The comments came in so fast you could practically see the churn:
Astrophysicist! Veterinarian! Pearl diver!
I couldn’t wait to join the fun. My six-year-old daughter has not always been consistent in her vocational aspirations, but her hyphenates are without peer:
“Ballerina and a pet doctor!”
“Sofia the First and a gymnastics girl!”
Basically, all I had to do was ask the question and I’d have the most-liked Facebook comment of my career. I catch her between cartwheels.
ME: Maggie. What do you want to be when you grow up?
She thinks about it. Sighs.
MAGGIE: Just a mom.
ME: …What do you mean, just a mom?
MAGGIE: Like, I used to want to be other stuff, but now I just want to be a mom. I just want to go on the computer and clean up and stuff.
She cartwheels away down the hall.
I am left reeling. Is that what she thinks I DO? “Go on the computer and clean up and stuff”? Okay, yes, that pretty much sums it up, but– WAIT. I do a LOT. I catch up with Maggie in her room.
ME: Is that ALL moms do? Go on the computer and clean up?
My daughter sighs even more deeply. Thinks about it.
MAGGIE: You have to start getting dinner ready too.
She imagines this with a weary wave of her hand, like “starting to get dinner ready” is a momentary distraction, a brief mental check– yes, I have started thinking about that– before a mom can get back to “going on the computer.”
This kept me up that night. Did my daughter really think that was all I did, some twenty-first century version of soap operas and bonbons in a bathrobe?
I couldn’t let it go. Over breakfast the next morning:
ME: So you’re going to be a mom when you grow up, and that is SO GREAT, but what else are you going to do? How about be a scientist? Or, I don’t know, a pearl diver?
MAGGIE: Nope. Just a mom.
ME: So what are you going to do when your kids are in school?
MAGGIE: I’ll go to spinning cycle class.
OH MY GOD. My daughter was totally calling me out.
ME: Is that what I do while you’re in school?
ME: What else do I do?
MAGGIE: You try to write.
There it was, ladies and gentlemen. My daughter had seen inside my very soul. There will never be a better description of what I do all day than “try to write.” The first draft of my novel, one that I barely remember writing and which has gotten only cursory glances since November, can attest to that.
But I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. I mean, who has the time? After going on the computer and thinking about what’s for dinner?