Today is International Women’s Day, and the “Day Without A Woman” strike. A lot has been written already about how this strike is classist and exclusionary. Some women simply cannot afford to lose a day’s worth of income, or risk the loss of their jobs if their employer is not sympathetic. Nonetheless, while the strike is definitely problematic, I agree with its intention. I’ll wear red in solidarity, but that’s about all I can do. My family can’t afford for me to strike from the job of being a mother. If I did that, my husband would not be able to go to work, and we can’t afford for him to miss the hours.
Plus, I don’t want to strike from being a mom. I love my children. Sure, I crave more breaks than I get. Yes, some days I am more engaged than others. There are certainly the days, like yesterday, when I am too exhausted to do much besides set their toys out and lounge nearby while they play. But I’m always a mom, and I don’t want that to change.
I wish all of us women could strike without consequence. I think that the men of this world, and especially the men of the Sith…eh I mean: the Trump administration, could use a really visceral example of what life would be like if we were all just sex puppets who contributed nothing to society but pussies for grabbing. But many of us can’t. My contribution today will have to be a blog post.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at a day without me.
The alarm goes off. Daddy is exhausted. Fairly so: Last week he worked seven days straight as a saute cook in a busy restaurant. Then one of his teeth exploded and he still has not been able to pay to get it corrected, even though it’s now a black pit in his mouth just waiting to get infected. Plus he is father to two kids. And now his damn wife has vaporized.
Daddy hits the snooze button. He figures he and the girls can have five more minutes. Their ride to daycare doesn’t come for another 45 minutes, and they get breakfast there so….all in all, he’s got time to get them dressed.
The alarm goes off again. He turns it off and begins to wake Littlest One, who is sprawled next to him. She whimpers, glances at him through bleary eyes, then rolls onto her tummy. Daddy sighs and thumps his head onto the pillow for a moment.
But a moment’s rest is too great a seduction. Daddy is re-awakened by the telephone ringing.
“Hello?” he answers, though he knows already who it is. He hopes that his voice doesn’t sound like he’s just woken up.
The voice on the other line tell him that they are on their way. The van that picks the girls up for school will be there in seven minutes. Seven minutes, he thinks, that means it’s the Asian girl. She’s always so precise.
Daddy bolts up.
He taps the baby. “Baby girl, time to wake up.” It’s urgent now, no time for games. He opens YouTube on his phone and plays the Strawberry Shortcake theme song. The baby’s eyes fly open. She reaches for the phone.
“Straw-be cake?” she says, wiggling her little fingers toward the screen. Daddy carries her to the living room and leaves her on the couch to gleefully watch an episode of Strawberry Shortcake. Now he has to wake up Older Daughter. And get them both dressed and ready within seven minutes.
When Daddy passes the girls off to the van their clothes are mismatched, only Older Daughter has brushed her teeth, and while their hair is combed, Older Daughter’s is loose and whipping around in the wind because Daddy doesn’t know how to put it in a proper ponytail.
He makes himself a quick breakfast, and then it’s time to get ready to work.
But…then he remembers, he can’t go to work. There won’t be anyone to watch the kids. The girl’s daycare is free, but they get home at 3. He works until 9pm. The average cost of a babysitter where he lives is $3 more than his base pay, and only $4 less than his average pay with tips factored in. If he uses a babysitter after the girls get home, he will be sweating over a hot stove for eight hours to keep $32. And that’s before taxes.
He calls his boss. “My wife disappeared. I can’t come in.”
A long pause. “Your wife disappeared?”
“Yeah, I have no wife. It’s a day without a woman.”
“Just one day? What if she likes it this way. What if she doesn’t come back?”
Now it’s Daddy’s turn to pause. “I don’t even know where she is,” Daddy says. “Where do people go when they vaporize to prove their necessity?”
“I’m a chef Ricardo, not a physicist. You’re on saute today. We need you.”
“I can’t, I’m sorry. There’s no one to watch my girls.”
“Fine. But you have to make up the hours.”
“Thank you Chef,” Daddy says, hating himself for the relief he feels. He shouldn’t have to bow to a boss. He’s 32 years old. He should be his own boss.
“You should shop around for a baby sitter,” the Chef says. Always the one to give unsolicited advice. “Wherever she is, it’s probably restful.” Chef hangs up the phone.
Daddy does some quick calculations in his head. If he hired a baby sitter for every day he worked, he’d keep less than half his rent out of his monthly pay.
He looks around the apartment. If his wife doesn’t come back, he’s going to have to move. To a different city. He sits down. The silence in the apartment is unfamiliar. The mess that surrounds him has its own noise, the noise of games and tantrums and fights and meals not properly washed up. The noise of living. But it’s all echo. Here and now, there is silence. No wife nagging him to take out the trash. No annoying clicking on the keyboard while his wife composes a blog post as he tries to nap. No disgusting open mouth chewing of bagels.
Daddy gathers his pen and notebook, and a couple of books he’s been meaning to read. This is his free day. He finally has the time, and the space, and the silence to pursue himself. He begins to write just that in his notebook…
…and is awakened by the sound of the phone ringing.
“Hello?” he answers, his voice, one again, leaden with sleep.
“We’ll be at your house in eight minutes,” says the voice on the other line.
Eight minutes! Daddy looks at the clock in shock. It’s 2:50. How did he sleep his entire free day away? He puts on his coat and shoes and heads out to wait for the girls, grumbling about the unfair toll kitchen work takes on his body, how he’s sacrificing his mind for his family, how nobody seems to notice or care.
“Why don’t you say anything?” he demands of his wife. And then he realizes, Mama’s gone. That’s right. It’s the day without a woman. No one to listen to his complaints. No to comfort him. No one to blame.
The girls arrive. They are delighted to see Daddy, who is usually at work when they get home. He feels a thrill as they each jump into his arms. There is a joy in carrying them inside, one in each arm. He is glad to be home for them.
The older one immediately runs into the corner to poop. The littlest begins asking for mama, over and over.
“She’s not here,” he says. “Not here.” But she won’t listen. She begins to cry, her face crumpling into a heart-wrenching pout.
“Bottle?” he offers.
“No!” she says, still crying, swiping away the bottle he’s holding out to her.
“I want a bottle!” the oldest yells. The warm scent of fresh poop is beginning to drift from her room.
Daddy cleans the bottles, fills them with soymilk, and hands them out. Littlest accepts it begrudgingly. As he changes the older one’s diaper, Littlest pulls the big, clunky movie box from below the TV, pushes away the lid, and begins rifling through the movies. When she finds something she likes, she holds it up. Her big sister, watching from the floor where she is being cleaned, shouts no.
They fight over the DVDs until Daddy finally picks something he knows they’ll both like. This time it’s Dora. That will buy him an hour. But the girls are too excited to be home, too excited to see Daddy. They watch and dance to Dora, but they also jump on Daddy until he is no longer able to lay on the couch, and pester him with questions about Mama, and soil their diapers, and demand snacks, and throw those snacks all over the floor, and get into the toys Mama carefully arranged on their shelves the night before, when she was still home to keep house, at least somewhat.
This is how every day goes, except now it’s Daddy in charge, not Mama.
By the time dinner time arrives, the apartment, which was already a terrible mess, is trashed. None of the toys have been put away, so there are crayons and Duplos and toy food sprawled across their play area and beyond.
Daddy opts for something simple: grilled cheese sandwiches. He is pleased to watch the girls devour them, the gooey cheese sticking to their fingers in delightful, lickable blobs. Mama would have probably made some vegetable laden dish that only Littlest One would eat. She probably would have spent all of dinner coaxing Older Daughter to eat, and in the end only have gotten two bites out of her anyway. But tonight, both girls go to bed with their tummies full.
Bath time goes smoothly. That’s a relief. Daddy doesn’t know where the pajamas are, so he creates some makeshift ones out of their regular clothes. It doesn’t really matter, as long as the girls are comfortable and warm. Older daughter reminds him that they need to brush teeth. He takes them to the bathroom, and when it’s all done, he tucks Older Daughter in bed with her bottle, binkie and blankie. Kisses her goodnight, turns on her heater and night-lite, and closes the door.
“Goodnight Daddy, I love you,” he hears her say, her voice already sleepy.
Older Daughter: Check.
Littlest One…Littlest One?!
Littlest One is missing.
He calls for her, begins looking around the apartment. Where could she have gone? It’s not big enough for her to get lost. Did she disappear like Mama?
He hears the front doorknob rattle. He finds Littlest One there, clutching her blankie, arm extended as far as possible, up on her tippy toes, trying to open the door. When she hears him, she turns her head
“Mama?” she asks.
Daddy picks her up. She stiffens her body and begins to smack at Daddy’s face and arms.
“Mama!” she cries. “Mama!” Fat tears roll down her cheeks. The cries for mama become cries for “tete.” It’s still only Mama who can put Littlest One to bed. Even though she produces barely, if any, milk anymore, Littlest needs her tete to fall asleep.
Littlest wriggles from Daddy’s arms. She throws herself to the floor, rolls onto her tummy and screams like she’s being murdered.
Daddy hears the neighbors moving upstairs.
“Ssshhh,” he coos, rubbing and patting her back.
“No,” she wails. “Mama.”
Daddy considers his options. She won’t let him hold her, not when only Mama will do. He can let her lie on the ground and scream until the neighbors call the police. Or he can placate her with a movie.
He opts for option two, and loads up “Max and Ruby.” Littlest lets a few more stubborn tears roll down her cheeks, then settles into her kid-sized Dora couch.
Older Daughter hadn’t yet fallen asleep. Hearing the television, she comes out too.
“No, you can’t be out here,” Daddy hisses.
Older Daughter gives him a look like “you’re not making me go to bed if she gets to stay up.”
She crawls into his lap and lays on top of him. He covers them both in a blanket. The clock ticks the minutes away as bedtime passes further and further into the past.
At some point, the three of them fall asleep out there in the living room, watching the TV. Daddy is awakened by the Max and Ruby theme song looping from the DVD menu. He carefully carries Older Daughter to her bed.
Littlest One whimpers as he tries to move her. She grabs at his chest, trying to find the breasts that aren’t there. Her whimpers accelerate into cries. But he is prepared this time, he slips a bottle into her hands and though she cries and struggles against it for a few moments, she finally fits the nipple into her mouth and drifts off to sleep.
Daddy wants to sleep too. But he saw the clock before he put the girls in their beds. It’s past midnight, and still no Mama. He clicks the computer on. Before the screen brightens, he sees the reflection of his stress-lined face. His eyes are dull with exhaustion. Something inside of him is breaking down. He blinks past the fatigue and the crazy and the overwhelming confusion, and loads craigslist. There has to be one job, one miracle job somewhere, that will let him work between 9am and 2pm, the only hours left to him in a world without Mama.
Some of my favorite books by women, available on Amazon:
Women are an invaluable part of our society. Don’t believe me? Check out this list of women’s awesome contributions to the world. Whether you realize it or not, your life would suffer without women. Before any of you guys reading this get huffy, yes, men are important too! “A Day Without A Daddy” would have started with my daughters and I waking up in a homeless shelter. But men, as a whole, have priveledge. Men grow up assuming their own power. Women have to learn, and earn it. We are treated with disdain, judgment, and violence. Whether it’s catcalling or outright rape, every woman I know has experienced some form of sexual violence. We get paid less in the workplace, and nothing for the work of homemaking. Oftentimes, our duties as mothers are regarded as just that: duties, which deserve no reward.
Today, whether or not she shows you her value by striking, take a moment to show the woman or women in your life what they mean to you. And I don’t mean buy her something. I mean do something. Find out her to-do list and take care of an item or two, or all. Write her a poem. Give her a foot massage. Make certain she knows you value her contribution to your life, and the world. If you do buy something, do it from one of these women and minority owned businesses.
Is there a woman in your life who you want to thank? Give her a shout out in the comments and tell her exactly why she is valuable. I’ll check back and add any women tagged to the post body! Seriously, it feels indescribably wonderful to be appreciated.
SHOUT OUT to Peggy, who is the wonderful mama to Vicki Rogers Wilkinson of my favorite children’s book review blog Babies to Bookworms. Vicki says “My mom is the most amazing woman I have ever met! She inspires me to be better every day!” You are loved Peggy!
SHOUT OUT to Melissa’s great grandmother. Melissa runs the blog Disco Bumblebee, and says, “I have my great grandmother to thank for being a strong woman in my life. She taught me to be strong and to use my words to write about my emotions. So grateful for her!”