Monday, May 12, 2008

The Best Mother's Day Gift a Working Mom Could Get

Time, of course, is high on the wish list for any working mother: time for herself, time to sleep, time to work uninterrupted, time to play with her kids, time to get it all done. But since you can't really gift-wrap time, my husband found the next best thing to give me this year: a chance to find balance.

My home office is tucked into a little alcove near our master bedroom, a gap between my closet and my husband’s, just wide enough for a small desk pushed up against the window. My dinosaur of a computer takes up most of the space under the desk (seriously, the computer is older than three out of our five children — my Palm Pilot has more memory), and my behemoth of a monitor eats up most of the desk top. When I need to scan or print something, I have to rearrange components and put the printer on the floor.

I used to have a proper home office, back when we first bought the house, before our youngest two were born. That room became the nursery. I moved my large desk into a corner of the guest room and took over most of the closet with my file cabinets and, um, crap; then we turned the guest room into our oldest daughter’s bedroom, and I downsized my workspace in order to cram it into that alcove.

I spend a couple or four hours there every night after the little kids are in bed — which is usually about two hours after I get home from my regular full-time job. My at-home nook is quiet, and the window is nice (plenty of natural, um, moonlight, I guess). I was pleased with it for a while — and then our big kids came up for an extended visit and there I was, upstairs, in solitary, shackled to my clunky desktop and my workload when I desperately wanted to be downstairs with them.

Our big kids are not with us full-time, which makes every moment we can be together precious. So it kills me to have my work eat into my time with them, even though they understand that work is work and I have to earn enough to pay the bills.

I try not to complain — OK, that’s a lie. I don’t like to complain, but of course I do — I’m not a saint.
My husband might be, though. He’s the one who listens to me ranting about my outdated computer and talking about how tired I am because I can only really work at home after the little ones are in bed and lamenting about how it’s hard enough to be a step mom, having to work alone upstairs instead of being able to hang out with our big kids just makes me feel so much worse.

What qualifies him for sainthood? He listened. For months and months. And then he did something about it. He bought me a Mother’s Day (and my next birthday and, I think, Christmas 2008) present that I was far too cheap to buy for myself.

A laptop.

He was frugal about it — he knows that, given the way money is right now, if he bought a shiny blessed Mac PowerBook for me new I’d take it right back (after thanking him, of course). So it’s refurbished, but did I mention that it was shiny and blessed? (And, Mir, I think you may be right — once you go Mac, you never go back.)

And while this present is, indeed, a perfect gift for a busy working mother, it’s not THE perfect gift. But I got that, too.

The perfect gift for a working mother is a chance to find better balance — and a partner who understands how important that is.

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