I did have a bit of a mommy revelation today, though. But first: a confession.
I have issues.
News to you, I know. Ha. Let's face it; they are myriad, but let's focus on one tonight. I feel the need to justify my existence and, more specifically, to justify the use of my time. I feel guilty if I can't prove that I have been productive each day. Blame it on the Protestant work ethic coupled with some good old Southern girl guilt or on the uber-high parental expectations I had growing up (yeah, I'm talking about you mom and dad - you know it!) or both, but I feel like I have wasted the universe's space and time if I can't show you that my day was worth it.
And I don't think I'm alone here. My guess is that there are lots of moms (and lots of pastors, incidentally) that secretly or not so secretly, consciously or unconsciously think and feel the same way. Think about it and give me an "AMEN" if you are out there lurking.
Theologically, I know this is a big, nasty lie. I know that I am a child of God, unconditionally loved and cherished. And I know that I'm really not important enough for "the universe" to be concerned with whether my little plot of earthly resources is well-spent. But despite two degrees in theology and a whole darn lot of therapy, I can't shake the feeling, the terror, that I am not good enough, that I have not done enough.
So, I roll with it. And I find ways to convince myself that I am okay, even though I secretly (or, as I said, not so secretly) know that if I'm okay, it has nothing to do with what I've done with my 16 waking hours. But I sleep better at night if I can play my little games, which translates into accomplishing a lot. Enough, that is.
The problem is, as a mom, you can never do enough. There is always more to do for your children, your spouse, your house, your community, the world. (And yes, saving the world is my job, after all.) I suspect the same is true for dads, too, but never having been a dad, I can't speak to that one. I felt this way as a pastor as well, but now that I'm a mom it's like the pastor guilt times a million. There's a good chance that part of the weight I feel has to do with my ambivalence regarding Becca's entre into the world and my (body's) role in her rough start, but let's face it: I'd probably feel the same way anyway. I do have issues, you know.
Since I've left the (paid) working world, this feeling has gotten even more out of hand because there is often very little to show for my time and energy at the end of the day, not even a paycheck. (Especially not a paycheck?). Yes, there is a child well-fed (or whom I've attempted to feed well), cared for, loved, played with, read to, snuggled, tickled, and tortured (with glucose meters, g-tube cleanings, and the extrication of my glasses (her favorite "toy") from her smudgey little hands), but as glorious and beatific as that tiny little tippy-nosed face is, I know that it will all need to be done again tomorrow. Even if I do get around to cleaning the house or cooking dinner, again, it will all need to be repeated tomorrow (or 5 minutes after said cleaning). The dogs will again bark and beg for food in the morning. Nothing is ever finished. Sure, I do plenty, but nothing is ever done. As much as I love and adore being a mother (wouldn't trade it for anything...absolutely anything), this dynamic + my issues = fairly incompatible. (After all, we're all looking for "baggage that goes with mine," right? Yep, name that musical!)
But, like I said, I roll with it, and recently I began rolling with it by making lists. No, not lists of things that I need to do (been making those for a while), but of the things I've done. It's all about alleviating (perceived) guilt and justifying my lack of income to my dear husband, who, by the way, asks for no such justification. See above, under "issues." At the end of the day, when I'm exhausted and not sure why, I can look back over my list and pack myself on the back, knowing that (most days) I have done something. Ergo, I am okay. (Again, see "issues," above.)
And that brings me to today.
Becca slept until a little after 8, for which I am ever so grateful. (Prior to our hospital stay, she regularly slept until 8. I was afraid that the two weeks of waking at 5:30 had broken her of her routine. We'll see how tomorrow goes!) I didn't really get down to the business of the day until 9, but between 9 and 12:30, I went hog wild. I:
- checked Becca's blood sugar (80 - just over our minimum of 70);
- gave her breakfast (no small feat, though it be a very small feast);
- left a message for the Williamson County Children's Special Services lady (transferring and recertifying Becca's case);
- call the pre-school I was hoping to get Becca into twice (bad news: 3 kids ahead of her on the waiting list, could be a year!);
- called our new TEIS service coordinator and scheduled her visit (Thursday at 11);
- talked to our new physical therapist and rearranged a couple of weeks' appointments;
- left a message at our new pediatrician's office and eventually talked to a nurse (suggested that I call the surgeon's office to see if Becca needed to be seen for a fever of 100.6 since we are 4 days post-op) and scheduled Becca's hospital follow-up appointment (for Friday);
- called the NICU follow-up clinic twice to reschedule an appointment
- called Loew's Vanderbilt Plaza twice to check on a charge on our credit card for the night we stayed there as part of the prematurity conference a few weeks ago (for which Vandy was footing the bill);
- called the surgery clinic twice (where the nurse decided that we are probably safe not bringing her in unless she shows additional symptoms);
- talked to Nana Dana to give her an update her girl;
- unpacked 3 boxes in Becca's room;
- began reorganizing her closet and dresser; and
- hung artwork in Becca's room,
12:30 rolled around, and I started the lunch-nap routine, which was so disgustingly interrupted by massive amounts of vomiting (a "large emesis," they would have called it in the hospital) and the subsequent bathing, laundering, and kitchen-cleaning (including disassembling the dishwasher in order to wash her booster seat) that ensued.
By the time the clock struck 3, Becca was sleeping, and I was starving, grossed-out, and exhausted. Like, stick a fork in me. And I couldn't figure out why. So I made my list. And then I was even more tired. I slapped together a PB&J, called it lunch, and killed brain cells reading coupon match-ups and watching TLC. There was no way I was getting back to my other list - the to be done list - because I was spent.
I looked at my list again and though, "Duh. Of course you're worn out. In addition to your basic mothering tasks, you did about a million things already." The problem is that they are things that don't look or feel like things. I mean, I hadn't left the house or even showered! It's just the stuff that I had to do to make all the other days work out. And I'm not thinking in terms of oh-my-life-with-a-special-needs-child-is-so-hard; for the most part, if it weren't those calls I had to make, it would probably be other mom-related calls: to preschools, mother's groups, bible studies, moms of playmates, etc. Maybe it would have been a few less, but it would have been something.
So I guess the revelation is this: those ancillary parenting tasks - the ones that nobody else probably realizes you do and the ones that don't even make it to the to-do list because they make the to-do's possible in the first place - those tasks ARE something. They are work. They are tedious, but they have to get done. Yeah, it may look like sitting (ha! try chasing a toddler around a not really child-proofed house!) on the phone in my p.j.'s is an easy life, but it's not. It's work. It's part of the best job that I've ever had, the job that I would never, ever unchoose, but as with any job, it's work. And when you have a lot of work to you, you've got to pace yourself. Sure, you could go all out and never take a breath for 3 hours, but the other 5 (or so) hours of your workday aren't going to be nearly as productive. Motherhood is a marathon, and while I won't call every day a marathon in its own right, it's at least a 5 or 10k, and I don't know about you, but that's certainly not a sprint for me.
Speaking of sprints, I'm pretty sure there was a way to make this post much shorter. Alas, I can't even abbreviate my thoughts tonight. I apologize. But if you have any energy left, I'd love to hear your thoughts, whether you are a mom or not. How do you pace yourself throughout the day? When is enough enough? How do you balance your working with your being?
But now it's time to clear my dry erase board and start on tomorrow's list. Again.