A couple of days ago I had a divine moment. No, I did not play God by seperateing the waters or igniting a bush. I would surely deserve it to be called God, though, as I am able to produce a perfect human being merely out of ejaculate. God himself needed clay for that, isn’t that something? I‘d really like to see God spending one day in my family. He would go straight back to heaven and start his emergency 7-day relaxation and recovering programme – 7 God-days that is.
However, relaxation is a good point. My divine moment was a moment of heavenly quietude (imagine God lying on a cloud with noise-cancelling headphones). I was sitting with my three children at a café of a museum feeling happy that I had made it to an exhibition and even had been able to read some of the explanatory texts to the art pieces. We had pie, pancake and lemonade and all of a sudden, for a few seconds, it was quiet. Everything was still. I could see myself sitting there, and at the same time felt myself sitting there, and I observed my eating children and the people around me, looked at the green vase and the striped wallpaper. Everything had its place, nothing needed to be different or somewhere else – not even me. I had found a tiny marble of perfection. The moment went by and I realised with a pang that I hadn’t experienced such a moment of balanced beauty, perfection and clarity for a long, long time. I was shocked. I felt like the people in Plato’s cave analogy who, when they are unbound and brought to light, see for the first time how limited their perception had been.
I started thinking why God – I use this name without calling upon any particular religion – had given me this perfect little marble in this moment and why I hadn’t received this gift earlier. When I was a child the world had been full of marbles, they came in abundance, and they were such a matter of fact that I couldn’t actually see them. I lived in a constant flow until I was nine or ten years old. Astrid Lindgren once said when questioned about her childhood: „We‘ve played and played and played, for hours, for days. It is a miracle that our playing didn’t kill us.“ In retrospect I feel the same. We played and didn’t think of yesterday or tommorrow, we were one with the moment, and if we had died then, we wouldn’t have mourned about it. When I was on the verge of adulthood there were lesser marbles, but the difference was, that now I was able to see them, which was even better than living permanently in flow without knowing. Some of these marbles I carry with me in my pocket all the time.
So, why had my life been void of marbles for such a long time. The truth is simple and sad, as often. This moment of inner peace and beauty came to me because I was able to stop and let go. I didn’t need to do anything! Not being careful, not picking up something, not wiping, not listening, not answering, not scolding, not praising, not fearing, not needing to go somewhere, not fetching anyone. I could simply sit and literally do nothing. In order to recognise a moment of beauty and feel complete, I realised, three things are needed: calmness, an absence of needs and – freedom. My life is scarce of these things – freedom I have none.
Since I have been a mother of more than one with a job my life feels like a tunnel where the recommended speed is 90 mph. If you’re cynical you could say now: „You didn’t need to get so many children. You know, there’s birth control.“ But I think this is not my individual problem, that’s taking the easy way out. I think in our society one does not need to have children to feel that life’s a tunnel with no space to stop or even escape routes. Having children simply catalyses the problem. Children are not the problem, at least not all the time, dear readers without children. Of course, children are loud, unnerving, and you can’t turn them off when you’ve had enough. It is a really hard job to raise them to become social, compassionate and considerate people. If you take this job seriously there is not much time for hedonistic free time activity. I do not want to be misunderstood here: I am grateful for this anti-ego-trip, it is has made me a better human being. The problem is, I think, the way our society and economy work. Living in this systems is like running a race where the bystanders don’t cheer but shout: It’s not enough, push harder! Nothing you do is ever good enough, no matter for which way of living you decide. Balancing work, life, and love means living with the constant feeling of coming short or missing out. In the following drama in four acts I will try to illustrate my point for you.
Act I: The apartment, the night before Monday.
Scene 1: 5:30am. Entering Child C shouting.
Child C: Mummy. Mummy. Muummyyyy!
Mummy: OK, OK. I’m coming. Come, dear, you can sleep in our bed.
Mummy looks at the clock, sighs, pushes the child off of her face where it went back to sleep.
Scene 2 5:40am. BEEP, BEEP, BEEP. Daddy’s alarm clock sounds.
Daddy: Urgh, sigh. Oh well, duty is calling.
6:10am. Daddy leaves the house. The door is clapping.
Mummy, mumbling: Just a little more sleep, 20 minutes, only 20 minutes, please!
6:30am. BEEP BEEP BEEP.
Child C: Mummy, hungry.
Mummy: All right. Wait a second. We have to wake up Child A and Child B, OK?
Mummy caresses Child A, Child C is kicking and boxing on her arm.
Mummy: Child A, time to wake up.
Child A: Nooo, don’t want to. It is so dark and cold outside the bed.
Mummy at Child B’s bed, patting its back: Child B, get up, out of bed now.
Child B presses its eye lids shut and fakes to be fast asleep.
Child C: Hungry!
Mummy going tot he kitchen: OK, now I can prepare your breakfast. What do you want? Toast with cream cheese? No?! Apple?! Cereals? No?!
Child B, suddenly woken up from deep sleep: Mummy, can you make me a taost with chocolatechips and chocolate cream?
Mummy: Damn it!
Child C: Choclit, Choclit.
Mummy: All right, but only today as an exception.
Child A, coming to the kitchen: You never made me chocolate toast for breakfast in primary school.
Mummy stays quiet, prepares the chocolate toasts and puts them on plates for everyone. Everyone is in the kitchen now. Mummy goes to the bathroom, wahes herself, brushes her teeth, gets dressed, goes back to the kitchen, prepares school lunches and fills up water bottles for the children.
Mummy: Can anyone watch Child C? It almost fell off its chair yesterday.
Child A: Yeah, yeah.
Scene 3: SMS from Daddy on Mummy’s mobile.
Tracks are obstructed because of leaves. Will be at work 2 hours late. I have to work longer hours in the next days to balance my negative record. So sorry. I kiss you.
Mummy: Fuck. There’s a parents‘ meeting at school in the evening. What do it do now? I have to ask the neighbour if I can leave the children with her. Children, Daddy is coming home late today.
Child A: Even later than usual? Oh man, and next week he is on a business trip. We do not get to see him anymore.
Child B: Can we watch TV at our neighbour’s?
Mummy: No, that’s to late for watching TV. You won’t go to sleep afterwards.
Child B, screaming: That’s sooooo unfair. You grown-up can always do what you want.
Mummy: I wish I could always do whatever I want, but that’s impossible even form me. And stop yelling at me. Get dressed, you have to go to school now. You, too, Child A.
Child B, running to ist room, slamming the door: I won’t get dressed. I don’t want to go to school.
Mummy opens the door of Child B’s room, yelling: Stop slamming your door. Get dressed, for Christ’s sake. You can watch TV in the afternoon, that’s our rule.
Child B: No!
Child C: Mummy, pooh-pooh.
Mummy, begging: Please, Child B, I have to change Child C’s nappies, please, get dressed, it is already 7:15. Then calling to Child A: Are you ready, the school bus is coming.
Child B: No.
Child A: Yes. Bye, Mummy.
Mummy kisses Child A. Mummy changes the nappies, washes its face which is full of chocolate and dresses it. Then dresses Child B, pushes it through the door, kisses it. Then takes Child C to the day care cantre and finally goes off to work.
Act II: The Job
Scene 1: 8:30am. Mummy arrives at work.
Mummy: Good morning, Colleague.
Colleague: Good morning, Mummy. How’s life?
Mummy: Good. Yours?
Colleague: All right. Ms. Boss wants to speak with us.
Mummy: OK, when?
Mummy: Damn it! I have to leave the office at 2, because the day care closes at 2:30.
Colleague: Maybe we can meet earlier. Why don’t you call her. If it doesn’t work, I will tell you what she wanted tomorrow.
Mummy, sighing: As always. Second-hand-news.
Colleague: Don’t worry.
Mummy calls Ms. Boss.
Mummy: Hello Ms. Boss, could we meet a little earlier today? I have to leave at 2pm. Thanks so much. See you at 11:30, then. Thanks again.
Mummy and Colleague work silently. Mummy watches her mobile phone every now and then. No one calls, no messages, then everyone is fine.
Scene 2: 11:30am, entering Ms. Boss.
Ms. Boss: So, Mummy! I wanted to ask you if you would like to manage our next project. You could work more hours until the end of the project. What do you think?
Mummy, hesitant: I would love to do that, but you know, Daddy commutes to his job and he comes home late every day. Our day care centre closes at 2:30pm. That’s difficult, but if I could work at home sometimes …
Ms. Boss: Sorry, Mummy, that’s not possible, as you know, we do not want our employees working in home office. Maybe you can come up with another solution. Tell me what you decide tomorrow. If you don’t want the project, I will give it to Colleague. You will stay involved, either way. Not too bad, or is it?
Mummy gives her a crooked smile: OK, thanks.
Ms. Boss, leaving.
Scene 3: 12.00pm.
Colleague: Will you join me for lunch?
Mummy: No, I have to leave in two hours. I have to keep my time record in check.
Colleague: Oh well. He lifts the telephone and calls another co-worker at the adjacent office to find a lunch companion.
Act III: The Hobbies
Mummy has fetched Child C and Child B, Child A is waiting at home and is hungry. Mummy makes some sandwiches for herself and Child A. She eats while standing and playing with Child C. Mummy makes herself a coffee, and practices with Child B his instrument, while Child C wants to play horsy on Mummy’s knees. Child A practices on ist own. At 3:30pm the instruments are packed in the car and they go off to music practise.
Mummy’s mobile phone rings. It’s Amiga.
Amiga: Hey Mummy, how are you? I wanted to invite you to a play my sister appears in.
Mummy: Oh, great. Is that on the weekend? You know, weekdays I mostly can’t get off.
Amiga: No, sorry, she is here on Wednesday, only.
Mummy: Too bad. We can meet some other time, go out to eat, or something.
Amiga: Sure. But I’ll be in Guatemale fort he next four week from Friday on. I’ll get in touch with you afterwards. Bye.
Mummy drops off Child A and B, drives on to do some grocery shopping. Child C doesn’t want to sit in the cart. Mummy Carries Child C while navigating through the isles. At the cashier Mummy puts Child C down. It runs through the automatic door, Mummy catches it just before it reaches the curb of the street. Mummy pays the bill and fetches Child A and B to go home.
Act IV: The Apartment
Scene 1: 17:30pm. While the children are watching TV, Mummy opens up a letter from the pension fund.
Mummy: ‚If you continue working like you have in the past five years you will receive according to current measures a pension of 600 Euros per month.‘ Oh great! I work 18 hours per day, according to that I should have a pension of 2500 Euros. If I worked like the minister for employment wants me to work, to have a reasonable pension, there wouldn’t be any shared meals pepared at home, hobbies, spontaneous ice creams or playing at the park when the sun shines. I could employ a nanny but my wage would be consumed by that. Which means that we would have less money than now. We would go on holiday for two weeks which would not suffice to compensate the missed time together while working. Daddy and I would have even less time together than today. We would get divorced when Child A is 18 which would leave me 10 years of being a single mum, more or less, which would lead straight to a burn-out at age 60. I would have enough money, all right, and would be independent, because I paid 35 years for my pension fund, but I would be alone, without a partner and maybe even ill.
Scene 2: 18:00pm. Children going to the neighbour’s and parents‘ meeting.
Child A: We go up to the neighbours now, Mummy.
Mummy: OK, I’ll be back in two hours.
Mummy leaves the house and returns after two and a half hours. She fetches the children from the neighbour’s.
Mummy: What did you have for supper?
Child B, beaming: Chocolate bread and coke.
Child A, soothingly: Child C had milk.
Mummy, mumbling: Then you had better watched TV.
Child B, grinning: Which we did while eating.
Scene 3: 20:45pm. The children lie in bed, Mummy makes her round of good-night-kisses.
Child A: I’m thirsty.
Child B: Mummy, I’m afraid in the dark.
Child C: Dummy, where?
Mummy makes a second round. When everything is quiet, she begins to clean up the kitchen where there are still foods and dishes from breakfast. Daddy comes home from work.
Daddy, kissing Mummy: What a day!
Mummy: Tell me about it!
Daddy: Do you want sex?
Mummy: Not really. Do you?
Daddy: Nope, too exhausted. Let’s watch some TV together.
Dear reader! Living and working in today’s society confronts us with incompatible roles or expectations which we’re supposed to play or meet simultaneously. Some of us develop health issues because of this situations. I cannot change this alone, but maybe we all can do something about it by claiming more time to be idle.