school from ours. ‘Would you be interested in buying one of these coupon books,’ she reached into her purse to show me a copy of the very same entertainment book sitting on my desk at home. ‘No!’ I all but yelled. Which is probably the sole ‘No’ I had at my disposal for the year. Pity.)

Now that ‘life has begun’ for me, I’m having all of these (incredibly commonsensical) revelations. Today’s revelation, gleaned on the walk home after school drop-off (whilst wearing the same outfit for the third day in a row): the stay at home mom (slash traveling piano teacher) does not actually have any free time, per se.

It only took me six years to come to this conclusion. Oh, in theory, there are these pockets of time when children are at school and things can be accomplished. But just as you’re salivating over what you’re going to do with ‘all’ your spare time, you find yourself sitting in the doctor’s office for an hour, or sifting through 142 photos that you took as a favor in return for another favor, or editing a grant application, or setting up a volunteer roster, or volunteering in the classroom, or teaching piano, or running errands, or cleaning the house that seems to get dirty even when no one is here, or addressing the piles of laundry that never end.

A book came out several years ago, called ‘I don’t know how she does it,’ by Allison Pearson about some supermom slash executive who managed to spin a thousand plates in the air with relative success (of course it’s a book and of course that wasn’t the whole story.) But I can’t help but think my life story will be called something like ‘I don’t know how she didn’t do it.’

Seven weeks into school, with 8 supposed hours of kid-free time per week, I have not managed to accomplish anything. There have been no blog posts. I have not deleted any of the thousands of photos that threaten to crash my computer. I have not read any of the books I requested from the library.

My main accomplishment this week? I made a lasagna and served it to my kids for three dinners in a row. And now I’m off to the IKEA play place, for the express purpose of coercing my exceedingly stubborn 5 year old to wear a pair of socks.

Move over Hillary, it’s Nicola Johnson for President in 2016.


‘Willow’ by Marc Fornes, Edmonton

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