Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Anxiety

It started last night, as my husband prepared for his first official day of school. He went in last week, but it was just to hear the superintendent talk, meet with other teachers, and arrange his room. Today was the real thing, with the kids. This is a new job for him: he's still teaching art, but with a different age group, in a new building, and he's specializing in photography, which is also brand new. It will be demanding, and my husband's a perfectionist.

He's the only other person who would ever care as much as I do about the state of our house, and the day-to-day details of our children. Watching him pile stacks of paper, jot notes, and pack bags, I knew I was losing him. It'll just be me and the house and the babies. My head feels competent enough, and my heart's downright loosey-goosey about the whole thing, but my stomach has it's doubts.

We got up this morning, and I got us all packed and out of the house right away. The baby needed to have her ID photo taken for her new gym membership card, which continues to amuse me! The boy and I went downtown together on Saturday and upped the free membership I get for teaching yoga to a family membership. But each member of the family gets their very own ID card, with photo, so we took the baby this morning to stand in place against the wall (with support, since standing independently is still beyond her ken) and receive her very own laminated card.

Then we all drove out to the suburban location about a half hour away. They have free child care (the downtown location doesn't offer this service) (remind me to rail against the race/class assumptions at work there another time) so I can work out while they play. I wanted to do a trial run today, and see how it went before I actually tried a workout. The preschool room was a madhouse, and I was nervous leaving my boy, but he was enthusiastic, and a kind young woman took his hand and guided him toward the toys. He went with her willingly, so I walked over to the baby room. It wasn't quite as much of a madhouse, but still pretty hectic. The staff seemed nice enough.

It was weird being on the other side. Usually I'm the teacher. I know how to calm a nervous parent, put a mother's mind at ease, make sure she knows her baby's going to be okay. Leaving my babies with a bunch of strangers was a lot harder.

I didn't even plan to work out today; this was just a trial run to check out the child care situation. I was wearing flip-flops, not prepared for any kind of workout unless they had a quiet room for individual yoga (they don't). So I wandered the hallways. It's a nice facility: a cycle studio, a huge family art studio, multiple swimming pools for adults and kids, a teen center, Weight Watcher's meetings here, a strength training class there. Time was ticking by very slowly though, and my hallway wandering began to feel a little creepy after I noticed the same people staring at me more than once while I passed them by, slowly and aimlessly.

I found a corner in the locker room and sat down, wishing I hadn't forgotten my cell phone on the mantle at home, so I could text someone to pass the time. I watched the seconds tick by on the wall clock. My stomach was jumpy, just like last night. This is all such easy stuff: I'm visiting a gym with free child care, for Christ's sakes, not performing brain surgery blindfolded! But it's so new, and it's scary. I had told the woman at the desk where I dropped off my children that this would just be a test run for our first time. I said 20 to 30 minutes. I watched the tick ... tick ... tick ... I determined that it would take me two minutes to walk from the locker room to the childcare center. At 17 minutes I could stand it no longer, and headed down the hallway, walking quickly, anxiety and relief brewing in my belly like a half-caf blend.

My daughter was fine. I had left her sitting on a thick mat on the floor, with a foam mini-staircase/slide apparatus off to her side, chewing on her name bracelet and grinning at the toys and other children around her. She was in the same place, but had tried to climb the stairs before rolling onto her back, the better to chew her toe and grin at the people behind her.

When I went to get my son, a few staff members told me he had cried for me. But he wasn't crying when I spotted him at the train table, and his first words were: Hi Mommy! Hi baby sis! I don't want to go HOOOME!

The utter disdain embedded in the word home could not be mistaken! I asked him about the crying on our way out to the car.

Oh yeah! he told me, I needed to find you and tell you about THAT BOY! He took my Thomas engine from the train table! I needed to tell you about it, and the teachers said I couldn't!

Did he take it out of your hands? I asked.

Well, no, Mommy!

Where was it? I asked.

It was on the train table! he answered. But I was seeing it, and I was wanting it for myself!

It was hard to get too worked up about that. I'm sure my firstborn told THAT (poor) BOY just how he felt about seeing it and wanting it for himself. A little crying about having to share at age three isn't going to hurt anyone. The kids were just fine.

So it was just me and my knotty stomach, all alone.

We came home, played and ate and one napped and the other watched a little PBS, and I kept the house clean as a whistle (my other great fear about being home: I hate cleaning. Straight hate it. I'm here to be a teacher, a mother, a reader of books and a builder of minds for my babies, not a maid. But since we can't afford a maid, there's a little bit of indentured servitude built into the role, and I'm not sure how well I'll deal with that!).

My husband came home so late I had to call and cancel my chiropractic appointment. The kids went down early in the evening, for what I'd love to call the night, but is more likely a late day nap.

It all went fine.

So why is my stomach still in knots? For God's sakes: what am I afraid of?

2 comments:

  1. I completely identify with this unnamed anxiety. It could be your fear doing the SAHM thing so well that you'll start to question if you need your husband--which rationally and emotionally you know you will but the mind asks weird questions all the damn time--or maybe you're anxious because having all this time to yourself means you will have occasion to really know yourself, to parse out the beautiful and amazing parts of you as well as be fully introduce to the not so awesome parts.

    I spent a lot of time alone this last summer and while it gave m some great insights into what works for me, it also meant having to deal with all the icky things that are true about me, too, like my tendency to be lazy to the point of sloth and my mean internal monologue that tries to convince me I'm unworthy of everything.

    I think knowing you are in a place of anxiety is a sign that you want an answer to why it is happening, and I believe any time we seek answers, we are on the path to learning things we most need to learn about ourselves. You're on the road; just keep walking.

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