I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m living in Orlando right now. I have a writing residency in one of Jack Kerouac’s old houses. It’s a three month gig.
Usually when people hear that, and then they here that I’m a mom and I have a toddler, they say, “Oh, it must be so hard.” Sometimes, especially if they are older women who raised children themselves, they look a wee bit judgmental when they say that.
I respond that, yes, it is hard. It’s super hard. I talk to Nico most mornings via Facetime and sometimes in the evening before she goes to bed. I’ve watched her give tea parties to Peppa Pig and George. She’s taken me with her to go to the bathroom. I’ve sang and acted “I’m a Little Tea Cup” for her and “Juan Pequeño,” a song like the Hockey Pockey but in Spanish.
But none of that is the same as being with her every day. I’ve been at Jack’s House, as I like to call it, since the beginning of December, but Nico and Marta came to Florida that month to stay with my parents in Tampa, and I went over there for Christmas. So, really, the hardest months were January and, now, February. Last week, I got to fly home for three days to see Nico, which was a joy. When she first saw me she clung to me and just kept saying, “Mom!”
Still, it’s really hard. But this is also a great opportunity. I’ve been writing like a crazy woman, doing so much more than, creatively, than I’ve been able to since Nico was born. And, for me, the trade-off is worth it. I can tell, though, that some people–especially those with a judgmental glint in their eye–can’t understand how I could make such a trade-off. Which kind of pisses me off. Because if I were a man, I don’t think they’d have the same reaction.
And, honestly, if I told them that I had a wife at home with Nico, I don’t think they’d have the same reaction either. It’s because they assume I am married to a man and my husband is home raising my child for three months that they balk.
I’m lucky to have the wife that I have. It’s not easy for her and, really, she’s the one people should be saying “It must be hard” to. She’s trying to take care of a toddler by herself–and keep down a job and work toward tenure. I know lots of women do this all the time, but as they’ll also admit, single parenting is hard. Super hard.
So, mostly, I’m thankful to Marta for this time. I’m thankful to technology for Facetime and Skype, which lessen the distance. And as for those judgmental old ladies, I’m thankful I only have to run into them every once and a while.