I have a plug-in massager at work on my shoulders, a hot bath filling up, Epsom salts at the ready and impossible plans for an early bedtime. I’m desperate to release the hundreds of tiny clenched muscles running up my back through my neck and fixing to my skull, pulling my head backward and making me walk like Frankenmommy. None of these ultra tensed muscles, which owe their workout to my habit of pitching my shoulders up and forward, among other unconscious postural offenses, will ever help me to look good in a bathing suit. Why don’t I flex my abs when I get stressed?
My kids have a scent on me. They know something’s up and they’re hot on my trail.
It’s my work. I’m distracted by it and they notice. (Note: For purposes of this post, “work” means stuff I get paid to do, not my mom job.) These boys are unrelenting about pulling me back into their space, using any tactics they can conjure…spilling stuff on purpose, hitting each other, chasing the dogs, whining, blatantly ignoring my voice, railing against going to school, refusing bedtime, etc.
Today, on making my customary twice-weekly ascent to my office, both Charlie and Kip erupted in tears and shrieks of “Mommy! Don’t go to work! Stay here with us!” Red faced and wet-eyed, they pawed and clawed and grabbed and screamed. “Oh, please, please don’t go work!”
Usually they pay no attention to my departure into work mode because they’re already playing with the sitter but, until recently, my work was easily compartmentalized. I am working. I am not working. Period. I’m still working part-time and the babysitter schedule hasn’t changed, but the work has, and it now inspires reflection outside of my appointed working hours, blurring my own mental lines between “mom” and “professional.” In the past couple weeks, the boys have noticed my mind is often elsewhere and it’s a little scary to them. Justifiably, I might add. They’re still so young, and suddenly I’m here but I’m not here. It’s typical for very young kids and their mothers to be ultra connected, and so it holds in our family that if I’m stressed, my kids are off the wall.
Instead of the soft, flowy, flexibly working, writey mommy to whom my sons are accustomed, I’ve been exploring professional pursuits that resemble my pre-motherhood work life, and that reveal a mommy my sons don’t know or appreciate much at this point.
Frankly, I’m not too sure about her, either. She’s hella distracted. I spaced the carnival tickets we had for Saturday, thinking the event was Sunday. The laundry is piled up (more than usual). The boys have no clean socks. We’re not having the slowcooker massaman curry I promised for dinner tonight because I couldn’t make it to the Asian market for all the ingredients. I haven’t posted to my blog in too long. I got a date wrong in a work email. I somehow missed the start time of a conference call. (shudder.) I’m feeling stretched. Transition is hard.
How do I even do this? Work a part-time job in which I’m expected to be all fast, efficient and strategic while also working another job in which I’m charged to maintain an intentional, rhythmic, creeping pace for young children? Men and women do this all the time, I know. And maybe they struggle like I do at first, but they sure seem to execute the balance more elegantly than I.
I am intent on being the all-day-every-day primary caregiver for my children. However, let it be known I love working. I relish having my mind challenged and my skills pushed. I immensely enjoy the people I get to work with. While I’m doing professional work, it’s all very energy giving. But this distraction piece keeps cropping up. I do not feel good being distracted. I do not enjoy my sensitive children’s volcanic response to my distraction. Moreover, I reject the old instinct that I suddenly must revert to Type A-ism, say-yes-to-everything-ism, in order to succeed. Nonetheless, here I am trying really hard to be good at my professional work, and trying really hard to be good at my home life. Trying really hard? Ugh. I need a new approach.
And so, as an intentional full-time mom, my gut reaction is to chuck it all, work-wise, so that I can train my focus on the home and our family, ejecting this quick-thinking, list-making, money-earning intruder into an undisclosed location in the future when I naturally have more time and space for her all-business ways. (like, when both kids are in school…)
Oh, but that’s not the lesson for me here. The lesson, which my children are very boldly teaching me, is this: Here’s my long-awaited opportunity to learn how to maintain inner calm while juggling various aspects of the material world.
When I lack the wherewithal to be disciplined in my emotions (i.e., letting myself get overwhelmed to the point of a tizzy, or even just ruffled nerves), my wee little teachers are nearby to redirect me in their uniquely effective way.
It kinda feels like I’ve moved up a grade in transform school. My work adventure is just a new curriculum in being present and peaceful inside no matter what’s happening on the outside. It was helpful stumbling across Marayogini’s awesome blog last week. She writes:
“As Krishnamacharya writes: ‘The world exists to set us free.’ It is by being a part of the outer world, that we have our best chance to perfect our inner world. The transformation that occurs in isolation (cave, monastery, retreat) might be initially easier to obtain and can certainly be a shortcut to quick, solid results. Sooner, or later, however, that transformation should be able to withstand the test of being integrated into the world at large. We should ultimately be able to be IN the world without being OF the world.”
The world exists to set us free. As work is a part of the world, and having a family is part of my world, I’m getting the chance to practice stilling the winds of my emotions such that the ocean of my peace is undisturbed and, subsequently, my family and I may drift contentedly along as intended.
Eventually, I believe we will all grow accustomed to worky mommy, and embrace all that she brings to the family. In the mean time, I’ll be reminding myself to be grateful for the chance to juggle, and for the occasion to transform.
**For my yoga-inquisitive friends, if you’re not already familiar with Mara Healy, Universal Yoga teacher, she has a fantastic blog in which she joyfully explores all aspects of yoga and life. Check out some wisdom at www.marayogini.com