I lived my early childhood in a cul-de-sac. A stereotypically oak-tree lined street, with Midwestern split-level homes, lush green lawns, and mostly stay-at-home moms who greeted us at the school bus stop with hugs and snacks.
But the moms on my street didn’t spend all day cooking or tending to the house. Truth be told, most of those snacks were thrown together from box mixes or convenience products, and most of the moms had cleaning ladies to do the heavy housework. Instead, after seeing us off to school in the mornings and running errands and throwing some laundry in the wash, they would gather for coffee, and sometimes bridge, and they’d talk, connect. Their conversations ranged from the frivolous to the sanity-saving. For just an hour or two a day, they slowed down.
Their conversations continued in the cul-de-sac after dinner, and on weekends, while their kids rode bikes and played hide-and-seek. After all, these were the 70s and 80s, the days of benign neglect when kids were sent outside to play for hours, without their parents helicoptering. Only recently have I come to understand how valuable this “free” time must have been for the parents.
I don’t drink coffee. And I’ve never learned to play bridge. I’ve been too busy earning my law degree and multi-tasking a career with zealous wedding planning, then house hunting, then family planning, and now child-rearing. Bridge with friends has never been at the top of my to-do list.
I don’t live on a cul-de-sac now. This, my first adult home, which I share with my husband and three adorable daughters, sits at the top of a very steep hill on a residential, but busy, street. It’s a street with gorgeous vistas of rivers and trees that I usually remember to admire on my drives down the hill, but with no circular concrete gathering places to stop, chat, and really consider the view.
My street is a clichéd metaphor for my life, I suppose. I enjoy a blessed life with rich opportunities. I can see for miles, and the perspective is usually beautiful, often funny, and occasionally poignant. But it’s a busy life, and I keep working and going and working and going, frenetic to the core. And now suddenly, in a fit of nostalgia rare to me, I miss the cul-de-sac. I want to force myself to slow down.
All of this was brought to a head recently when my next-door neighbor, a charming person of exactly my age with common interests and abilities, a neighbor who brings by homemade treats on holidays and remembers my kids’ food likes and dislikes and keeps her yard immaculate --- in short, the perfect neighbor with whom I should be good friends --- had her first baby ten weeks before her due date. How did I find out about this incredibly scary, stressful, major event in her life? Facebook, of course, with more detail posted on her blog. And since learning of this news, what have I done? Well, of course I sent her an online gift certificate for a meal delivery service and then shopped online for a gift to be mailed to her house, all while e-mailing her messages of support and repeatedly “liking” her son’s pictures on Facebook. In short, my sincere demonstrations of friendship have been solely virtual. And she lives next door.
The armchair sociologist in me finds this fascinating. The mom in me finds this sad. And so, I started this blog. A reference to the cul-de-sac not in the pejorative “dead-end” sense, but instead as a community where neighbors congregate as their kids play after dinner. Where they talk about their days, and their kids’ days, and their jobs, and their home décor, and their efforts to lose a few pounds. Where they plan their kids’ birthday parties, debate the value of tee-ball, sigh about the prevalence of princess paraphernalia, and relate funny stories about their kids’ sayings and doings. Where they share shopping tips and swap coupons and show off their new (comfortable!) shoes. And where they muse about life’s little joys and ironies and remember why they chose the lives they did. Talking. Planning. Debating. Relating. Sharing. Musing. Remembering. Laughing.
This blog is thus directed at working moms, with “working” defined in the broadest sense. At first, I’ll likely do most or all of the talking. You’ll be the voyeuristic neighbor who eavesdrops. But then, maybe, you’ll hear something that interests you, or that you can relate to a bit. And then maybe you’ll make your presence known and join the conversation. That’s my hope, at least. That this blog can become our virtual cul-de-sac, a place where we can pull up our plastic lawnchairs, pour some good wine, and share laughs, inspiration, and empathy about our life’s work. Will you join me?