A Day in the Life of a Working Single Mother
6:00 am My alarm goes off. I ignore it.
6:25 Already dressed in clean underwear and my striped maxi dress, I am in the kitchen, cleaning out my stovetop espresso maker so that I can have some decent coffee before I hit the Interstate.
6:32 I head into Charlotte’s room and get verbal confirmation that she is, indeed, getting up. Because she’s prone to insomnia, C doesn’t have an alarm clock in her room. Anyhow, I like kissing her grouchy head in the morning.
6:45 The dog has been out. My espresso is made. I slice red pepper and cucumber for C’s lunch. At the same time, I am heating a tortilla for her breakfast. Today’s sandwich — ham and cheese. I also throw a packet of trail mix and an apple in her lunch bag. There’s no time to slice melon for breakfast. There’s no time for me to eat anything.
7:03 We are late. C is looking everywhere for a handout. I tear cooked chicken breast over the dog’s kibble and mix it. I gulp the espresso medicinally. C makes a last minute dash for socks while I gather together my laptop, Norton Anthology of American Literature, class folders, and grade book.
7:22 During the 12-minute drive to her middle school, I ask C if she is okay. I was concerned about a statement she made the night before about not having a special friend at school, the way some of the other girls seem to. We have a decent chat; that is, she doesn’t give me the brush off and seems glad that I am asking.
7:55 I pull into the campus of Austin Community College where I teach and tutor two days a week. It’s a 20-mile drive from C’s school, but it’s against rush hour traffic, so I speed along, feeling irrepressible schadenfreude at the lines of cars crawling into Austin on the other side.
8:13 My first tutee of the morning arrives. For the next four hours, with virtually no break, I tutor one student after the next. Most are working on literary analyses of Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” for their comp two classes. I talk about the difference between literal and metaphoric meaning. I explain the concept of unreliable narration. For a while, I have three students sitting at my table at once.
10:28 I talk to the lab manager about a terrorist threat made against the entire school district. She researches the incident for me and posts something to the listserv. We are all still reeling from the shooting at UCC in Oregon last week. My friend Sharon calls me to discuss the same thing — she just started teaching at a community college in Maine, and she is scared.
12:03 Knowing I don’t have enough time to leave campus for lunch, I get a candy bar from the vending machine; the coffee shop on campus, which had fruit and nuts, closed down for renovation last week.
12:08 I make a quiz on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story “Rappacini’s Daughter.” One of the IT guys has to help me get it printed because I am an idiot about technology.
1:15 I try to call Sharon back and am interrupted by a student who wants to talk about his paper idea.
1:25 I answer an email from the handyman who is supposed to come by tomorrow morning to fix my fence.
1:30 I give the quiz to my American literature class and lecture about Hawthorne, Romanticism, and various interpretations of the story. It’s not a great class. When I quote a Katy Perry song, they all laugh; otherwise, only four or five students are really present. One of them stays after class to discuss his theory of human civilization.
3:10 I wander the vast suburban aisles of a grocery store near campus to buy dishwasher pods, so I can run the machine at home. It takes forever to find them. I start feeling overwhelmed by the central aisles of the grocery store. Who buys this shit? So many cardboard boxes. I stumble across salmon jerky by accident and decide to buy it even though it costs $7. I eat the whole thing on the drive home. It is good, but very salty.
3:45 I throw myself on the sofa to catch up on the gossip at my writing platform and work on this blog post. C finishes her homework, talks to me, heads off to my room to watch sitcoms on Netflix.
6:35 My dog is attacked by two loose dogs at the beginning of our regular walk. The one dog keeps biting him even though I yell at the top of my lungs, and a passing bicyclist uses his bike as a weapon to try and push the dog off. I hit the dog with the leash, and it starts in after me. At this point, some neighbors come out armed with sticks. Another neighbor with his dog happens upon the scene. We are lucky. My dog is clueless and his dog is very submissive. The dog stops wanting to attack my dog and wanders off.
Cropped from the original “That’s My Bone!” by Colby Stopa
6:48 I pick a stout stick out of a construction dumpster and long to see that dog again, so I can kill it. Just two days, I told someone I was “a pacifist.” I am so pumped with adrenalin I think I might pass out.
7:30 I serve pasta and salad from a Trader Joe’s bag. C tells me that she would never hit a dog with a stick, not even if it was attacking Gismo. I kick myself for telling her what happened.
8:10 C argues with me strenuously, pointlessly, about guitar practice. She hates her teacher; she hates not being perfect. This is not unprecedented, but today the argument has a special vehemence. Eventually, she buckles down to practice. Except she is way too angry. Eventually, I leave the room so I don’t have to deal with her tantrum.
8:35 C bursts into my bedroom and tearfully reveals that the popular girls have shunned her and now “she has no one.” I listen and share the boring knowledge of perspective. She gathers the stuffed animals she pushed aside at the beginning of the year and has them sit with us. I can’t make things right. I can only hope it blows over. That she finds friends who care.
9:14 I put C, Gizmo, and the stuffed animals to bed. I pour a glass of wine. I write a couple of emails to colleagues about an upcoming event.
11:09 I stay up way too late unwinding. Six o’clock is right around the corner. Again.