Every night after I’ve tucked in my boys, said goodnight, and walked downstairs, I am faced with a choice. Will I spend my evening being lazy or being efficient? Ninety percent of the time, I choose laziness – and I don’t feel one bit guilty about it. I usually put on the kettle, make myself a cup of herbal tea, and dig around in the kitchen for some dessert in the form of cookies or ice cream or both together. Then I curl up on the sofa with a book and remain there for the next two hours, existing in another world altogether. If I’m feeling unusually alert, I write at my computer or scribble ideas for posts in a notebook. Sometimes I make phone calls to distant friends or write a hand-written letter to a few special people. Often I turn up the music loudly, from sad Leonard Cohen to danceable Afro-Latin beats, and let the sounds fill my mind. After all, this is my time, and I don’t want to fill it with anything that I could do when the kids are awake.
There are, of course, the necessary battles to fight with my oldest son, who insists he doesn’t want to go to sleep at 7 p.m. – admittedly hard in the summer when it’s still broad daylight, despite the dark blinds on his window. He gets up, tiptoeing downstairs and startling me in my solitude. I may hear a cackle or barely-creaking floorboards as indicators that he’s there, and then his little face will pop around the corner with a mischievous grin: “Ha!” he shouts. “Sweetheart, please get back upstairs to bed.” His smile melts and he starts to whine, “But Mama, I don’t want to go to bed.” “I know you don’t want to, but this is Mommy and Daddy’s alone time. You can think, or tell stories, or sing songs, or play with your animals, but you must stay in bed.” If he’s particularly belligerent, I escort him upstairs, kindly but firmly insisting that he stay in bed. Sometimes I feel doubtful, wondering if I’m being too harsh, but then I recall the countless hours I spent lying in bed as a child. In the frenzy that is life today, there are few opportunities to be still and think; even I struggle to find those moments. I’m sure he’ll survive.
And then there are the rare evenings when I choose efficiency, knowing I can clean far better and faster without two little people mucking around beside me. That’s when I decide to take action against the piles of laundry – dirty, clean, wet, dry, folded, unfolded, waiting to be ironed – and the floor that needs to be washed (again!), and the bathroom whose state of dishevelment is, by then, a source of embarrassment. Those evenings always surprise me. I am reluctant, almost resentful toward the house that continually tends toward entropy and whose care is keeping me away from my book. But soon I get into it, moving efficiently through the tasks that have been bugging me for far too long. In the end, I am impressed by the difference made in an hour and collapse on the sofa, happy, to rejoin my book.
When Jason gets home from the gym, he sits beside me, pulls my feet onto his lap for a massage, and we talk about the day. I propose whatever recent harebrained scheme I’ve concocted. He’s learned that I’m full of ideas, from the sensible to the absurd, but most don’t amount to anything. Sometimes we watch a movie or he tells me stories about something he heard at work, or remembers from childhood, or read online. He recounts funny episodes of The Simpsons and Seinfeld (both shows I’d never seen before meeting him) and I tell him about the kids’ amusing antics.
These evenings are wonderfully restorative for me. They end far too soon when I look at the clock and realize I should be getting to bed if I hope to get up at 5:30 a.m. But then I know it’s only another 21 hours before I’ll have another evening to myself, most likely spent in a glorious state of guilt-free laziness. As Longfellow writes in his poem Voices of the Night:
Peace! Peace! Orestes-like I breathe this prayer!
Descend with broad-winged flight,
The welcome, the thrice-prayed for, the most fair,
The best-beloved Night!