November 2015 - Baby Steps in High Heels

Thursday, November 5, 2015

He wanted her

8:34 AM 1
He wanted her
I have been a fan of the it takes a village mantra for a very long time. In a sense, it might be the only way we survive as working moms. It’s not about outsourcing our parenting, but about rallying our troops, circling our wagons, and cashing in all of our chips. Every single day. In today’s society, there is just no way to hold a full time job and manage to be a super-parent at the same time.

Last week I was discussing potty-training with a follow working mom who was frustrated with the day care workers. They continued to ask how potty-training was going at home. How could they not understand that we literally have our kids for 1 potty time per day during the week? How can we effectively make a difference in this process when they have our children for the majority of their bathroom trips?

On the other hand, I have always fully credited our favorite and beloved teacher from my daughter’s two-year-old class for potty-training her. I am pretty sure I contributed to about 2% of the efforts, and day care did the rest. My village totally came through for me.

It’s always been a balancing act; sometimes it is more of a struggle than other times. I have never really been hurt or offended when my kids cry for their teachers or explain how they might do a certain task differently (or better). I take comfort in knowing that my kids have come to love the people they spend every day with, even if they occasionally prefer a teacher to me.

This all came to a head yesterday, though. I think it was inevitable, a perfect storm of contributing factors …I’m still in recovery mode and not feeling well, and I do not really have a ton of energy yet. My two-year-old is in a very stubborn phase in which he wants to do everything himself. Our hot, muggy, stormy weather made day care pick-up difficult to begin with, so when my son wanted to buckle his own car seat (a task he is not yet capable of completing without help), we butted heads. I didn’t have the patience to let him try. He didn’t have the ability to understand why I just needed to get it done and get home.

He yelled. I yelled. Then it happened …

“I don’t want to go home. I want to go back to school. I don’t want to go with you.”

His words were like daggers to my heart. I already felt like I had let everyone down while I was sick. I had intentionally distanced myself from the kids to keep them from getting the same bug I’d had. I was already missing them, missing their snuggles and the sweet moments we should have been sharing over the last week. I was already in a fragile state emotionally.

When those words came, I lost it. I cried the whole way home, right along with my toddler. He cried for the comfort of his teachers, and I cried because I couldn’t give him the comfort he needed. He didn’t want me. He wanted his teacher. He wanted her.

My daughter watched the whole thing unfold and so sweetly comforted both of us. I explained that I was just really tired, and that having the energy to cry probably meant that I’m finally getting better (silver lining!). Once we were inside the house, I was able to make peace with my son by helping him remove that last pesky sock that he couldn’t get himself. And, just like that, he needed me again. He wanted me again. We hugged and apologized and made up over reheated soup and milk in his favorite Mickey Mouse cup.

Logic tells me that this was just a perfect storm: two-year-old tantrum meets exhausted mom, but in that moment, my heart broke. In that moment, I questioned every decision I’ve ever made about my children and child care and working. I wanted to be the only one my kids thought of when they needed comfort. I wanted to be their soft place to land.

The moment passed, though, and I remembered that I am all of those things for my kids. They just also happen to have other options, and that’s okay. In fact, I actually like that they have lots of soft places to land. I know they won’t always turn to me, especially as they get older, and I am grateful for a strong and loving village that is here not only to support me, but to support and comfort and lift up my children. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

When a Working Mom Gets Sick

10:11 AM 3
When a Working Mom Gets Sick
A couple of weeks ago, the slipped disc in my neck started acting up again. This time, it was causing more than just headaches. It was pinching a nerve, which in turn caused a multitude of fun symptoms … shooting pain down my arm, numb fingers and face, and an overall inability to do anything with my left hand. When I’d finally had enough, I visited my doctor who prescribed a steroid pack to reduce inflammation.

This worked great for a couple of days. Then my luck ran out. The nerve was no longer pinched or causing pain, but my stomach did not react well to the steroid. In retrospect, my doctor thinks I also had a stomach bug on top of the bad reaction to the medicine. It did me in. I was out of commission for the better part of 10 straight days. I spent my birthday in the ER getting fluids and zofran.

I’m not sharing all of this in hopes of finding a little pity party. I am sharing to emphasize that I was truly sick … not a cold or allergies or something that would allow me to partially function. I was literally incapacitated for over a week. As a working mom, this was an interesting experience.

Okay, my husband would probably use other words to describe his experience {overwhelming, frustrating, exhausting} given that he was doing every single thing for the kids, for his job, and for his sick wife. And, honestly, I didn’t think it was terribly interesting at first. I just thought it was, well, terrible. It was definitely a throw-back to my hyperemesis pregnancy days, just without the promise of a cute little bundle of joy at the end.

Once I started to come out of the I-feel-like-death-all-the-time phase, though, I did realize that interesting might actually be an appropriate descriptor. I was starting to wrap my head around the sad fact that I had not had an hour, much less a day (or 10, as it was in this case), in years when I had not been required to be doing something.  Whether I have been working or mom-ing, or wife-ing, or just living, life never stops.

Even in our rest times, rest the task at hand:
-this is my one hour to watch a recorded show, or
-this is my one night out with friends, or
-these are the six hours I have to sleep tonight, or
-this is our vacation, dang it. Enjoy it! Enjoy it all! This is your only chance to do so.

I had not been still or quiet or disengaged in so long, that my body needed to literally shut down in order to be capable of such a foreign state. Everything was such a blur for several days. And, when I started to come back to reality, I didn’t have the energy to concern myself with what I was doing right or wrong. I was still in survival mode. I was just not capable of stressing over details.  

And, do you want to know what happened while I was out of commission? Not much. Nothing fell apart. The kids were still fed, read to, and put to bed on time. Everyone was bathed and loved, and nothing fell through the cracks. Nothing.

(Except my birthday, which I think devastated my daughter a little as she recently informed me of the following: “Mom, I don’t think you’re 29. I think you said that last time. Maybe you’re closer to 100, which means a big party.” The girl does love any reason to party.)

I did miss a night out with friends, a morning walk to school, and a PTA meeting. I took a few days off of work. And, I haven’t had coffee or wine in 2 weeks … but, none of these things, or the sum of them, has thrown my life off course at all. Not one single bit.  

I didn’t just say no to one thing. I said no to everything. For almost two weeks. And nothing has changed. So maybe we can slow down, turn down, and let down from time to time. Maybe the world will keep turning even if we miss the occasional meeting. Maybe we don’t need to overextend ourselves just for the sake of doing so.

And, because I’d like to take something from my little illness {other my 8-pound weight loss that I’m not really too upset about}, I am going to take some peace of mind that I can choose my own priorities … that I am not less of a mother or wife or employee if I don’t take on that extra task every time. In her recent book, For the Love, Jen Hatmaker calls this taking things off the beam. I’m not sure what specific things I will take off the beam, but I do know that it’s time to start thinking about it more seriously.

If I could eventually find a way back to that peace and quiet state of being (minus the sickness), that wouldn’t be so bad either …