I am a very lucky woman. God granted me two healthy and hardy children. They are emotionally, intellectually, and physically fit. They are well nourished and socially adept.
Both my husband and I am employed full time in jobs that allow us to maintain a solidly middle-class lifestyle without destroying our souls.
Our extended families are stable. We live in a safe neighborhood, with good schools, and are surrounded by a network of friends that are supportive and wonderful.
We live good lives.
Now that I have solidly covered my bases so that the gods do not strike me down, and you understand that I do realize how incredibly lucky I am to live my life, I am going to complain about it.
While I am not quite ahead of the game of life, I am at least able to keep pace. These last few months, not only have I fallen behind, I feel like I fell off the board entirely. This last year just kicked my ass. Instead of walking the line, I was holding onto the edge of it with my fingertips. There were entire weeks where at least one if not all four family members were not walking into the house until 8:30 pm, and of course, some still needed to be fed, or showered, or had leftover work to do. Our calendar app ruled our movements. My husband and I did not have conversations as much as we had short, informative meetings every morning where we discussed our schedules while brushing hair and putting on socks. Our evening entertainment was seeing who fell asleep first on the couch during whatever mindless television show we switched on in the background to help us switch off our brains.
I only have two kids. I only work until 2pm in a family-friendly company. I am happily married to a husband who is an active partner in raising our children. So, when I say that I felt like I was flailing, let me be clear in that I salute every single one of you who have moved beyond man-to-man coverage and have more kids than free hands. I salute every single one of you who are still in meeting when the kids are supposed to be on the various fields. Parents who face the choice of missing a school event or missing a paycheck, parents who are doing it on their own, and parents who have so much more to worry about than whether or not the kid will make the playoffs. While the media often plays up the “Mommy Wars” and tries to pit those of who “work” vs. those who don’t, I think we are all comrades in the same trenches. And I spent the last few months fighting for my life.
I think the difference this year is that there was a domino effect to every choice. If homework wasn’t done on time, then dinner wasn’t consumed quickly enough, then we were running late to point A, which made us late to point B, etc. Activities started earlier. Instead of playing and relaxing in the early afternoon, the kids were already prepping for the next event while I was already cooking dinner. How anyone can eat a full meal at 4:30 in the afternoon is a mystery that I am well on my way to solving because the alternative is eating at 9 at night and that way lies madness. The kids weren’t getting the downtime they needed to reboot, I was running on empty, and my husband was just running, trying to make it to the baseball game or dance pick up, or home in time for me to head out to a meeting. At least once, we high fived from our car windows, as one pulled in while the other rolled out. We discovered that the kids could be left alone in the house together for the short periods of time between when I had to be somewhere and he hadn’t quite made it home yet. We divided and conquered on weekends, usually splitting the family along gender lines for birthday parties and practices, competitions and games. We learned how to outsource – hiring a bi-monthly cleaning person, paying a caterer for my son’s First Communion party, using our Amazon Prime membership so much I expect the drivers know our address by heart.
The last week of school was also the last week of extracurricular activities. As I was just getting ready to take my first deep breath of summer, my car broke down. My last social engagement of the year was a freezer meal workshop where I was so mentally, physically, and emotionally fried that I spent the entire evening laughing inappropriately, mixing up all of the ingredients, and so heartily screwing up the meal-making process so much that I am pretty sure I have been black-listed from Tastefully Simple for life.
I bet you all have similar stories. Yours may include travel, or illness, elder care or newborns. Mine isn’t going to change anytime soon. As the kids age, their extracurricular activities will increase as they get more homework, as they add on practices, as they spend more time with friends. The longer you work for a company, the more work you tend to take on so that bucket isn’t emptying anytime soon. I still want to go out with friends, to volunteer, to be active in my church, school, and community.
So what gives? What am I going to do differently this year that I didn’t do last year?
I am going to breathe. I am going to get off the internal guilt-ridden roller coaster of always putting aside what we want for what we need. I am going to try to look at the clock less and the sky more. Sure, life is going to get busier, but I need to enjoy the smaller moments within the bigger rush so that I actually enjoy my life instead of just survive it. There are always going to be errands that need to be run. Zombies probably still have errands (they just do them in slow motion). There will always be a book on the shelf, a shelf that needs to be rearranged, and arrangements that need to be made. I’ve already heard from people whose kids are long grown that I will miss these days of frenetic energy and they aren’t wrong. So for now, let’s all take a deep breath together and go down this rabbit hole with a smile. You never know what might be on the other side.