The Salt Mines

I’ve had pretty steady freelance work since Joey was a couple of weeks old, and I am anything but grateful. No surprise to any of you moms out there that I’ve found it incredibly difficult to get work done—I have to work while Joey’s asleep, which means that I am not sleeping, which often means that I am going to bed at 4 a.m. and then getting up at 9 with the baby. I keep hoping to run out of work, which frustrates my husband; now I’m pretty sure that I’m going to be offered a real job next week, and he’s upset by my sincere desire not to have a career.

Mr. Book thinks that I should do graduate school, have a real career—he likes my brain, I guess. But Joey hates to sleep without me, and after a couple of nights of me sneaking out, he’ll start fighting sleep like anything to keep me from leaving. Last night I was in the living room copyediting while his dad was trying to put him down (after I’d tried to nurse him to sleep for awhile), and finally the Mister had to come out and tag me in. The baby was wailing and wailing—and then stopping every so often to give his dad these awful, frantic little smiles: I’ll be good, just please, the mama I need mama mama mama mamaaaa! I went in and lay down to nurse him, and he grabbed me with both hands and jammed both feet into my thighs. I feel guilty and awful, and the thing is that I want to be in there with him. Mr. Book had been talking about how really I am working for him, and that a career for me would be a good thing for the little snerks. But looking at the baby, I thought, Christ, how could I possibly have a career?

I know that some women manage it, and that they have great jobs and awesome kids and feel good about life. Me, I don’t feel capable of it—I dread the probable job offer, and I want to be able to just go to bed with my kid tonight. When he started throwing up (again) at 2 this morning, I was already huddled around him with the laptop, working—I tossed it not too carefully aside to help with the baby, sent Mr. Book to go sleep in the living room, and then sat the little snerkleberry in my lap and sang in a ragged voice for almost an hour before he was recovered enough to nurse and go back to sleep. While I worked. The whole time, I worked.

When I was a baby, my mom did transcription for court reporters, and she said that I would cry whenever I saw the typewriter. I know parenting is hard, and I don’t mind that—but I hate feeling like I’m failing Joey, and especially I hate feeling like I’m failing my son and my husband at the same time.