The Work of Real Life

I wrote this,  like two weeks ago? I dunno. I didn't post it because I've been a bit mired in the banal and unimportant doldrums of life. That and sickness. Anyway, today I'm feeling quite productive. I might actually be back on form? Three weeks plus after getting back home? Question mark? So, here you go, a overly earnest blog post like is my speciality. 


It’s hard work, coming back to real life. I’ve been away from it all for a few weeks. When you’re on holiday, the minutia and tedium of the everyday recedes into the background for a while. Diapers and hairbrushes, limit testing and tantrums, and the frazzled race of getting out the door in time for school, it all fades when I’m away from my kids. 

I had this time and space to be a human without the responsibilities of wiping bottoms, enforcing bedtimes, negotiating over candy allowance, soothing hurt feelings and bonked heads, worrying for another person’s moral development and psychic wellbeing. I had time to reflect and centre and think about what matters to me. 

That is a great gift, you know. That time to think about what matters and who you are beyond a meal maker, a limit setter, and a diaper changer, that time is precious. And having a week of it, uninterrupted, feels like a drug almost.  

And then, all of a sudden, I’m back in my messy apartment, where the kids have written in Sharpie on the walls, and the children’s room is a mess, there’s dinner to sort and food on the floor and noooooooo I DON’T LIKE THAT and heeeeeey GIVE IT BACK, smack, HE HIT ME,  and no, I won’t let you call me names, slam, YOU ARE A BAD MUMMY, and the laundry and the laundry and the laundry.

And then there’s that little thing of homesickness. Being back in the western world reminds me of what I miss: both those various and sundry trivialities (heirloom beans! corn tortillas! sidewalks! climbing frames!) and matters more significant, like a functioning social contract and a more equitable class structure.  

While I was away, every second though in my mind was, this is incredible, my life is amazing, I can’t believe how great everything is. 

And that is true. My life is amazing. Most of the time. I have so much privilege, so much luck. Sharpies scribbles or no, we have a house to live in, food to eat, enough money to have fun, and healthy children. But there are other things that are difficult, and no matter how great the big picture is, small hard things are still hard. And stepping back into real life does take real work. 

I think the thing is, well, the thing for me is, that while I’m out exploring both with kids and without, I feel fairly competent and capable of being a human in the world. Airports and train stations are my habitat. It’s easy to feel like an actual grownup when you just need to get from A to B and you don’t really need to worry about cooking dinner or cleaning up messes. Everyone is on vacation time and vacation mentality, so tempers are blithe and no one needs to worry about punctuality. 

Then, back in real life, I’m confronted with the fact that I don’t really know how to keep a tidy and organised home, and my kids won’t eat heirloom beans and corn tortillas, and for me, most significant, the assault of temper tantrums and miscellaneous issues in discipline make me question my competence and my ability to actually be a human in this world of adult people who know stuff and can do things. You know?

Anyway, so, I guess the real work of settling back into real life is remembering, despite all the difficulties and laundry and lack of corn tortillas, that actually yes,  my life is pretty great, and it may not look like the life I would have had if I had stayed in North America. But still, it is great. And I did fill my suitcase with corn tortillas. And so what if my kids won’t eat them: more for me.