I think about Pioneer Women a lot. And Indian squaws. Sometimes I go back to the dark ages when streets weren't paved and forty was considered elderly. I think about how cold and dark and bare things were. I think about the lack of modern day conveniences—no electricity, no cars, no phone, no hot water.
And then I think about their children. Their children who started working as soon as their legs and arms and minds would let them. Their children who did not have Ikea floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with baskets of plastic playthings. Their children who did not wake up to sit on the couch and watch Penguins of Madagascar, but instead woke up to get dressed, eat a piece of untoasted bread, and then head out to the fields with their dads to plow or shuck or haul or feed something.
I think about these women and their children when I’m overcome with guilt about dropping my kids off at the gym child care so I can go to a yoga class and take a shower for an hour and a half. “The gym is boring,” Finny whines. “I no lika gym,” Charlie pouts from the backseat as he sees the parking lot approach. Can I really do this? I wonder. Shouldn't I be taking them to the Mall of America or the indoor playground or the Children’s Museum? Shouldn't I have scheduled a play date? Is this really fair to them to drop them off in this play room so that I can get some exercise?
And then I conjure up an image of a four-year-old climbing out of a tee-pee to get his breakfast going or a farm child getting up with the rooster to go feed the chickens or a puritan kid who was not allowed to play or talk or smile. And the guilt dissipates. I no lika gym! Ha! Charlie, you could be hauling buckets of water from the well in your thin-as-paper shoes, buddy. You could be scrubbing down pig troughs. You could be hosing the manure out of the barn. The gym play room is heaven on earth. You have no idea.
I use the same technique when I see Charlie eat a dropped Goldfish cracker off the grocery store floor. I shiver a little bit and then conjure up the dark ages. He hasn't died of the black plague yet, but he may have gotten diarrhea from the gym child care.