Chart Number 164

March 27, 2015

By Ekta R. Garg

Yesterday morning I woke up feeling a little under the weather. My husband, as he got ready for work, said, “Just stay home today; don’t go anywhere.”

“I have to take the kids to camp,” I said, referring to the half-day camp they’re attending during their spring break this week.

“So just toss them out and leave,” he said.

(He said this in Hindi, and it sounded much funnier than it does in English, but that’s the gist of it.)

“I can’t exactly do that,” I said with a little laugh.

“Why?” he asked as he straightened his tie. “Isn’t that what these camps are for, a place for parents to dump their kids so they can get a break?”

I thought about that during the day. Is that what I’m doing? I mean, technically, because I work from home I could just as easily keep the kids at home during their vacation days. As an indie author and a freelance editor, I set my own hours. I decide how much or how little time I spend in front of my computer.

So does that mean I should have kept the kids home this week? If I signed them up for camp, does that make me one of those parents who just “dumps” their kids at activities so I can have time to myself? Am I bad mother?

In the interest of full disclosure, I guess I should admit that I did think about the fact that with the kids at camp I would have time to write. I would also have time to talk to the IRS, contact book bloggers about reviewing my books, do laundry, and make short grocery runs. And I’ve done all of those things in the scant three hours I’ve gotten each morning this week.

I love my kids, no question. They amuse and delight me, impress me with their thoughts and questions and make me look at the little things in life with a different perspective. That’s one of the reasons I started blogging about Eight and Six in the first place.

But…I adore having time to stare out of the window with a mug of tea in my hands. I crave solitude to read a good book. I look forward to some time to catch up on mindless TV or movies that I’ve recorded. I like being alone sometimes.

I’ve asked my husband several times whether I’m a good mother, and his immediate response is, “Of course you are. You do so much for the kids.” Then he lists the things I’ve done.

I guess that’s not really what I’m asking. I know that I’m organized and efficient. I can make orthodontist’s appointments and keep them. I show up at school and volunteer in Six’s classroom for an hour a month. I drive the kids to all of their lessons. I can be a chauffeur and a cook and a personal shopper.

I want to know whether I’m emotionally and psychologically qualified to teach these little people what it means to be compassionate, successful, fulfilled humans and women.

But how can I be qualified when I spend time looking for spring break and summer camps for the kids to attend, or when I drop them at birthday parties and use those two hours to run errands, or when I do a little dance when my husband volunteers to take them to their Saturday swimming lessons so I can take a break at home?

Am I qualified when I hide out in another bedroom with my laptop while Eight and Six watch a movie on Netflix in our bedroom?

Do I have the emotional fortitude to teach them when I look at the clock while they’re fighting and calculate how many hours until bedtime?

Should I be allowed to lead them into womanhood when I turn down the request for “just one more hug” after several hugs before saying good night?

I don’t know. I often think about whether I really am the right girl for the job…because I don’t feel like an adult. Many times I think if I turn around fast enough I’ll find myself back in a dorm room, spending hours studying for a final or doing research in the university library for a project.

When, I wonder, did I get old enough to have an eight-year-old and a six-year-old? When did I get old enough to worry about these little lives, to shape them and help them learn about themselves and the world around them? Anyone can produce children; raising them turns into a whole different matter. Don’t I need an advanced degree to do something like this?

I’m not sure, and I guess I won’t know until they’re older exactly where I succeeded and where I failed. Since having my own children, I’ve had some interesting conversations with my own parents about what it means to be responsible for little lives. I have gained a deeper respect for their difficulties as parents, a respect that I couldn’t cultivate until I stood in their shoes.

Some days, though, I wish I had a different pair of shoes to wear. Is that a bad thing?

Today’s the last day of camp, and this evening we’re driving to Chicago for the weekend. The kids want to go to the science museum and the aquarium, and while my husband attends his conference in the city I’ll be alone with the kids. I’m actually looking forward to part of it…and then also looking forward to the part when I’ll get to snuggle in luxurious hotel sheets at night with the latest book I’ve check out of the library.

Maybe it’s okay to be a mom on the outside and be me on the inside. Or maybe I’m me all of the time and a mom some of the time. Or the reverse. Or some other permutation of that. Or…yeah.

Parenting. So clear cut.