Prince is out of town — no one seems to know where, including my kids — so I happily took Luca yesterday and today, which are normally his dad’s days. Franny left for a weeklong school trip to D.C. on Sunday, so my regularly-scheduled timeshare programming is all mixed up. Meaning: I hadn’t planned Luca’s dinner. Franny only wants pasta/broccoli/sausage for dinner, and Luca wants variety. Actually, I don’t know what Luca really wants, because he’s barely lived with me for three years.
Luca’s name popped up on my iPhone screen at 4:30 yesterday afternoon, that time of day when I am drained and bleary-eyed at work. I was staring at my computer screen, which I do more and more these days, now that the residential treatment facility where I work has demanded that clinicians become paperwork drones in addition to treating kids.
I was sifting through reams of densely worded instructions on how to complete a mind-numbingly heinous report due today when Luca called. And what he said made my heart sink.
“Mom? There’s nothing here for dinner.”
“There’s sausage…and broccoli, and pasta,” I said lamely.
“We have that every night,” he said. “Can’t we have something good?”
It was a reasonable request, in its teenagery way. But I didn’t handle it well. My eyes welled up from failed-motherdom, and my head almost exploded from failed workerbee-hood, and I snapped. I said something that sounded a lot like “I’m at work! I can’t talk about this right now!”
And then he said something that made what was left of my heart shatter into little pieces at my feet.
“When are you going to be home?”
“Six-thirty,” I said. “I’ll fix you dinner then.”
“I don’t think I can wait till then,” he said. “It’s okay, I’ll just make mac n’cheese.”
And then I put down my phone, and my head on the desk, and tried not to cry. I thought of all my married friends who don’t have to work, the friends who have reams of recipes in lovely organized binders, and time to plan dinner menus, and fix healthy snacks after they pick up their kids from school, a job that falls to my babysitter.
I thought of the laundry piling up by the washer, the boxes yet to be unpacked from the move, and my substandard think-ahead, time management skills, those skills crucial to the family of every work-outside-the-home mother.
I thought of all the moms who sit their kids down to dinner at 6:00, the hour that Luca would be sitting in front of the TV, alone with a bowl of mac n cheese, and I thought:
Bite Me, Marissa Mayer.
I don’t work for Yahoo!, the organization run by new CEO Marissa Mayer, the Lady Macbeth of the 21st century workforce, she who returned to work two weeks after giving birth, and who issued a memo, via her HR person on Monday, informing all Yahoo! employees, even those who were hired with the promise of a flexible, work-from-home position, that they now must work in the office to be truly productive.
As HuffPost Parents editor Lisa Belkin pointed out in her excellent piece on this development, this asinine mentality that working in an office is the only way to be productive, is dubious. It is dubious, it is a morale-killer, it sucks for kids, and it is a lousy, Orwellian reality navigated by parents who require two incomes.
And it becomes a truly surreal Orwellian reality for those of us who are single parents and must cling to their jobs like rockclimbers scaling Mt. Everest.
And the more I thought of all this, the more panic descended on my shoulders, and the more hamster-on-the-wheelish I felt, with the mantra nothing-you-do-is-good-enough ping-ponging wildly in my head.
I slunk out of the office early, drove home and found Luca post-mac-n-cheese, sprawled on the couch with his iPad. I practically begged him to let me fix him dinner — “What about potstickers? Cornmeal-crust pizza?”
“Nah,” he said. “I’m not hungry now.”
I poured myself a glass of wine, steamed some potstickers for myself, and stuffed the laundry in the washer.
Later, Luca asked me to get him some ice cream, which I scooped into a bowl and presented to him like a wise king offering frankincense to the Baby Jesus.
He wanted to watch Breaking Bad with me, so we sat on my bed, watching it on his laptop.
“Your bed is really comfortable, Mom,” he said.
I sighed and smiled at him and savored this thin slice of family time, and for a moment, all was right in my impossible, 21st century single-mom-working life.