I went to a work happy hour last week. I know, I'm not even working, but there was a meeting here in Phoenix that meant a lot of my colleagues were in town from all over the country. I don't know if or when I'll go back to work, but it was so good to catch up with these people, some of whom I hadn't seen in eight months (or more). My former boss was here from Denver, and it was lovely to see her and share photos of our kids over beers.
And then I was happy to get home in time to read Quinn a bedtime story and tuck him in.
I realized I miss certain things about working in an office: the regular adult interaction, for example. But staying home with Quinn is good for my soul. As I explained to a couple of people that evening when they asked the inevitable question about me returning to work, I feel like I'm tip-toeing a fine balance right now and for the moment it's working for me. My last scan was good, my weight is up, my blood counts are mostly okay, and--most weeks--my fatigue is manageable. (Although I've had some other health issues lately, but I'm not sure I'm ready to write about that yet.) I am scared that if I were to add one more element to the mix, I'd fall off this high wire act I've got going. So my answer to them was: not yet.
Also, with the number of doctors appointments I've got every week, it wouldn't be fair to my team. I spend half the day most Mondays at or on my way to (or home from) appointments. Plus there are scans, follow up visits with my oncologist, not to mention "normal" appointments with my gynecologist, dentist, dermatologist, therapist... Plus Quinn's check-ups. It's a lot.
So I expected the question about returning to work. What I didn't expect was the question about what it is I do with my days.
I don't think the guy who asked it meant any harm, but I was caught off guard--and irritated, if I'm being honest. I sort of let the question linger, so I'm sure it became as awkward for him as it was for me. Because--how do you answer such a thing? I don't remember what I said. Probably something to the effect of, "Crazy how raising a 2-year-old can take up so much time!" Later, I thought I should have just said, "Laundry. I spend all of my time doing laundry." It feels that way some days.
This is not the first time I've gotten this question. I think most stay-at-home-parents grapple with it at some point, unfortunately. So I've been trying to give it a little thought the last few days. What do I do with my time (now that I'm not working)? I did think I'd have more free time, time to organize photos of Quinn or write or clean out my belly button lint. All of the stay-at-home-parents are laughing right now at my naiveté. I at least thought Quinn would nap.
There are my appointments. And Quinn (who does not nap, and hasn't at home for about a year). On the days he's not in school/daycare, I try to do things with him--swimming, the Children's Museum, the train park, the zoo) rather than spend my time with him cleaning the house or running errands. Then there's the aforementioned laundry. There is also sleep. We cancer patients need a lot of it. I typically get 8-9 hours per night, and I'm still fatigued. My younger self is embarrassed at my laziness, but I can't help it. This disease makes me tired.
I also try to exercise to combat the fatigue. On the days Quinn's in preschool and I don't have doctors appointments, I try to make it to yoga or on a hike.
I try to find time to write. I try to find time to be a friend. I try to find time to nurture my relationship with Chris. I try to stay present, so that I'm not anxious about my future. Because as the saying goes, the days are long but the years are short.
Why do I even feel the need to write this post? To justify what it is I do all day? Part of it is how competitive I've always been, how results-oriented, how type-A. The question about how I spend my time broke open some insecurities I've felt since I stopped working. But my insecurities these days are less about cancer winning, and more about what I'm contributing to the world.
Because I don't have much to show for my days at home, except an almost-three-year-old who challenges (and rewards) me in ways my job as a lawyer never did. I am raising a little man, which I know is as important as any career. So why do I still feel the need to prove the value in that? Why did one little question ruffle my feathers so fiercely and put me on the defensive? I'll let you know if I figure out the answer, but I'd also love to hear your thoughts.