Kid Friendly: Cook or Clean?

It was Tuesday but actually Wednesday. Saturday would be Second Saturday in Beacon, followed by Sunday Valentine’s Day and Monday’s President’s Day. The impeachment trial started on Tuesday, right?

Last Friday was emotional. It was a typical pandemic weekend night of nothing. I was just sort of … done — again — at that moment when I turned and faced a table with three full plates of abandoned burgers and fries. 

I hadn’t cried yet but that could happen at any hour or day, which turned out to be the Tuesday that was a Wednesday. But only for a second. Tuesday, it turns out, was a Snow-Day-Not-a-Snow-Day Wednesday schedule for Beacon schools, which meant that, instead of having classes canceled, the children flip their brains to the Remote Learning schedule designed for every Wednesday and follow the schedule of several logins per day.

Wall-art application

Wall-art application — because in the grind, stopping the balancing act to do nothing with your kids gets you both out of the Depths of Despair. (Photo by K. Martin)

This is actually good — it gives them something to do and allows them to connect with whoever else shows up. But the struggle to get into that zone can bring a mother to her knees. Literally.

Meanwhile, mothers were buzzing about a New York Times piece from Feb. 6 known as “Primal Scream.” It was about mothers taken out of the workforce by the pandemic to help their children through Remote Learning. A crushing topic. 

I haven’t brought myself to read it. I was going to borrow it from a friend (I prefer reading newsprint) but the Snow Day happened, and I killed the battery in my car while working inside it the other night so that I could focus.

My favorite journalist and professional girl crush, Molly Wood of Marketplace Tech, was asked for her reaction to the Times piece. Molly said she was “missing the rage” in the reporting of the story. She needed more rage. “I’m a fighter,” I thought. “I can get behind this.” 

But get behind what? And where is my rage? When I read headlines like this, my instinct is to double-down. Get smarter. Work harder.

Maybe I’m just living in the sunken place, but this pandemic stuff is par for the course. It’s bad. I’ve been stuck in a house unable to work before, when I was nursing my babies and my partner was outside, fancy-free, mowing the lawn, picking up snakes while mulching, asking me why I didn’t pick up my gardening tools. That I can rage to. But for this pandemic piece, my rage isn’t there. Why?

My body is sore from snow-blowing 2.5 feet of snow (twice) because it fell for 24 hours straight. And then it fell again on that Tuesday, which triggered the Depth of Despair (re: The Princess Bride’s Pit of Despair, which is a torture chamber beneath the roots of a tree). 

And then the City of Beacon robocalled residents, telling us to do a better job clearing our sidewalks because strollers can’t fit through the narrow paths, on threat of a fine.

Strollers? Fines? There was my rage! My rage found me! I have been a stroller-pusher after 10 years; I bought a three-wheel jogger so it can get over mounds of snow. I cannot — nor all of my neighbors in Beacon — shovel 2.5 feet of snow better and do my best at work and feed my kids and keep a clean house and love my kids. 

So I rage-wrote a piece about it which, for the first time, criticized the city’s plowing style and its threat of fines.

Before writing this column to make deadline, I had to make a tough choice: (1) Finish the column (which is paid work) or (2) shovel the slush off my driveway while the sun is partially shining so it doesn’t freeze overnight, get snowed on again, and make for even tougher shoveling.

There are no right answers. Cook dinner? Clean the salt tracked into the house? Regular household pickup? Shovel? Earn a salary? Love my children? Cuddle with them?

And then this headline: “Rising TikTok Star Dazharia Shaffer Dies by Suicide at 18: ‘I Wasn’t Prepared to Bury My Child’ ”

Done. I’m out of the Depths of Despair and back into the sunshine, listening to the music I need to keep me bouncing or pounding or typing and smiling.

I love my kids. My kids love me. My kids need my love, and their dad’s love. My focus is on making the path for that love to go back and forth. Showing them support during Remote Learning. Hearing their struggles. Communicating that to their teachers and letting my kids know I did that. I want them to feel heard and seen, and to feel alive, pandemic or not.


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