It’s the first day of school for my daughters and I’m kind of (really) freaking out. It’s Biggie’s first day of 2nd grade and Smalls’s first day of kindergarten. The first day that I’ll have a chunk of time from approximately 7:15 am to 3:15 pm with no children in the house, no questions to answer, no fights to break up, no snacks to retrieve, no butts to wipe, no tears to brush away, no screen time to monitor. In an attempt to talk me off the ledge, my dear friend A. tells me to think of this newly found extra time as an opportunity (“Just think…you can go to a movie in the middle of the day or have lunch with a friend.”), but I’m having a hard time imagining it as anything but the big, black void I’ve been fearing for 7 years now.
My friend S., who is a professional recruiter and therefore qualified to make such proclamations, tells me I need to write a book. I’ll be honest, I’ve been told before that I give good Facebook, but I’ve never written “officially” unless you count legal briefs. With the first day of the rest of my life looming though, I figure what the hell? I’ve got nothing to lose…right? My first reaction upon setting off on this journey however is, “Oh crap! I need a notebook! And pens!” As someone with a sprinkling of OCD on top of a big dollop of depression, this is a task that could take weeks to complete to my satisfaction. Because I am well-medicated, however (big ups to Dr. A!), I’m able to acknowledge that the risk of not finding just the right pen could derail this whole train before it even leaves the station. So, I make the momentous decision to spew my thoughts into one of those new-fangled home computers that are all the rage these days rather than writing by hand on actual paper that may or may not have the right level of porosity.
So, I decide to start slowly, recording in blog form the incessant rattlings of my childbirth-addled brain beginning with this, The First Day of the Rest of My Life (henceforth to be referred to as “This Day”). This Day begins with a 6:30 am alarm going off in three different bedrooms simultaneously. Biggie is already up reading and immediately shuts hers off. Smalls has never been woken by an alarm a day in her 5 years of life, but is raring to start checking off the items on her “Morning To Do List” which I wrote and she illustrated just the day before.
The Ad Man and I, however, are far less perky after having spent the entire summer waking sometime between 8:30 and 10 am., occasionally yelling out to the girls instructions for operating the television or toaster from our warm bed. I am particularly difficult to rouse due to my 2 hour crying jag the previous day followed by a handful of melatonin with a white wine chaser in order to avoid laying awake for hours imagining my sweet 5 year old lost and crying out to me from somewhere in the bowels (I’m picturing a boiler room) of her new elementary school.
I’m actually feeling quite proud of myself for putting pen to paper (cursor to screen?) since, I’m sure, had I not captured the events of, and my fragile feelings toward, This Day beginning on This actual Day, I would have undoubtedly scrapped the project altogether. Then I would have to add it to my pile of unfinished (i.e., never started) projects like the documentary I never made about our infertility woes and struggle to conceive Biggie because we didn’t start filming with that first negative pee stick.
I know all mothers feel a mix of melancholy and euphoria the day their youngest fledgling finally leaves the nest (at least for 8 hours a day). This Day is particularly significant for me, however because it was never my plan to be here in the first place. My vision for my life with children included either a hunky, but tender stay-at-home dad or well-trained nannies, enriching after-school programs, character-building summer camps and me, blissfully cradled in an Aeron chair in my law office or production company receiving respect, accolades, money by the bushelful and compliments on my chic wardrobe.
Anyway, fast forward past law school, moving to Los Angeles, passing the bar, joining my first law firm and proudly using the obnoxious title “Esquire” after my name. Continue past my years as corporate counsel at a thriving and then failing dot-com where 18 year-olds actually rode around the office on scooters and drank beer in the middle of the day. Speed by the small but scrappy production company where I worked on Important Projects like the one with all the living Nobel Peace Laureates and the obscure but (minor) award-winning documentary about a theater group in Skid Row, Los Angeles made up of homeless and formerly homeless actors and the overall issue of homelessness in America. Whew! And, finally, you will arrive at today, when my to-do list looks like this:
1. Buy groceries
2. Pick up cupcakes (for our annual first-day-of-school celebration)
3. Straighten house (because I was too busy filling out school paperwork, labeling backpacks and sobbing yesterday to do any cleaning and the disarray is making me more crazy than usual)
4. Pick up antidepressants at pharmacy (see above)
6. Mix bread dough and let rest
7. Buy notebook and pens
In the end, This Day wasn’t much to write home about. The morning was a blur of the requisite photos of cute kids posing with spanking clean new backpacks and getting on the school bus, confusion over turning on the Today Show and seeing Matt Lauer and Al Roker instead of Hoda and Kathie Lee, and forcing myself to leave the house though depressed and distracted to hunt and forage for sustenance at the grocery store.
I somehow controlled myself during a few tense moments at said grocery store (“Don’t tell me you’re out of cilantro or I swear to god I will lose my shit right here in the produce aisle!”). I received texts and calls from friends concerned with my well-being (“So. How are you doing?”) and other depressed moms looking to commiserate (“I feel like I will never laugh again.”). I made a list of things I’ve been meaning to, or dreaming that I would, do when I had both girls in school full-time (hence the dough mixing). And, finally, I received back two relatively well-adjusted girls who had a great time in school, loved their teachers, made new friends and couldn’t wait to do it all over again the following day.
As for me…I’m still trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up.