Well-kept women slide their Suburbans into designated parking spots, their toddlers and children strapped safely in the back, a perfunctory peck exchanged in the car or on the curb, or their kisses blown through the window as the breadwinner hurries across the street, or around the corner, or straight down the escalator into the subway station…
Perhaps instead they climb a flight of stairs to a platform to the commuter rail…
I’ve witnessed variations on a theme, at different points in time, occurring in cities and leafy towns up and down the East Coast of the US. I used to imagine these scenes – before I was married – the spousal “kiss-ride,” and whether that would be me, whether I wanted it to be me, and how my life as a working mother (I assumed I would work) might sort itself out.
Real World Work-Family Imbalance
As reality supplanted imagination and the years progressed, the very term “kiss-ride” has seemed amusing albeit false, and strangely anachronistic.
In my world, there was no Suburban, there was no single career, there was no commuter husband who showed up nightly to join us at dinner. There were two careers and a clashing set of schedules – his, mine, the kids’ – and my role as “wife and mother,” to make accommodations.
I wonder how many vestiges of a 60s or even 70s model of society remain, that we barely notice or recognize in terms of their origins.
Of course, kiss-ride is indeed where I have parked my little Mazda as I saw off teenagers taking the subway downtown to research at the city library, or for that matter, on occasion, to train directly to the airport and board a plane to see their dad. In the past two or three years, on occasion, it’s kiss-ride and subway, when it comes to flying back to college.
So it’s the mother giving a ride to the child, depositing a kiss on the cheek or a heartfelt hug, then moving back into the rhythm of the world – until the time for pickup (at kiss-ride) three hours or three days or three months later.
Working Mother Reality, Single Working Mother Surreality
The way it played out from the time I had my children was nothing like what I imagined, of course; I couldn’t have conceived of the profound nature of the love I would feel for my children; I couldn’t have anticipated how complicated it is to raise them in today’s world.
And I do indeed believe it is more challenging than it was 30+ years ago. Drugs in school, pressure to perform, the hype and headache of preparing “resumes” from the time our kids hit middle school – if not earlier. Then there are those pesky multiple media influences that degrade what many of us teach in the home – and that statement is coming from a mother who is (fairly) open-minded and, I hope, realistic. Certainly, I believe I have been – when it comes to adolescent forays into potential danger zones like alcohol and sex, and my own beliefs that teenagers should be accorded privacy in their own homes – following rules of respect and safety.
As a single (working) mother, there were times I juggled multiple full-time positions (contract), one in an office, others not, and the scramble with two kids and their schedules morphed me into the resident Mad Hatter… nonetheless, used to switching hats. Dating took a back seat (naturally), and when I would have to drop one of my sons at the train station, Kiss-Ride seemed like a mockery or worse.
Kiss and Tell?
I consider the relationship I am in now: he works as a teacher in a private school, and though he has summers off (and plenty of breaks), there’s no question that he’s routinely working 60 hour weeks.
I think about my schedule, with fluctuating load and subject to clients that come and go; I put in 92 hours last week, 74 the week before, 60-some prior to that. Next week? I’d estimate 50. The week after? No way to tell. And six months ago, it was 25 hours/week (approximately), with at least another 20/week in the process of marketing, connecting, and looking for next projects.
My remaining “free time?”
Stay At Home Mom? Stay At Home Dad?
The notion of Kiss-Ride?
I am well aware that something akin to my once-upon-a-time interpretation of the spousal scene still exists. There are pockets of suburbia across America where someone is kissing a partner on their way to an office or a retail counter or a production line, but we can’t necessarily assume that “someone” isn’t a man.
Regardless of gender, the parent returning to the apartment or the condo or the house may be spending her (or his) day at grocery shopping and laundry and meal prep and bill paying, along with child pickup and play date coordination and a remote job or jobs of her (his) own.
The kissing may come when the weary couple finally gets a few moments alone together, courtesy of an accommodating in-law, a stolen hour when the children are at a party, or in between his-and-hers project deadlines.
I’d like to think that the kissing element of the equation hasn’t been slowed to a grinding halt by the way we lead our (hectic, frantic) lives; I fear that we’ve all bought into a way of life, or slipped into it – that is ultimately taking our families for a ride.
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