Husbot returned Thursday night from two days on the road (work), and when he asked about weekend plans, I reminded him that I was flying to Denver for forty-three hours to attend a party celebrating the thirty-fifth wedding anniversary of dear friends whom I hadn’t seen in ten years..
“Oh,” he said. “I forgot.”
He was stressed out from work, the dog had been peeing twelve times a day, not always outside, and I know he’d been looking forward to a respite. “It’s okay,” he assured me, sincerely, but after a moment of silence. “I just forgot it was this weekend.”
Although he spends hours each day and most of every weekend with the bots, it’s an entirely different gig if you’re playing solo.
“Ginger’s coming for fours Saturday and again on Sunday,” I added. “And Grandma wants a couple of hours each day with them, one at a time. And I’ll be back at 9:30 Monday morning.” The heavy silence told me he was trying to remember the last time he had taken a vacation, but was probably too tired to recall.
I am fortunate that he recognizes the value of vacations. But I wanted to explain to him that, although I am thrilled to be going, although I will have a splendid time because I love these people and I will get to sleep in on Sunday morning and none of this will feel like work, this isn’t a vacation: It’s part of my job.
When I gave birth to Mbot, I was teaching a college writing course, nursing and pumping a combined ten hours a day, and patchworking together an average of five hours of sleep in every twenty-four. Every single second of every day was accounted for. Every moment I spent lying down, nursing, pumping, teaching, reading, writing, errand-running, laundering, cooking, showering, emailing, talking on the phone with sister, brother, friends, I asked myself, ”Am I using this moment to its greatest efficiency? Does this really need to be done?”
I found myself justifying the time I spent emailing and on the phone (let me tell you, not much) and at the same time it was daawning on me that I was the one upon which responsibility wordlessly fell to create and send out birth announcements, bot pictures, updates, birthday cards. To respond to offers to help and invitations to dinner. To take bots to visit friends and out-of-state relatives. These last few things fell under the umbrella of social secretary—not social-ite.
And I found that no one took seriously the time or energy necessary to maintain our connections with family and friends. It’s the sort of thing that men, I think, consider an extracurricular activity that women do because we’re just gabby girls and like to do it. And I do enjoy much of it. I also find much of it a pain in the ass: (summoning patience during my mother-in-law’s sililoquies, updating my (woefully unupdated) Facebook page).
It’s probably taught in Sociology 101, but it took motherhood for me to figure this out: what might be labeled by society as mindless, frivolous socialilzing serves a very specific purpose: the maintenance of a community that will not only support and nurture the bots as they grow, but will support them and nurture them in the event of my absence.
By spending precious time and energy (and Husbot’s time and energy in the form of American Express), I’m strengthening bonds that will very likely help my children survive and thrive. I’m sending out the message: I care about you. I’m there for you. And please don’t forget about us.
This responsibility—the keeper of connections–falls, traditionally, on the woman. And judging from Husbot’s nonexistent social schedule, if I counted on him to do it, people would start thinking the earth really is flat and that we’d fallen off the edge of it.
Of course, if you’re Facebooking instead of feeding your bots breakfast, you might want to consider scaling down your social network. But otherwise—drop the guilt, moms. When you’re chatting on your cell with your best friend from college instead of folding minature pants? You’re just doing your job.