Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I shouldn't have skipped breakfast.

I don't usually skip breakfast—I get up too early with the boys (5:45 today!) to last very long without food. But today was a bit different.

This week is Urban's trips week. That means that we all get out of the classroom and go out and do stuff, mostly in advising groups. Because I'm working part time this year, I'm no longer an adviser, though the kids I started out with are now seniors. So I'd hoped to participate in as much as I could, given the constraints of my schedule. As it turns out, I'm not able to do much when I can only be available between 11 and 3. So I left G at home with the boys early this morning and raced off to work to do the one thing that I could do—a lovely tea and conversation gathering with the women of the class of 2012. But because there would be tea and pastries, I skipped breakfast in favor of a quick cup of chai on my way out the door as I listened to Dash bawling because it wasn't my usual time to go.

I got to school and headed down to the tea. The adults involved were all helping set up. Lots of stories, tears, and teacups later, we disbanded. And I found myself starving. But someone needed to clean up after the tea party. A couple of us got to work hauling the dishes and tidying the room. In the process, I turned into the world's crankiest person ever—storming into the faculty room to wash dishes, carping at my colleagues as they asked that I close the door, and generally acting like a petulant, cranky, hungry toddler. Regardless, the tea got cleaned up; I finally got my lunch.

And then I collapsed in my office in tears.

I knew that I had been acting irrationally and unprofessionally. I could feel a black cloud of negativity all around me. I'm sure that everyone who saw me thought I'd lost my mind. But no, I was just very hungry—the pastries were small, and there weren't all that many, and really, two tiny croissants are not enough fuel for nursing two babies, driving through a rainstorm and listening earnestly for two hours. And the thing is: I know this. I've prioritized feeding myself ever since the boys were born.

Of course there is more to the story of today. There's the feeling of envy that welled up as I listened to my colleague describe her group of friends. The feeling of isolation as I finally bit into my mediocre, but free, burger and listened to people talk about preparations for a trip I wasn't going on with kids I care immensely about.

And maybe another part of the story is that my kids were sick last week with Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease, which sounds like a deadly plague, but is a virus just like a cold, only instead of a runny nose, the kids got a fever and blisters in their mouths and didn't sleep well for 5 nights (see: blisters in mouths). Nobody wants to be around kids with HFMD. Part of what makes me happy and sane is spending time with other people. We've spent the last week mostly avoiding other people. So  I was feeling a little imbalanced and isolated already.

This working and mothering thing is a delicate act. Not everyone does it the same way. Not everyone has the privilege of taking less time at work in exchange for more time at home. But working part-time doesn't  mean I have the balance thing figured out. My time at work is limited, but so, too, is part of what makes going to work a pleasure and a necessity for me: adult interactions and conversations and teamwork. And I felt deeply that I was missing out on that stuff this week.

Maybe I'm making too much out of a bad day. But I hear my colleagues were wondering what had gotten into me or what was wrong. So I'm writing this post for them to say I'm sorry. I shouldn't have skipped breakfast.