i am trying desperately to keep this tiny tub afloat. it is not fancy, but it is a sturdy little boat - and it stays seaworthy with love & care...i cannot take all the credit, nor do i do it alone, but my mama-heart tells me that i am the captain of this ship and my little passengers need me. i have known them more intimately than anyone - from that first flickering heartbeat inside my belly to the dream they had last night. they are my sacred trust. they are a gift and a treasure. and if i am distracted from this purpose, if i am not here to keep the balance, who will steer this tender ship?
this thought keeps me awake at night. as life shifts and swirls beneath me and worldly concerns claim more of my time, i wonder who will steer the emotional ship of this family? who will read the nuances and intuit the needs if i am not paying close enough attention / what happens to the kids when i am distracted by other things?
matt is good at lots of things. and we divide and conquer very well. but it is my sensitivity that nurtures and protects, comforts and soothes. i am hyper-tuned. he is hyper-focused. and in a perfect world, we balance each other out. but as my career takes off and my focus shifts, there is a natural hole left where once i stood. it worries me. maybe it shouldn't, but it does. my family is changing. the children are growing and so am i. i am learning how to be a different kind of mother.
for some women, perhaps this division between mother and professional comes easily. they know they need to work and mother; they are supremely fulfilled by this arrangement. they wouldn't have it any other way. for me, mothering was enough. it really was. for now anyhow. i wanted to mother until my kids were older - to be the anchor in their life with time to make childhood pure magic.
but oppotunities came along that nudged me in a different direction.
and perhaps, because the universe is throwing it at me hard - seemingly whispering to me that yes, you can have it all - a better direction than i could've imagined for myself. an outcome that will only be realized because the plan i thought i wanted was hijacked by the plan that the universe had in store for me.
it's hard to believe, but a year later, i'm still trying to make sense of it all. i'm wrestling and fighting what I should, perhaps, give into instead.
sitting here this afternoon with the spiders and bees and the now-empty birds nests, i'm enjoying the last of summer. working outside on the laptop - writing press releases, making travel plans, sharing emails with satchel's teacher, gearing up for the month ahead.
usually i welcome the start of school. i love the rhythm of bathtime and bedtime, the in-breath of focus and warmth, the beginning of routine. shopping for school clothes and preparing lunchboxes, dreaming up lunch menus, buying crayons, cleaning backpacks.
but this year i am resistant. i'm not ready to say goodbye to the long summer nights without a schedule. dinners outdoors as late as 7 or 8; dinners as casual as a bowl of guacamole with chips. i'll miss days by the pool, working while the kids splash around. the lazy mornings when we sleep til 8 and sip on super-food smoothies or indulge in a pan of fried bacon with bisquits straight from the oven. mornings with enough time for satch to scramble his own eggs, time to help me measure ingredients for pancakes. riding our bikes to summer camp or running temple to preschool in the jogger.
working as much as we have been lately, its been a gift to work for ourselves. while the hours feel endless, at least they can be woven around the children. i can stuff my iphone in my beach bag and send emails while the kids build sand castles at the river's edge. i can drag them along to a music festival and they can pick blackberries while i introduce media to the musicians. they can stuff their faces with corndogs at the farmers market while matt entertains real estate clients who are considering a move to sonoma. but this mellower, integrated, groovier lifestyle is new and has only come after a long and very imbalanced stretch.
last winter was brutal. this summer we were finally settling into a routine, finding our way. where once i took any client who came my way, i am now learning how to shape my portfolio into a reasonable number of clients with projects that i enjoy. in fact, i spent the past 2 months weeding things down in order to find sanity. i spent 2 months saying no or asking for help, and it felt really good.
then, last friday i got a call with a pr project of a lifetime. something perfect to take my career to the next level but a project that will stretch me and test me all over again. right as i was finding rhythm, here comes another - exciting - curve ball. so i said yes. and i am being flown to seattle for an interview next week.
all weekend, the moon kept me awake. i paced the house and stared out at the bright night - anxious and torn about this new job. afraid to give up my new-found peace. yet wanting to take this chance. craving more time with my children, but unwilling to give up a great career move.
it's strange - being mother and professional. i'm really having to work hard to integrate the pieces of myself. it's much more complex than i ever imagined. the pieces often feel like they are in opposition, that it must be either/or and not all. it's never true. it can be all if i let it.
on sunday i had to go to music festival for the second day in a row and i knew that one day of it had been enough for the kids. so i asked their grandfather to take them to the river instead of dragging them along with me. but instead of letting them go to any river, i chose a beach just 6 miles from where the festival would be so I could ride with them and drop them off on my way...so i could pick them up sooner and spend the hourlong drive each way playing 20 questions or practicing times tables. if i wasn't going to spend the day with them, i at least wanted them close by. i wanted to squeeze in as much time as possible with them and salvage a summer day.
as i drove out of the beach parking lot and away from them - temple in her new zebra bikini and satch strolling with the lanky gate of a little dude - my heart was bursting. i really wanted to turn around and forget about the music festival. it was a day for bathing suits and watermelon, throwing pebbles in the water and watching teenagers dive off the bridge. i did not want to drive off with my whole life walking away in the rearview mirror. there was nothing more important to me in that moment but them and wanting them to know just how much i love them.
then a crazy thing happens, just like it always does: i drive myself 6 miles down the road, get out of the car, switch into work mode...and have a blast. i get high on doing my job. pride myself on doing a kick-ass job even. feel like a woman in my summer dress and motorcylce boots. backstage with the musicians, talking with a radio dj, discussing strategy with a nightclub promoter and even drinking a cold beer on a hot summer day, i become a different aspect of me. from this view, i picture the kids having a ball without me and feel grateful that they have their time and i have mine.
there are also days that are just the opposite; days when, instead of being the center of my world, the kids drive me crazy. Days when i'm completely immersed in work - on a roll with writing or composing a media list or developing a strategy - and the kids come home from school before i've finished whatever it was i was doing. i feel irritated, torn, like i want to have the freedom to finish whatever it is i've given myself over to and i don't really want to be the mama-wooman yet. i am not ready for kisses and dinner-making and playing referree while they bicker. i want intellectual silence and concentration and to allow my thoughts to complete themselves.
the reverse happens too though. just when i want my own sacred silence to get work done, temple will climb onto my lap and i will feel her sturdy little body curled into mine and realize that, for a 3 year old, there is no safer, sweeter place in this whole world than her mother's arms. she deserves me to cuddle and listen and play silly games. work can wait. satchel too - he will look at me with his beautiful amber eyes, alive with curiosity & wonder, and he will want answers to questions beyond his years. how long will he want my opinion? how long will his mother be the authority on everything? i melt into his lingering love and know that it will soon change shape. i slow down and savor him, answering every incessant question from a well of patience i never knew i had, so appreciative that he still loves me as much as i love him.
my life is rich and blessed. i love being a mother. i love the work i do. so why do i feel so sad? so torn? why is it so hard to devote myself to something other than my kids? it is more the feeling of being torn between two parts of myself - and not the two parts themselves - that is hard to navigate.
somedays i fantasize that i can go back to the early days - when satch was tiny - of devoting myself completely to motherhood. but that time has passed me by. he is no longer a baby and i am no longer a new mother. and really, life has a richer quality to it when i have more to do. but i also think i am the type of person who can make a life out of whatever is at hand. if mothering and creating a home is my work, then i do it completely. i never feel less-than as a mother with nothing else to do but mother! it was a blast. and i could probably, quite easily, go back to that.
or maybe not. maybe pandora's box has been opened.
but whether i want it or not, a different adventure presents itself right now. this adventure is about striking some balance. i see one of those old fahsioned log-riders, navigating the surface of the water with nothing but a spinning tree trunk and a pair of spikey shoes beneath. that is me. skimming, balancing, over-correcting and nearly falling before i get it all back together again. this is a constant effort.
summer has been great for weaving various parts of myself together. a time for having it all. for a life that is full with fun and work. but having these moments took effort. it was a work in progress every single day.
fall approaches with classroom duties, shorter days, and now - a big new pr project that will tax me...in a good way, but it will definitely stretch me. and when i think of last fall and winter, i cringe at the intensity of it all. starting 3 businesses in less than 9 months. it was a brutal time. i want to hold onto summer and the space i've found here. the balance and the room to rest and play in the midst of work. the first rest we've had in over a year. but change is around the corner. as with any transition - season to season or into a new job - there is anxiety and a desire to hold onto the familiar. but then, wouldn't life be boring?
where i hardly felt the need for mothering groups when satchel was a baby - trusting the intuitive mother within - i really feel like i need a mother's group for working moms right now. i need creative ideas, feedback from people who do this better than me.
tell me, what side of the equation do you feel most comfortable on? how do you strike the balance? how do you honor all aspects of yourself? what are your markers for balance? when do you know its working...and when it isn't? please feel free to share your insights, tips and advice. all is welcome!