I am frozen. Frozen in the moments that are precious and true.
I recently went back to work. It has been a hard adjustment. I started in early November. I had to hit the ground running and it has been a blur since I started. I eventually got used to my new schedule and feelings of mom inadequacy. The thing is, I had to let go of the reins of stay-at-home mom and grab the wild reins of working mom. Both are wild horses, but both ride much differently. As they say, balance is key, but I acknowledge that balance is a bit of a myth. Balance is choices. It’s going to take time and practice to keep all the balls in the air.
I have not been writing (here or on my own blog). This gets to me because I know that writing is my calling. I wish I could say I have been too busy writing to write for APtly Said, but that would be a lie. I am too busy to write and that is no excuse. I just realize that this is not the best time for me to be writing. I just can’t seem to get that ball in the air with the others.
When my son was seven months old, I quit my job as an elementary teacher in the middle of the school year. I tried being a working mom with a new born, but it just was too much for me. When I quit my job, I thought 40 hours would open up. How wrong I was! But that is a different chapter.
I was a stay-at-home mom for three years. I loved it and I hated it. I could not seem to find balance and eventually found there really is no balance – just choices. So I chose to be happy when I was and I chose to be sad when I was sad. I allowed myself to feel angry and I allowed myself to feel joy. I embraced all the emotions that come on the stay-at-home mom spectrum. I wrote a lot about these feelings, as I was also in graduate school for Creative Writing. I wrote my thesis about my feelings about new motherhood and it eventually turned into a book.
Now as a working mom, I am juggling routine with busy and guilt; they smack each other often, knocking the balls out of the air. Meeting goes late at work — I call my husband to pick up our son from my in-laws. Special Education paperwork to prepare for upcoming meetings — text husband to take care of dinner.
From trial and error, I have learned to just up and leave my classroom to get out the door. The work will be there the next day. My mind scissors the to-do list in a well-needed manner, shredding the ridiculous details that must be accomplished before I go home. But somedays, the list keeps on growing and I’m not the one adding to it. Work. It will always be there, growing. I do love a to-do list slashed though. Oh how I love that sense of accomplishment. The thing about motherhood and parenting is that there is no concrete list — just a liquid that flows into the container available. This container for me is the free time I have with my family after work and I absorb it and let it flow all over me. I saturate myself in it. It is the love of my family. It mends my guilty mom heart and makes me happy.
The alarm on my cell phone goes off at 6 am. I press the snooze alarm three times on days I don’t have to shower, once on days I do. It’s non-stop from there. I put my make-up on at work, sometimes in the car at stoplights. I manage to scramble out the door with my briefcase and purse in hand. To people on the outside of that door of our house, I look polished and poised. Inside I feel frazzled, late, and never enough.
My husband makes our son breakfast and prepares a to-go mug of coffee for me. He hands me my lunch (which he makes) and offers a quick kiss before I head out the door. I am very lucky because my husband is picking up the slack and the role of attached parent. He gets our three and half year old son ready for pre-school and drops him off. They hold hands and kiss each other good bye like I did during drop-off. I miss drop-off. I miss pick-up. Mostly, I miss that initial hug and that smile and holding hands as he tells me about his day. Ben loves pre-school and we are very lucky with the school we chose.
We are also very lucky because our son spends the afternoon with his grandparents after my husband takes his lunch with our son and they play. My in-laws also watch Ben on one of the two days he doesn’t have pre-school. My husband covers the other day as he works from home one day a week.
As a junior high school Special Education teacher, I am constantly on the go. My mind often frazzled, but surprisingly focused. I am busy during the day like I have not been in a very long time. I am on the go almost all day long. My head is one long comma splice of to-do lists and I am constantly overriding the least important of tasks to finish.
This brings me back to the frozen moments – the icicles that freeze joy. I choose to spend time after work with my son. This is a priority. Everything else gets put on the back burner – papers to grade, lesson plans to write, dinner to cook (I am lucky because my husband does most of the cooking), house to clean, books and essays to write, laundry to do, laundry to fold, laundry to put away, the list is endless. I do feel guilty and I often freak out about how messy our house is (I have been struggling with spending the money on a housekeeper).
Back to frozen and true and not writing. Well, I have chosen to spend time with my son and husband after work. Sometimes I don’t get home from work until 6 pm. Those are the days I choose to be frozen – frozen in the precious hour or two that is mine to play with him. We are still co-sleeping and this time is precious as well as we all snuggle together in a cozy bed. Until the alarm goes off at 6 am the next day.
I also have to choose to not feel guilty about not writing and not being there for pick-up and drop-off and all the fluid moments in-between that used to be my life as a stay-at-home mom. I choose to accept and to be present in the moments I do have with my family.