Mornings of a stay-at-home mom consist — apart from brushing someone else’s teeth, cooking eggs several different ways according to every family member’s preference and zealously gulping down coffee — of looking longingly at the husband who’s getting ready for work. The act of longing is not directed at the husband himself — let’s be honest, “longing” is not the word one uses for a partner of ten years with whom one shares a child, “longing” is reserved for those early days, when both of you still act like flawless unicorns who love all the same things, never argue or have bodily functions.
Rather, a stay-at-home mom longs for the simple act of getting ready, performed by the husband. To take a shower and apply deodorant, to get dressed in a hurry, to demolish the perfect eggs over-easy in three bites, chewing the last bite on the way to the front door because “I have to run, Lahiru is downstairs to pick me up!”, kissing everyone goodbye and — poof! — out of the door, all by himself! What a luxury!
In the spirit of full transparency I have to mention that I watch my husband do this only twice a week due to lockdown restrictions. On other days his commute to work means retreating to the bedroom where Kroshka and I disturb him often. But two days a week is still two days more than what I get.
I was pretty sure that saying “I am late, bye-bye!” and running out the door early in the morning was a thing of the past, but an unexpected development changed everything.
For the past month I’ve been waking up every Wednesday with a silly grin on my face. Wednesday is the day of reversed roles. I still make breakfast, but then I hand Kroshka over to my husband and act all busy and business-like. I take a long shower, the kind when I don’t have to assess whether the hair situation on my head or legs is worse, because I only have the time to deal with one, not both.
I apply an inordinate amount of cream on my face, probably in an attempt to make up for all the times I skipped my night-time routine and fell asleep. I use an eyebrow pencil and mascara and, as if by magic, my brows appear above my eyes — where have they been hiding all those months before? I even apply bright-pink lipstick, even though no-one will see it because of the mask. I don’t care. Lipstick has a way of making a girl feel special and the look all finished and rounded, even if only the girl knows her lips are bubblegum-pink.
Then I put on not sweat pants, not leggings, not even jeans, but tights! Tights, people. Do you know the kind of courage, determination and willingness to suffer it takes for a woman, let alone a mother, to put on tights one year into global pandemic? All so I can wear a skirt that’s too tight on my waste. I squeeze into it, come out to the living room, where my husband is playing with Kroshka, and do a little twirl. Husband nods approvingly. Watching him watch me get ready feels almost as good as getting ready itself. I don’t mean it in a haha-sucker-today-you-are-staying-home kind of way. It is simply the strangest feeling to have the roles reversed. To see what he sees every day, or two days a week in the past year, to be exact. Like one of those movies where husband and wife wake up to realize they exchanged bodies.
While husband distracts Kroshka, I sneak out of the door and go downstairs. Outside, I stop and inhale deeply before running to the bus stop. The bus takes me downtown, and on the way I listen to a podcast or read a book. Sometimes I get down a few stops earlier to take a walk and stop by the market on the main square. At 8.15 am the vendors are all set up, but the customers are nowhere to be seen yet. I fill up my net bag with apples, fennel, leeks, and rutabaga. I realize that showing up for an appointment with a bag of vegetables is very hippie of me, but the pleasure of shopping outdoors in the morning is just too good to skip.
In a trench coat and a white beret — all fancy, save for my produce bag — I walk into a bright office. The assistant shows me into a room and leaves me waiting on a reclining chair. “Wie geht’s, Frau Dyukova?”, says a middle-aged man, walking into the room. He’s wearing a mask, but his eyes are smiling. “How are you? What are we doing today? 18 and 48? Don’t worry, a lot of people have to extract wisdom teeth at some point.”