This is not an essay about being a working mom vs. stay-at-home-mom, just to get that out of the way. This is an essay about me, however, and I’m a mom who works full-time. And when one is mom who works full-time, these things inevitably happen:
Calls from the school nurse that concern vomiting (or lice. Which is worse, actually?); snow days; professional development days (i.e., no school on a random Wednesday in March); class parties that require (gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free) baked goods. Also, there are forms to be signed, birthday party presents to be purchased, play dates to be scheduled, piano practices to be forced, Saturday soccer games that require oranges, and oh my god we were supposed to sign up for summer camp by WHEN? In addition there is, of course, work itself: deliverables, billable hours, expectations, deadlines, clients, reviews, colleagues, bills, goals, commuting, dry cleaning.
So when I’m on a conference call, and on the other line is the school nurse saying something about lice, I might actually scream (yes, scream – without realizing it): “Wait, what? Lice? LICE?” Similarly, when school is cancelled for snow, it is full-blown, fucking panic-city because clients in California have no idea what a Nor’easter does to the roads. There is no way I’m getting into the office. Yet snow-silly children are streaking around the house talking about hot chocolate. I stomp about for a bit, yelling at my husband (who would strap on snow shoes rather than miss a day of work) and texting dramatic complaints to friends.
Later, I might wonder: Did I really need to lose my mind over lice? (Although, in my defense, have you seen lice?) Did I need to storm about the house, all but blaming my husband for the snow day? Surely this isn’t balanced or productive for my family or me. There are things I could do to balance my sympathetic nervous system, I know. See? I even know enough to know what a sympathetic nervous system is. This is because years and years and years ago I lived in California, where I practiced yoga every day, ate super cleanly, and hiked in the Santa Monica hills. I didn’t often blow-dry my hair. I even took a yoga teacher training course, where I was introduced to said sympathetic nervous system, and “fight or flight”, and the idea that we might, with practice, be able to retrain our nervous system.
I took that as a challenge. You mean me, Type-A, neurotic, anxious ME could, like, chill out if I just practiced? Oh, bring it. So I studied some yogic philosophy, and I learned about balance and centering – and connecting. I learned a great deal and some of it seeped into my core being. I try to remember that.
Then … I moved back East and went to law school and easily slipped back into my fast-paced life. Not unwillingly, mind you – it felt good to reconnect with certain interests and passions but from a newly recalibrated basis point.
But then I had a child. And then another. And I was working full-time as a lawyer. A 90-minute yoga class, are you kidding me? I know that everyone, whether she is a busy mom or not, should take time for herself, eat healthy, exercise, meditate, be grateful. Sometimes I do some of these things and many times I beat myself up a bit about not doing more of most of them. Because I know. I know, better than most, that if I had exercised then ostensibly my endorphins would mitigate the freak-out when my child gets lice. Or if I had meditated on being kinder to myself, when I inevitably forget to sign up for spring soccer, I wouldn’t default to, “If I were just more organized I would not forget these forms! I am so worthless! What is wrong with me!”
But here’s my secret: all the yelling and the stomping, as opposed to om-ing and savasa-ing, at this stage in my life is perhaps getting me to the same place. The same “IT”. Because what was I striving for? Ultimately, it was connection. To me, connection is the feeling of belonging, of feeling inspired, of feeling safe. Of feeling the most ME. A lot of meditation and Thich Nhat Hanh and Ashtanga got me there when I was 25, and so I thought connection meant, like Zen/yogic connection. Like lotus pose peaceful bliss.
Obviously, at 30-somethingmmmhmm, and children, and a demanding job, there’s not a lot of peaceful bliss in my life, nor am I making time for it, which is what leads to a certain amount of self-flagellation. But it was this blog tour – so thank you, Katie, and particularly Tanya Geisler in this post – which helped me reframe the issue. Connection is what I’m seeking, but it doesn’t have to be Zen-like transcendence. I can find connection in other ways: in a sunset run up the hill in my neighborhood, dancing with my kids around the kitchen table, having a glass of wine with friends, attending a though-provoking speech. It turns out, in the midst of all this chaos right now, I am also viscerally connecting with my life. There’s just so much going on that I have to connect with something – how could I not?
I’ve got to acknowledge connection when and where and how I can: a quick snuggle in the morning (physical connection), a peaceful early morning walk from the train station to the office (connection with nature/self), a productive phone call with a client (connection with my career and the world around me), then taking the afternoon off to be the class “Mystery Reader” (connection with my children and their lives) This may change – maybe someday I’ll be so organized and serene that the only path to connection is some serious yoga and silent meditation – but for right now, the connection is intertwined with the chaos.
Why am I blogging for the first time in months? I was inspired by the fabulous Katie Den Ouden, who asked me to be a part of her Skinny Dip Society blog tour. See last Friday’s post by Rachael, here, and check back tomorrow for a post by Stephanie of the Lipstick Gospel.