My wife doesn't work. She's a full-time mother. She luxuriates in bed until 6:30 a.m., when our 2-year-old chants, "Mama, Mama!" like some ancient war call, and she trudges into the kitchen with our baby on one shoulder to use her free hand to heat milk.
I stay in my office, writing, procrastinating and checking baseball scores until I need another cup of coffee.
My wife tries to go to the bathroom. Our 2-year-old clings to her knees. Using a bathroom with a 2-year-old on your lap should be a rodeo event.
Our 6-year-old gets up and chirps, "Mama! Mama!" My wife holds our 2-year-old in one arm, our 6-year-old with the other, and heats up more milk with her third hand.
I come into the kitchen for more coffee.
She dresses our daughters. It's like trying to put tuxedo shirts on two squiggling ferrets. My wife walks our daughters 10 blocks to kindergarten, but it takes half an hour because our girls won't step on cracks, stop to look in every window and stomp in every puddle. She has to pull them along like sacks of nails.
When she gets back to our apartment, my wife can finally relax. She does laundry; pays bills; stays on hold with the credit card, Internet and phone companies for 45 minutes because the bill is wrong, while our 2-year-old swings from her neck like a chimp; resets the wireless service; changes diapers and light bulbs; buys food; picks up toys; cleans the fish bowl and hermit crab habitat; organizes closets; cleans what our cat coughs up; schleps to the storage locker; tries to take a shower but can't because our 2-year-old can't find her stuffed dog; picks up our 6-year-old from school and takes her to ballet; makes three meals and innumerable snacks; calls our mothers and sends them photos of their grandchildren; and wipes up milk, water and diaper spills the way Red Adair put out oil fires.
I help by calling my wife a couple of times a day to tell her how busy I am and ask, "Um, darling, can you find my red socks?"
She has four minutes a day to herself and eats only Cheerios that fall on the floor. She works 15 hours a day with no breaks or mandated meals, 365 days a year with no real vacations. Our daughters feel free to cough up and sneeze things into her hands. If Samuel Gompers heard about my wife's working conditions, he'd say, "Organize and fight!"
Instead, she knows that in these times it's a gift to be able to be a full-time mother. You know: just to be home with the kids.