Often, especially these days with the kids both home all the time, I open my eyes in the morning, and think about all the things that I have to do during the day. I lie in bed and tick them off in my head one by one: I have to get to the store, change the oil in the car, call that person back, make jewelry orders, schedule that appointment, do the laundry, work out, pick up the dog's medication at the vet's, pick up the house at least a little, and -oh yeah - pay attention to my kids. I lie there and work myself into a quiet panic - how on earth am I going to get it all done? There isn't enough time. I can't do it all. Some days it just makes me want to curl up and go back to sleep for, like, days.
I take a moment to breathe, and then try to puzzle it out - make it all fit somehow. Then the kids come bounding in, bouncing on the bed - full of zest and ready for the day - and we're off and running.
Before I know it, it is 10am and all I have managed to do is give them breakfast and get them dressed. The panic starts gnawing at me a little - I'm losing time, I'm losing time. I try to prioritize; I tick through the list and figure out which things are most important. I come up empty - damn it, I think, its all important. My days pass in fits and starts - one step forward, and two steps back. If I pick up the house, the jewelry isn't getting made. If I make jewelry, the house is getting progressively messier as the kids freewheel around the house. If I run those errands, the kids will be cranky and bored and will need something fun to do. If I do something fun, nothing is getting done. Sometimes it just makes me want to throw in the proverbial towel.
Then I get to thinking about my professional days - how on earth did I manage a multi-million dollar client? How did I walk into board meetings of Fortune 500 companies, kick ass and take names? How did I become this woman who is overwhelmed by kids and laundry?
I realize the answer is sort of basic: managing my professional world was more straight forward on many levels, the most important of which being that at the end of the day I could punch out and go back to my personal life. There were two distinct versions of me back then: the ass-kicking, name taking corporate professional - I could wear that role like a mask, or a suit of armor - and then the gentler, more human version of me who just wanted a good book and a comfy couch at the end of the day. There is no differentiating line for a stay-at-home Mom raising kids. My job is my life.
Most days I'm cool with it - I am full of gratitude for the richness of my life. I wallow in the chaos, happy just to be in the middle of it all. Other days I look at my kids and think: you're still here? The fact that I have these little lives to nurture, these adorable human souls who rely so much on me, overwhelms me. I realize it is harder than Corporate America because it is so much more meaningful, so much more important. Once you become a parent there isn't any punching out. Even if you flake out and run away from it all, you are still someone's Parent.
When I'm overwhelmed, or resentful or just plain bored, I realize I'm bucking the tide instead of letting it carry me. Instead of rolling with the momentum of life with younger kids, I'm struggling to get it all done - to achieve some sense of accomplishment at the end of the day - Look! I did everything on my list!
When my husband comes in the door after work, he innocently asks: "What did you guys do today?" I look around at the messy kitchen table from our craft project, the dishes I didn't get to because I was building a fort on the porch, the bathing suits dripping dry on the back of the chair from running through the sprinklers, the artwork plastered all over the refrigerator from a marathon coloring session. The kids say, "Not much." I haven't achieved more than one or two things on my list of things that seemed so important that morning, and have lost ground on several other items on that same list.
If being a Mom came with a checklist it might look something like this: Did you laugh over and over at your son's knock knock joke? Check. Did you kiss a scraped knee? Check. Did you answer question after question without telling them to just be quiet? Check. Did you referee countless squabbles? Check. Did you dry tears with soothing words? Check. Did you hug your kids and tell them you loved them? Check. Then the most important things were accomplished. If I do a good job at this, I will raise kids who are self-confident and strong and can't wait to get away from me and start their own lives. The laundry can wait.