I’ve got a confession
One of my favorite people in the universe, Irina Baranov, threw down the gauntlet on her blog today.
Her call to action really resonated with a shivering, quivering part of my soul.
The challenge: Tell the story you don’t want to tell.
No tips. No quips. No tools or slideshows or pretty tutorials.
Just that story that’s lurking beneath the surface. The one that perhaps might make me feel embarrassed or vulnerable…or both. The one I’ve been too scared to shine a light on in fear of what it might mean.
Lordy me. Have I got a story.
And it’s so NOT buttoned up. The opposite, actually.
Bits and pieces of this story have been reverberating around my head for the better part of the past year (maybe even two) as a jumbled mess of thought fragments. But the sudden shift in our child-care reality two months ago really dialed up the fragment volume to ear-splitting levels.
You see, at the beginning of May, I became a stay-at-home-mom. Who also works. Full-time.
And it’s not going so well.
I know there’s some wisdom lurking beneath the churning surface for me to discover, but damn if I have the energy or time to mine for it. A few dark depressive wisps linger there just beyond view, their tentacles poised and powerful enough to drag me under.
Some days they get me.
But most days, I manage to white-knuckle it through. Oblivious to the scenery, merely reacting to imminent threats as they arise.
I’ve caught myself saying, “SO!” out loud more than a few times these past few weeks. I utter this phrase not because I have anything meaningful to say, but because I feel the need to physically bulldoze a heaping pile of scary questions away. Starting a physical conversation with another person, even if there is no other person in sight, is one of the best ways to do just that.
Existential avoidance. Boy, oh boy. I’ve got it bad.
This is what it sounds like in my brain when I let it get quiet enough:
40. OMFG. Is my life about half-over? What do I have to show for my 40 years here? I don’t see a dent in the universe from my actions yet. Am I living up to my potential? What IS my potential anyway? Am I really a “B” or “C” student that tricked herself into thinking she was as an “A?”
Should I be a mom first and business owner (or if that fails, career woman) second? Why is work for moms so often positioned as a “choice” between ego and children? Am I less of a mom because I chose to work in the past? Do I buy that? Is it fair men don’t have to grapple with work as a “choice” as much? Am I simply internalizing tired cultural norms rather than making a clear-headed choice? If I choose to be more “stay-at-home” right now am I just hedging against the possibility of career failure? And what if stepping off now ends up becoming a permanent state? If I work, what’s “enough” — is there a specific amount of compensation that justifies working? Who am I kidding – is there anything that could ever be better than feeling your almost 7-year-old sneak his hand into yours on the walk home from school? Or your 3-year-old nuzzling your neck, or discovering a new word, or pooping on the potty? But what if working in the shadows of school hours slowly strangles this business I have worked so hard to build and believe in so much?
Have my past choices to work compromised my boys’ potential? How do I make sure I choose well going forward? Is my obsession with cooking/baking/green cleaning really just a feeble attempt to add a veneer of control to an out-of-control reality? Is Lachlan developmentally stunted because I didn’t hold him enough when he was a baby? Or because I had him vaccinated, gave him formula, and left him in the care of a nanny that, unbeknownst to me, spent more time on the phone stirring up drama with other nannies than with him? Am I an awful judge of character or was I just so focused on having my work life run as smoothly as possible I suppressed or ignored warning signs?
What would mom do if she were in my shoes? What DID mom do at this juncture in her career & life? Is it too late to go to medical school? Or what about a PhD in psychology? Good God, could I even pass a GRE or MCAT? Doubtful!
Has it really been six months since my last hair cut & color? Hmmm I wonder, could I pass off my now intermittent-grey-to-dishwater-brown-to-brassy-blond color “situation” as a purposeful ombre?
And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Dang, it’s noisy in there! A swirl of genuine existential questions, harsh judgements, and utter fluff.
And oh God is that inner noise ever reflected on the outside.
There are clothes on my closet floor.
I’m lucky if I get two runs in a week. And I’m supposed to run a half-marathon at the end of August. HA!
I routinely work from 8:30pm until 2 or 3am.
I ordered takeout three nights out of seven last week.
I totally forgot to order the welcome poster for the front of the school and will be racing around doing that like a banshee tomorrow.
I now need 3 cups of coffee in the morning just to function.
More than a few details have fallen through the cracks (mostly emails, Facebook groups, phone calls – I’m very sorry if one of them was yours).
I’m chronically late.
I drive too fast.
I have a pile of unfolded (but clean) laundry a mile-high on my dryer.
My pants are too tight. Mainly because I eat an ungodly amount of sweets. (I bake when I’m anxious.)
My desk is quickly disappearing beneath a mound of papers.
I’m holding on to entirely too much at home and at work – compromising the potential for net contribution because I am either too far behind the 8-ball to delegate or desperately in need of something (no matter how small) to control.
I’m also frequently frustrated with husband because I won’t delegate to him. Riddle me that.
I allowed the boys screen time every morning last week so I could sleep for five more minutes.
So basically I’m not doing work well. I’m doing parenting well only after mainlining coffee. I’m not doing marriage well. And I’m not doing my body any good either.
Pot. Meet the kettle. Right?! I need to go read Buttoned Up and take some of my own freaking medicine. Maybe do the Kickstart Boot Camp myself. Who wants to coach me?!
Kidding aside, I don’t have a quick fix for my existential angst. But by the act of putting pen to paper (or type to screen) tonight, I’ve finally stopped running from it. And that actually feels ok. If a little scary because, you know, I’m supposed to be all buttoned up and stuff and now you now I’m not. At least not right now.
I can see clearly now that the only way out is to slow down.
And the only way to slow down is to do less.
And the only way to do less (and still be who I want to be) is to choose well — and to set things up so that others can contribute more meaningfully.
Like I said, no magic answers or quick fixes. Just questions. Lots of questions. And now the bravery to face them.