Susan's Blog

Friday, September 15, 2006

Time Is Not on My Side

I know (in my mind) that I am fortunate not to “have to work.” We are living on Ned’s salary, with me doing all of the housework, most of the children-work, and all of the household expenditures. I am the only one who buys anything, I do all the buying of clothes, food, and all the other stuff you need/want in a home. So I manage all the money, meaning, I keep a running total in the checkbook, but Ned balances the thing every month. Ned also manages investments (although our biggest investment is our house and I take care of that, and the lawn).

So what? You may be thinking. I feel the need to explain what I do with my time because I was raised to be a career woman, and I’m only partly that, and only recently. I grew up thinking that I would be an actress, or a singer (I did and still do very good impersonations of singers, like Barbara Streisand and Shakira). I thought maybe I’d be a poet. Or a fashion designer. Or start a school for disabled children (really! this is what my friend Debbie and I planned when we were 11). But I did not ever dream about a husband, a wedding, or babies. Even though I was an insatiable Barbie player, most of the time I was just putting outfits on her and when I got older I was having her have sex with my other dolls; but never, ever a dream wedding. It wasn’t until I met Ned, when I was 18, and started dating him, at 19, that I had the thought of marriage. All I wanted, until Ned, was to fall in love and all of its lovely accoutrements. I totally played the field.

So I fell in love with him pretty quickly, and decided I wanted to marry him one day when I was watching The Waltons and MaryEllen was talking about how she loved her husband. I thought, “That’s how I could feel about Ned.” And then I thought, “Why don’t I marry Ned?” In the end, I married him without a plan; just the feeling that I wanted to live with this man forever and we may as well make that formal, so I asked him one night, “Wouldn’t you say we’re engaged?” And he said, “Uhhhh….” Then we had a fight, during which I kept trying to prove to him that because we had no intention of ever breaking up and planned to live together, that we were, in fact, engaged. I said I didn’t need a ring. So after a few more hours of arguing, he agreed. Then I said, “So, can I call my mother?” Once you call your mother, a vague arrangement to be together always becomes an Engagement, with the question of “When?”

Ned then formally proposed, first with a ring drawn on paper, then with the cute little solitaire diamond we picked out together at Perlstein’s in downtown Philadelphia. We got married at the end of our senior year of college, right after graduation from Penn. I was set to go there to grad school to get a degree in history, and Ned got a job in the GRASP lab, where they were working on robotic arms and that kind of thing. We got a little apartment (after the initial roach motel) in a Victorian house and lived there for a couple of years until I said, “I’m done with Philadelphia, let’s move.” Ned said, “Where?” And we decided together on Boston, figuring I could get a job in history there (an historical society or a teaching job) and Ned could get a high tech job. Only one of us succeeded. Well, I did get a job in an historical society but it totally blew huge chunks all over its precious little collections. I went on to an advertising job at Jordan Marsh, which also blew chunks, and then a job writing for a high tech company, which also….

Then I got pregnant with Nat (and really blew chunks during morning sickness) and decided to just quit and roost and write. So I wrote a couple of novels at that point and got an agent, but the stuff never went anywhere. They were historical fictions, set in 19th century Russia, with tons of plot twists, not much character development.

So what? You might be thinking. Well, I guess I want to understand how it is that I don’t feel quite like I’m doing it all right. I have a bit of a writing career, at last, although not writing the kind of books I thought I’d write when I first started out. But then again, what turned out the way I thought it would when I first started out? Not adulthood; not motherhood; not my writing career.

As I said, I feel a certain degree of inexplicable shame over the fact that I have this free time. I have thought about getting a job, teaching at a university, or as an autism aide in a public school. I poked around here and there but nothing turned up. I even entered a contest to become a model for More Magazine. I actually sometimes get depressed about it. I think, “What did I do wrong, that I have time on my hands?” I know that once this new book proposal sells I will have a lot to do, but still — my hours are my own. People ask me how I have time to write and I feel embarrassed, like I shouldn’t have time to write because my life must be so tough. My plate must be so full!

It’s only full sometimes. It’s tough, but not always, or I would not be sitting here sort of smiling as I type.

But still — I know I’m a writer and all, but that’s so part time. I am so dependent on other people’s schedules, on waiting for agents, editors, etc. I always need to be coming up with new ideas and finding hooks for them for my articles.

So what? You may be thinking. Well, I am trying to understand why I am ashamed of what I do with my days and the first step is talking about it/writing about it. Going public, and figuring it out with others. I guess. So be kind, and be wise, and help me feel okay about my existence.


Jealous of your time—My wife and I both work like crazy to make ends meet. Don’t get to see each other as much as we like. Hard to spend quality time with our kids. Vacations are hard to come by. What you’re doing is very valuable and you should feel good about being fortunate enough to have the opportunity to spend your days as you do. You certainly don’t squander your time to write.

— added by Anonymous on Friday, September 15, 2006 at 9:12 pm

Who we are is not what we do. Our value is not to be measured in how much money we make or how we make it, how prestigious the title of our job is or how many children we have or whether we are married or divorced or how many relationships we have had or how “successful” our children are when they grow up. Our value is not measured in how big or small our body parts are or how well-dressed we are or what car we drive, what house we live in, what we have produced. That’s all just trappings. In this culture many can and do measure their own worth and others by such standards, but in the universal eye of the Divine ( however you perceive it and whatever you call him/her/it) we are whole and perfect just as we are. We each carry a spark of that divinity inside us, and thus we are all equally precious and equally worthy in all the ways that really matter. You would not measure Nat’s worth by his success in school or his ability to hold a job or sustain a relationship or make money. Extend the same loving and compassionate hand to yourself, Sue. It’s not selfish to love and accept yourself exactly as you are. It’s actaully the opposite–when we are connected to our true nature and know that we are whole just as we are, we are free to “get out of ourselves” and be truly present with others. Relish who you are, then, and share the gifts you have been given freely and relish what comes back to you. Sing and write, write poetry and read it aloud. Write novels and articles and blog and belly dance and know that you are enough.

— added by Em's Mom on Friday, September 15, 2006 at 9:12 pm

Em, that is so nice of you! I couldn’t say it any better. When I don’t know what to say, I say what my husband would say, and I say that my husband would say it..”Could be worse.” And it really could.

— added by mrs. gilb on Friday, September 15, 2006 at 9:37 pm

OOps. I mean MOther of Em. 😀

— added by mrs. gilb on Friday, September 15, 2006 at 9:41 pm

Anon. — I try not to squander, for sure. Yesterday I did a ton of clean-up (scrubbing kinds of things) around the kitchen and four loads of laundry and stipped the beds. Vacations for all of us are hard to come by, too.

Em’s Mom — Bless you. I’m going to cut this out and paste it in a Note to Self and email it to me (and then I’ll get some email, hooray!)
Mrs. G — Thanks for being there!

— added by Susan Senator on Saturday, September 16, 2006 at 7:33 am

I haven’t noticed you squandering any time. Just because you don’t have a job with a company and a title with them for a job that “blows chunks” doesn’t mean there’s no value to what you’re doing now – which is rather impressive. I wonder how you do find time to write?

You do write every day, don’t you 😉

I’m just waiting for your next book.

[tapping foot – glaring]

— added by Someone Said on Saturday, September 16, 2006 at 7:54 am

I believe that the job of staying home to be there for the kids is a lot more intense than we moms even realize. The other parent leaves and goes to work for eight hours a day or even more, they have the weekends, lunch hours, etc, off. But when they are home, they are not working. My husband may be on his computer, but he’s not working.

I work on and off from the time I get up until I go to bed. I work every weekend and especially every holiday. I even work while we are on vacation (which is not often enough!). I may take breaks to play on the computer with my blog or surfing, but added together my hours are intense.

Sometimes I feel like I am not making a tangible contribution, but the intangible is that they all know that I am always here for them as a chauffer, counsellor, cook,laundress, reader of books to little ones, financial manager, gopher, personal shopper, nurse, cleaner upper (I refuse to say maid) and so much more, who could list it all.

I was really feeling like I had to do something that brings in money, or proves that I still can do something worth money, but the whole upshot for me is that I am learning that you can’t put a price on the value of being a stay at home mommie. Mainly because you couldn’t get someone to do what we do without the bonds of love to tie them to this job.

— added by Mom on Saturday, September 16, 2006 at 8:08 am

There’s also a small chance that what you are doing now is going to fit into who you will be when you fully realize you gifts.

Think of it as being “in training”. At 50 years old, I have my first “real” job, and everything I’ve done before has made it possible.

For me, being an author would be enough. I tried it, but had no success.

— added by r.b. on Saturday, September 16, 2006 at 9:49 am

I know exactly what you mean. I don’t regret one single moment of parenting two lovely boys with autism. But I used to wonder sometimes–what if? Then I’d hate myself for thinking it in the very next breath.

Just in the last year do I feel like I might be able to recapture a dream or two of my own and contribute to my family’s wellbeing in a way other than mom/therapist/nurse/advocate/sometimes writer. As if all that isn’t enough. 🙂

— added by Liane on Saturday, September 16, 2006 at 12:56 pm

Perhaps you’re feeling this way because our socital norm is for both parents to work? I know that in my situation, I constantly feel guilty for not putting Alena in daycare and working.
You and I and all stay at home mommas are doing a far more important job that the judges, doctors, burger flippers and retail women out there. We’re raising our babies. (Don’t misread, I know that a lot of these women are raising babies too. Good on them for doing both!)
So the jist of all this? Don’t beat yourself up hon.

— added by Jen on Sunday, September 17, 2006 at 11:22 am

Raising children, especially one with special needs, home-making and writing seems like a pretty full plate to me. Where is this guilt coming from? Maybe from your past, since you did not hold down a “real job” for any length of time before starting in on your current (and very real!) job. Let it go girl! And, to cheer yourself up read this excellent post from a writer’s advisor:

— added by n.b. on Monday, September 18, 2006 at 4:03 pm

thanks, NB et al. NB left a very insightful link, not sure if it is clickable:

— added by Susan Senator on Monday, September 18, 2006 at 4:16 pm

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