Sunday, March 10, 2013

Falling Short

Boy opened the front door yesterday to throw out his apple core, "so the bugs can eat it," and I added a compost pile to my growing list of domestic aspirations. Like many Washingtonians, I strive to overachieve, and though I fall short regularly and spectacularly, I cannot stop pinning DIY detergents and fabric organizers and memory books.

When Husband and I were debating how best to handle this massive shift to one stay-at-home parent, he told me that I needed to direct his ambition. That he was going to be ambitious was a given, but I had to tell him whether I wanted him to have career ambition or stay-at-home-dad ambition. I am similar, and so I strive to can, and sew, and generally make a home.

I haven't added "grow kale" to my list, but I figure with a sleeve of tattoos and at least one bird-print dress, I'm one pin away from growing some in a repurposed crate. I know my children will eye a kale smoothie with intense skepticism, as would I, but it seems to be what I should be aiming for, so aim I shall.

It would be great if I could pretend that's not how this ambition works, that I'm not competitive with myself and the world, but that would be a lie and you all would know it, so let's just dispense with such notions now.

Stepping back from the Service is harder than I thought it would be. I squeezed in a few precious minutes to read the Washington Post the other day, and as I read "Secretary Kerry" over and over again it hit me that the Department moves on without me. His first day was my last, and that was just one of many changes that will surely come. I know when I return the software will be different, the procedures will be different, and--possibly--immigration and nationality law in itself could be different. My friends and colleagues will be promoted over me. We are an intensely competitive service, staffed with people who genuinely like their work and each other, but who all aspire to superstar status. I am that way by nature, but I've had to step back for my kids. Even if Boy were your average child, I can't work 14 hour days with two small kids at home and a husband with a full-time job. So I end up in a life were I spend most of my day giving not-quite-enough at the office, and the rest of it giving not-nearly-enough at home. It's tough on your soul.

I'm hoping to enjoy this break from paid employment, however long it will be, as a break from the pressure and competition and, in my case, the omnipresent sense of inadequacy. I am still me, though, and as I finished re-upholstering our dining room chairs, I put out a cloth and called the kids over to paint embroidery hoops for Girl's room (pictures will soon explain). I whipped up some pumpkin bread this morning, and after the kids wake up from their nap, my mom and I will caravan to the other side of the city to pick up some great mid-century modern vintage vinyl chairs for my porch. I joined the local food co-op this morning, I bought kids chalk for their new chalkboard wall, and I even took a shower. It sounds great, right? I'm somewhat productive, I'm nesting, and I'm even clean.

All I can think is I haven't planted any kale and I haven't been anybody's staff assistant. And so my list keeps growing, passing aspirational and approaching delusional, as I calculate not how I can have it all, but how I can do it all. I'm still hoping that some day, in some way, I'll finally walk on water.

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