I’m pretty sure I get it now.
I never once presumed or judged or questioned, you know, when moms wrote or talked about guilt and motherhood. It was just that I knew I hadn’t really experienced it yet.
Now that AG is a toddler, now that my job has become more demanding, I am.
Yesterday AG fell sick. Again. She’s been sick every month, like clockwork, since August. And she’s fine, but I’ve had this thing my whole life, remembering how in-the-way I felt as a child whenever I was sick, and vowing that my child would never feel that way.
And so it’s hard when, at 5 pm, on the night of the week you arrange to work in the office as late as anyone needs you to, to learn your kid isn’t responding to the usual Motrin/Tylenol methods, starts shaking and you’re not there and there are two more meetings you scheduled and it’s the nanny taking care of her, not you, and juggling how one or both of you is going to take the one car you share to get to the doctor in the southwest suburbs from downtown to figure out what the heck is NOW causing your kid heartache.
I know just how lucky I have it, in terms of managing things. This isn’t about that.
But the guilt I feel leaves me gobsmacked on days like this one. I am the cliche – no one gets enough of my focus anywhere so I feel like everyone loses, including me.
No one can be everything for everyone all of the time. That’s just common sense. But common sense flies right out the door when its staring in the face of conversations about leaning in or being left out or just leaving altogether and letting someone else bother with the business of ceiling breaking because seriously? I’ve got a two-year-old who is miserable and keeps pleading for “Mama cuddles, ok?”
And it’s not like this all the time, of course, but I think that’s mainly because on most days you can balance the needs better. Or that is to say that the detritus around work and family reach a daily détente, one that implicitly states that only one party will demand so much from the motherland. Some days, like yesterday, negotiations break bad.
I like to believe I always make The Right Call, and that means putting my kid first. But I know I’m still wrapped up in the business of work for at least another hour after I walk in the door. Lately I’m clocking 50-60 hours of work a week. Still, I try to be where she needs me to be.
For me it was different when she was a baby, still a bit of a blob, and I was still a bit of a mess. Now she’s so clearly her own little person, and there is so much about her I find fascinating and interesting and being professionally successful doesn’t seem to compare on the days where this fascinating human being needs her Mom.
There’s no answer, of course. And this isn’t the exclusive province of the parent who work outside the home. Most days I forgive myself for the ridiculous shit I do (or don’t do) and make a vow to do better, by everyone. Most days I make conscious decisions to not say yes to things – such as this blog, for starters.
But then there are days like yesterday, days where I cancel meetings, hurriedly collapse my laptop and gather my papers and throw on my coat so I can sprint toward a kid who needs me to hold her for two and a half hours in the dark and quiet so she can get some sleep, and I don’t know how I will ever get any of it right.