Summer is waning. The State Fair started last week, always a harbinger of autumn. School is starting, people are taking their last vacations before gearing up for work again, and the lazy August days will soon turn into crisp September. This is usually my favorite time of year. I love autumn, from the smell and sounds of falling leaves, to the bustle and energy of kids waiting at the bus stop. For me, autumn has always been the true “new year” – a time of promise and potential, eagerness to dig back into the year’s projects after a good summer’s rest and relaxation. Coming from an academic family (my parents are college professors) and being something of a professional student myself, I’ve never lost the sense of the new school year as a time of energy and excitement.
Except this year, the imminent season change seems to be having the opposite effect. I’ve been in a pretty rotten mental place the last week or so: instead of feeling invigorated at the prospect of a busy fall season, I’ve been almost dreading it. It seems like everyone else is recharged and ready to get moving, while I’m … chargeless. Without charge. Adrift in a charge-free sea. I told Mr. Squab last night that I feel like I don’t have anything to look forward to.
On the face of it, this is ridiculous, not to mention most unlike me. I have plenty of things going on in the coming months: assisting with my theatre company’s annual fundraiser, being a bridesmaid at my brother’s wedding, finishing the revisions on my dissertation. And I’m a person who’s hardly ever bored. I always have some kind of project going on, or if I don’t I invent something: sewing, cooking, reading, blogging – these are all things I love to do and would love to have more time for. And yet: I feel like I’m stagnating, while everyone around me is moving forward.
Is this the dark side of stay-at-home parenthood? That might be some of it, at least to the extent that I no longer have the structure of outside work to push me in new directions. I love being a full time mom to the Hatchling, not just philosophically but actually love it. But staying home with her, it’s all too easy to do just that: stay home. Without the pressures of a external job, it’s easy for me to be lazy about getting out of the house and connecting with people, even though I know I need those connections to avoid feeling isolated and lonely. In the past year, the baby was new enough and I had enough friends in similar situations to feel fulfilled, like part of a community. But the Hatchling’s growing independence from me, while a good thing for both of us developmentally, has also left me feeling a bit at loose ends, just at the time that my friends and family are all getting busy again with new fall projects. I feel like there’s a small five-year-old child inside me, stamping her feet and yelling “there’s nobody to PLAY with!”
Some of it, too, is dissertation/career fatigue. Having finally finished a complete draft, you’d think I’d be raring to go, but instead I just feel lethargic. I still have so many edits to complete, and it’s difficult to maintain – or even create – a regular writing schedule with a one-year-old around. And even once I finish, which I will do this year, dammit, it’s not like there’s any immediate career or lifestyle reward. I need to publish more, perhaps line up some adjuncting, and get back into the swing of the discipline if I really want to be an attractive candidate for any academic jobs. All of which takes energy that I don’t have right now, and what the hell’s the point, anyway? It’s not like there are hordes of teaching jobs out there, so doing a real search would mean being prepared to move somewhere else, which I’m not sure we’re ready to do yet. Not to mention, we want to have another kid sometime in the next year and a half, which makes planning any other major life changes tricky.
So I’m disgruntled. It will pass, I’m sure. I’m working this week on creating some kind of structured schedule for myself for writing and other projects. The Hatchling and I just got accepted into a weekly parent/child education class, so that will get us out of the house and meeting new people. And life will go on, like it does, and things will happen to keep us happy and occupied. I just hope I get my gruntlement back in short order, because the lack of it? Is for the birds.