You know, some days, this work/life balance thing comes pretty naturally. I get up on time, I make Birdy’s breakfast, give her a big snuggle, blow her a kiss and head downtown to my office. I work in peace and quiet, I think interesting thoughts, I take an hour for lunch, I am challenged, I create. I make the grade and I meet the expectation. I receive a pat on the back. I have this thing and this time that is mine. I get my work done, it is good work, it puts food on our table. I pick Bird up on time, she runs to me and tells me about her day, about the special snack for somebody’s birthday and using the big-kid scissors and how she shared with this kid or that kid, how they all played a game together, how she loves her friends and teachers. We go home and everyone behaves, Birdy coloring at the kitchen table while A. and I make a dinner for which we already have all of the ingredients. It’s bath time, then bedtime, then I take a few hours to hang out with A. or catch up on the Stuff That Must Be Done. The laundry makes it into the drawers, the bills are paid ahead of schedule, the dog hair tumbleweeds are minimal, thank you notes get sent, emails get returned, bread gets baked. It is busy, but it’s joyful, manageable. I crawl in bed after eight and before midnight.
On these days, I am much more than a mama, but I don’t feel like less of a mama, if that makes sense.
And then, there are the other days, the days when Birdy shouts at me while I’m in the shower about the new coat she got in the mail from her Granny, and stick my head around the curtain to see a big girl, MY big girl, joyfully trying to jam her arm through the hood of her coat, and realize just how fast it’s really going, how distracted I can be, how I am spending my time racing around the lobby trying to buy popcorn when the show is already starting inside. There are the mornings when she is rude to me, that devastating preschool-rude, pushing me away, hurting my feelings, and there is no time to fix it because I’m out the door. There are the days when her willfulness clashes with my own willfulness, and I’m at a loss so I flip her the middle finger behind her back. There are the days when I fight back tears when I get in the car and for the better part of the morning, knowing that she’s pissed off at me because I leave her, because I don’t have time to find matching socks for myself let alone sit with her for two minutes when she says, “mama! I need some company!”, don’t have time to watch her stand on one foot, balance a lump of playdough on the dog, don’t have time to be her mama until much, much later in the day and by then, it feels like it’s too late.
And those are the days when the balance is gone, so lopsided, when the laundry spills out of the bedrooms and into the kitchen, when the to-do lists are scattered around the house like breadcrumbs I think I’ll be able to follow later to find my balance again. Those are the days when the dinner hits the table late, when I hit the bed too early, when it’s hard to be kind, when the calendar is too full and the bank account is too empty. The days when I feel like my whole relationship with this Bird of mine is to prepare food, feed, and hustle her off to sleep, to some commitment, to another place so I can get on with the business of the Not Very Important But Very Necessary Things.
Days like today, for example.