Monday, April 12, 2010


I should know better than to answer strangers honestly when they ask how I am.

"How're you guys doing today?" the cashier at Whole Foods asked. She directed the question more to the two small, not-quite assistants in my cart than to me. Westley and Kaylee sat side-by-side in the double shopping cart. (Am I the only one who had no idea such a thing existed until last week? These things are genius.) The kids were driving each other (and me) so crazy you'd swear they were siblings.

Instead of the predictable response, "Fine, thanks," I said something about how it had been a pretty rough morning, but we were managing. I was trying to be good-natured and funny.

Cashier: "At least you don't have to go to work today."

Me: [uncomfortable laugh]

Cashier: "Do you work?"

Me: "No, I'm home full-time."

(I wish I'd said, Yes, I nanny for this little girl a few days a week. Or even just, Yes, I do. But getting into the whole he's-mine-she's-not kid-discussion is always kind of awkward, and takes longer than I think it should. I don't know why people are so confused by the idea that you could care for your own child and someone else's at the same time. Also, I guess I don't really think of what I do as "work." But that's a separate issue.)

Cashier: "Oh. That's nice."

Me: "Yeah, we're very lucky that I...uh..."

Cashier: "What do you do for fun?"

[Westley is pulling my hair.]

Me: [laughing uncomfortably] "Uh, right now, not much."

[Westley throws his arms around me and pulls me into a hug.]

Cashier: "Aw, that's nice. Little boys and their mommies... Have a good one!"

I think I let this exchange bother me more than is really necessary. People say things all the time that the listener receives in a completely different way than what was intended. The cashier was just trying to be nice, or funny. (I think.) Nevertheless, I was pissed off the rest of the day. I'm still a little pissed, thinking about it.

"What do you do for fun?" What the hell kind of question is that?

Part of what bothers me about it is that I didn't have a good answer right away. Walking to the car, I found myself wondering, "What do I do for fun?" Nothing leaps to mind. I blog, but I wouldn't exactly call blogging "fun." It's not not fun, either; it's more an exercise to give my degree in English Language and Literature some sort of real-world application (as well as a fantastic forum for working my shit out) than it is something I do for recreation.

Fun. Still racking my brain. (Thinking! Thinking is fun. In a way.)

Ha! I've got it! I go out for coffee once a week with my mom. Take that, cashier lady!

If I'm honest with myself, though, I have to admit that I don't really do much "for fun." Sometimes I think my life is incompatible with fun; my time is taken up either by home and family responsibilities, or my attempts to squeeze in some self-care. When I try to imagine doing something for fun, my mind stops short of actually coming up with the something.

Which is not to say that I don't enjoy being home. It's more exhausting and exasperating than any job I've ever had. But when Westley and I have had a really stellar morning, say, "tickling" the fish at PetSmart, and he's napping and soup is simmering and I'm scrubbing all the grime off my kitchen counter - worshipping at the laminate-counter-top altar - I can feel the peace, the satisfaction, the enjoyment settling in.

And when Westley wakes up in a good mood and tackles me with a hug, and we eat bananas and invent games and dance ridiculously to the music on the CD player, and it dawns on me that I don't have to do anything for fun. Life at home with a toddler will bring the fun to me.

Unfortunately, my growing sense of spiritual housewifery isn't enough to ward of negative energy from strangers who speak without thinking. People will always ask rude or personal or insensitive questions, especially of mothers. I wish I had the mental dexterity and the guts to say tell those people, calmly and politely of course, "That was a rude [or personal or insensitive] thing to say." I wish I could go back and tell that woman at Whole Foods to mind her own business. Or, better yet, describe to her how much fun it can be to grocery-shop with a two-year-old, especially if you give him a pen and let him "guard" your list.



Jennifer said...

I'm with you all the as a mother has these weird things about it and thinking about what we do for "fun" is a tricky question. What you say is true- being a Mom changes how we have fun. Maybe we are not able to have the selfish fun we use to, but we'll be back to that someday when they are grown and having their own selfish fun that I'm going to try to enjoy this while it lasts. Lack of "fun" and all.

F that cashier. ;)

candace said...

I have to say I don't think I have much fun being a stay at home. I get frustrated easily and wish constantly to be out of the house. I miss those things that were just mine and not shared with a spouse or a wee one. More money and more time would probably help but I definitely feel like more me fun needs to be had!

I guess I shouldn't expect to have too much fun as a graduate student, mom and preggo lady!

Honestly though the cashier probably didn't mean anything by her comment. People who haven't experienced the mom life probably don't understand it. Sometimes I think we expect the world to just get it, and I certainly didn't before momdome!

candace said...

I do think it is time to reclaim ourselves though!

Amber, The Unlikely Mama said...

I've always found myself saying I'm "just a" something or other. Be it a student, an assistant, a mom.

We're not "just" anything.

BTW, I have almost no real I guess I don't do anything "for fun" either :P

Nancy said...

I just clicked on next blog and it was yours and this post caught my eye. I can so relate. And I know what you mean about the comments people make that are just meant as small talk but leave me feeling tense after. People always see me at the store with my kids and say, "Well you sure have your hands full," and I smile and say, "Yes I do," but then I feel a little defensive like "Leave me alone! I don't have my hands full . . . only my hands are . . . totally full . . ." And of course I know I've chosen that just as you've chosen to be at home and watch this other little girl, but it does make us introspect and sometimes a little grumpily. You'll find new "funs" though -- seriously, having some kids now old enough to play a game I actually like or to hang out at the pool with me is actually approaching my own ideas of fun!