Most days, I do not need to race out my apartment door. This is cool, for sure, but also terrifying. Once Sly finally murmurs, “Bye bye, Dada,” four times after his Dada has left, I look at the oven clock, shudder, and then say in a goofy voice - to undercut my palpable fear - “Jeez Louise, it’s 7:55! Can you believe it?” If I really go there with the voice, get as Carol Burnett as I’m capable of getting, Sly laughs. Otherwise, he stares at me with pity, yanks apart the Velcro on one of his wooden fruits and flings the pieces onto the hardwood floor.
I see the playroom (/living room/family room/dining room) rug beneath me and all of the books we’ve already read or half-read, the toys with which we’ve sort of played. I see my reflection in the black screen of the TV. I wrap my hair up into a bun and see that my son is holding my hair tie. I think the words, “What do we do now?”
At this time of day, before my son’s first nap, there are no classes or mom’s groups, and the playground feels a country away (and looks like a post-apocalyptic hell-patch), and there isn’t time to get anything substantial done, like chopping dinner vegetables or getting a grip on my purpose in life.
And yet, there is still SO MUCH time.
It all feels very poetic, like the beginning of an indie film about a shy but sometimes funny mother who is finding herself, except that the film would cut away after a few seconds of reflection staring. For me, there is no cut away, just the realization that I have to pee and peeing only takes about a minute and we have so many more minutes to fill.
I’ve always liked the sound of other people’s voices, I just particularly like them when they aren’t addressing me. Listening to someone else’s conversations is a delight and a relief for a person with hermetic tendencies as strong as mine. And as it turns out, motherhood in winter rewards the hermetic! You want to hide from most of humankind for a good portion of your day? You want to stay in for the night starting around 5:30 pm? Have a child! A child will provide a shit ton of reasons to do all these things, and more! These sound like jokes because I’m using exclamation points, but, in fact, I really do find this part of motherhood lovely or at least very tolerable about 75% of time. (More on the remaining 25% of the time in another post.) That said, I don’t want to eavesdrop (if I could choose my superpower, it would be either volume or flight, NOT invisibility, which I mastered 20 years ago during the horror show that was puberty). And therein lies the mutually beneficial beauty of the mom podcast.
I listen not only to the week’s most recent episode. I listen to old episodes that I haven’t heard yet and sometimes to an episode that I HAVE heard before, on purpose. I do this a lot. I repeat listen a lot. I’m mortified to admit this because it highlights an obsessive quality of my personality that I could kind of pretend wasn’t there before I had a kid. But, come on, most mom podcasts are only posted once a week so WHAT THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO DO ON THOSE OTHER DAYS?
Every single thing they say is fascinating to me at this moment, in my pitch dark parenting burrow. But it isn’t just the content that’s hooked me, it’s the humanness. The voices of these podcast hosts have become so familiar, I feel the urge to say hi to them every time a show starts in the same sweetly futile way my son says hi to the the least interested, most stone-faced strangers on the street and in our subway car. These other mother’s voices, mothers I don’t ever see in person, populate our two bedroom apartment like friends I’ve invited up. And sometimes the mom guests on a particular week’s episode totally click with the host and it’s magical to witness or it’s like an inside joke and makes me uncomfortable and jealous. Or, the guest doesn’t gel at all with the host and they stumble into these bumpy little impasses and I feel the disconnect, I feel like I have to protect Sly from the disconnect by laughing really loudly at the things the host and guest are saying to demonstrate empathy. In these moments, I say to myself, OK, it’s OK, they’ll find each other again, they’ll get there! But - and this is going to be cheesy, so commence cringing now - I love all of it.
Now, please don’t get worried that this cold weather isolation has turned me into someone whose entire calendar is composed of podcasts. This is (mostly) not the case. I go to an awesome real life mom’s group, I schedule playdates like it’s my job, and I go out with my friends who don’t have kids (or at least, we make plans and sometimes things actually pan out). But none of that stuff can happen at 8 in the morning. And even if it could, it would NOT involve 60 plus minutes of uninterrupted candid back and forth TALKING about the glorious swampland that is taking care of a human to whom you are related.
These days, uninterrupted conversations are nearly impossible to sustain when there’s a baby in the room. The brilliance of the mom podcast is that someone like me, someone who, in spite of her stamina for large hunks of time alone with her kid, needs at least a solid whiff of soulful, funny, odd, and SUSTAINED conversation between two people without having to hire a babysitter or bear the weather or open my heart, in earnest, to the wooden bus driver lady who sits in the front of my son’s wooden play bus. Mothering is lonely, even for introverts. I think listening to a couple of moms talk about their lives, especially the quiet, unseen, quotidian parts of their lives as moms, is a reminder that these moments matter. These moments are kind of everything. And anyone can have them, kid not required. Kids and babies are just great facilitators of small moments because that is their currency. And, this winter especially, I’ve needed help justifying why it is also mine. Maybe soon I won’t need a podcast to do that.
Though I doubt it.