The cursor blinked on the white page. I blinked back.
Attn: Human Resources…
I typed the address mindlessly. Why was I typing the address? HR knows their own address. But I had to type something.
To whom it may concern…
A lump formed in my throat. Stop it! You’ve known this was coming for six weeks. Quit being a clown. But it didn’t work. The lump traveled to my tear ducts and through misty eyes I hammered out the conclusion of my career:
“Effective October 27, 2015, please accept my resignation from this position…”
It would be different if it had been just a job. But it wasn’t. For five years I’d worked and hoped and dreamed and proposed. From age 20, my goal had been to find a career that I could take home with me once I had my first baby. By 25, I’d achieved that goal – and here I was, signing it away.
Some women might look on from the outside, or from the perspective of more years at home, and consider this level of emotion a waste – after all, it’s over a job. But many women struggle with these same emotions during the work-to-home transition, especially in a culture constantly demanding justification for what exactly you do all day without a job.
The printer screeched, reluctantly eaking out the letter I’d typed. I stared at it, pen in hand. Well, this is it. In bold strokes I signed off on the labor of five years, and with a shaky hand signed on to full-time motherhood, no Plan B.
Never before have I had so much freedom in my schedule. For ten years my life has been guided by some kind of shift – 7-3, 5-11, 12-9, 8-5. Now I am 24/7, but I get to decide exactly how those twenty-four hours are spent, all seven days of the week. It is somewhat exhilarating. Granted, my freedom is dictated in part by Adeline’s feeding schedule, but for the most part I can choose what to do each day apart from the dictates of a standard work schedule. What a foreign feeling!
Since Josh and I have been living in Pennsylvania now seven weeks, I was overdue to get my Pennsylvania license. Going to PennDot (the PA equivalent of a DMV) is an event in and of itself. You don’t just go to PennDot or the DMV. You arrange your entire day around it.
Once you have children, I’ve discovered, you are very rarely alone. I faintly remember my own mother muttering something about this concept, usually shortly after I’d hammered on her bathroom door, but it didn’t seem relevant at the time. But while alone time is precious, I didn’t picture my first unadulterated span of singular hours spent on a gray plastic chair in the gray plastic world of a government facility. But that is how it happened.
Josh and I briefly entertained the idea of going together – it was a Saturday and we could make it a family affair – Adeline’s first homeschool field trip, if you will. We decided against it at the last minute. “It will be good for you to be alone,” Josh said. “You’ll get a break from the baby.” Excited at the prospect of what I deemed a “getaway”, I took him up on the offer. Two hours later I couldn’t feel my rear end and had taken on the scent of my neighbor, who smelled like the Marlboro Man himself. I was awkwardly seated right below the licensing forms, continually barraged with a flurry of “excuse me’s” and “pardon me’s” as I stared into the belt buckle of whoever was reaching above my head. And at my two hour wait time, I was lucky – I beat the rush.
Let’s just talk about the DMV for a minute. There is no better way to get a true glimpse of human nature than to stand in a line for 2-3 hours in a government facility. The entire process is a study in frustration: bring every form of identification you possess to a grumpy woman with a bad dye job, let her kick you out of line for missing a spot on Form A-1022KyXZ, and bring a check, because – it’s the government. After two or three go-arounds with Uncle Sam, you’ll get smart and bring a binder labeled “My Life On Paper” and hand Ursula everything short of your firstborn child to avoid being kicked out for forgetting your birth certificate. Then you’ll be handed a ticket with a call time eight hours in the future, the duration of which finds you seated next to persons emitting a cornucopia of smells, usually ranging from White Diamonds to old cheese.
I’d arrived early and had a prime seat with a full view of the growing line. What had started at five deep was now winding into the parking lot like anaconda of angry patrons, every face expressing the same sentiment: I can’t believe I’m spending my Saturday here. I glanced down at my ticket number. As if I’d needed confirmation concerning who runs government facilities, my ticket number was 666. On Halloween.
The monotone voice of the automated roll-call read off each number with painful enunciation: “Now serving A089 at counter three. Now serving C643 at counter seven…” I thanked myself for having the foresight to bring coffee, then kicked myself as my jeans made a bathroom more necessary by the minute. I was in an awkward position: forced to choose between a post partum muffin top and a squished bladder. I sacrificed my bladder on the altar of my pride, meanwhile swearing to never again wear pre-pregnancy jeans anywhere that required sitting more than ten consecutive minutes.
Time ticked by. I cancelled my Fabletics membership. I called my 401k company. I wrote a grocery list. I brought myself up to date on the Facebook friends I didn’t know I still had. And I received further confirmation, due to my proximity to the line, that leggings are not pants.
Finally, the robotic woman called my number and I tottered stiffly to counter six.
“Antichrist, here for a new license.” I slapped my number on the counter.
The man chuckled. “Well, it IS Halloween.”
I handed him my pile of papers.
“Here’s evidence that I am who I say I am. Two forms of identification – you all need my old license… Do Pennsylvanians let you smile in the picture? Because Virginia doesn’t, and I thought they did, so I ended up with this weird half-smirk last time -”
“You can smile.”
“Alright, here’s your ticket back.” He stamped and scanned and piled the papers back together. “You’ll need to wait a few more minutes for your photo. Sorry about that.”
I shuffled back to the lobby and glared at the plastic chairs. I could feel my rear end getting flatter at the sight of them. But good news! They don’t take a picture of that for your license. Looking around the building, I considered this good news indeed.
Another hour later I emerged, licensed and legal, gasping for air devoid of smoke and alcohol. I glanced at my phone – twelve o’clock. Perfect timing to get home. I jumped in our SUV and turned the key – nothing. I tried again. No lights, no sound, not even a check engine light to blink affectionately from the dash. After a few more futile attempts, I called Josh.
“The car won’t start.”
“Won’t start? Is it lighting up?”
“No, it’s completely dead. This WOULD happen when I take it. I’m always worried it won’t start when I drive it, but you had it all week and it was FINE!”
“Why’d you take it then?”
“So you’d have a car seat! Good thing, too, because you need to rescue me.”
“Okay. I think I have jumper cables, we will be there soon.”
I hung up and sighed. Josh and I own two identical Hyundai Santa Fe SUVs. This one had starter issues, issues we had ignored since the car typically started on the third try. Well, luck ran out and here I was: stranded between PennDot and Sherwin Williams. This PennDot was thirty minutes away from home. I’d chosen it because it was rumored to be more efficient. How ironic. I scanned the parking lot for a nail salon to make this “alone time” worthwhile, but no luck. I settled for Subway.
Forty-five minutes later Josh pulled up.
“The baby is hungry,” His voice was tinged with exasperation. “She was really crabby in Walmart, I had to go buy jumper cables.” I got in the back seat and sure enough, Adeline looked like a beet with legs.
“Shhh, shhh, here we go baby! I know you’re hungry.” I had no time for the nursing cover, so I pulled her out of the car seat and worked through the four layers I had ingeniously dressed myself in that morning. At that moment, the dead Hyundai became a topic of public interest to everyone in the parking lot. Spectators had gathered at the front of the car, a bird’s eye view into the backseat where I was juggling boobs and babies. How nice.
“You know ya shouldn’t rev the engine when you’re chargin’ it,” One of the men offered.
“Is that so?” Josh replied, bent under the hood.
“Yeah, just let ‘er trickle in, much more effective.”
“Okay, thanks.” Josh is always polite to strangers. I, on the other hand, was wishing our tinted windows were drug-dealer dark at the moment.
It took another thirty minutes but the car was jumped and I fumbled everything back into one piece to drive home. Stumbling through the door after my restful morning “alone”, nursing and diapers and even the “medieval torture device” (aka breast pump) didn’t seem quite so inconvenient. My new schedule, dictated by feed-wake-sleep, full of five minute showers and my new game of “how much can I get done in 45 minutes” – I found myself appreciating it much more. There’s something about leaving the DMV that gives you a whole new sense of freedom.
“Alone time is overrated.” I told Adeline. She smiled in her sleep, and I’m pretty sure she agreed.