At any given moment, a mother is somewhere in America close to her breaking point. And I imagine that she’s smiling, like I am, in this picture taken last week. Can you see it? Look closely. Behind the smile, somewhere in the eyes, can’t you almost feel the tightness in my chest, the held breath, the swirling thoughts that I’m trying to manage and keep at bay. I was behind the wheel, getting ready to take a kiddo to school, when I snapped the picture. Why did I do this? Because it dawned on me that I no longer knew what was driving me or where I was going mentally that day. As I was getting into the car, un-showered, with my teeth not brushed, my hair not washed, that morning, I had hundreds of thoughts swirling in my mind and none of them had to do with taking care of myself AT ALL. And that’s the life of a single parent, especially the full-time single parent. Not one ball can drop. No sick days allowed. And there’s no family to call nearby to help. And the guilt that comes from me striving to follow my dream to get published, when my kids are in need, bubbles up like ancient frozen methane gas rising to the surface.
But what’s life without dreams? And as much as I love these boys, and I do, I have to still carve out space for me to exist separately. My writing is what centers me and motivates me and has ever since I was 18 and writing for The Red & Black newspaper at UGA. It’s just hard to juggle all the demands and carve out space for my writing… so typically hygiene, self care and a personal life, is what gets sacrificed. But I think it’s worth it. And in the end, I keep telling myself that it will show my boys that a mom is more than a servant, driver, cook, maid, tutor for her kids. A mom is also a woman who has dreams and aspirations that are just as important as their father’s. I just wish that I could manage to squeak in more balance between the parenting needs, writing time, yoga teaching, to add in a little personal life. But all in due time.
Last week I received great news, insanely welcomed news: a few publishers are interested in my 3rd novel! I am meeting with them in New York in mid December when they will review chapters of my novel for five hours on three different days and then decide if they want to work with me. I can hardly believe it! For months I have been sending agents pitches every week and began to reach out directly to publishers too and … it’s working. 😉
So I’m racing to figure it all out. If their dad can’t fly back, I will likely leave the boys solo for five days to fend for themselves, asking a good friend and neighbor to pop in every now and then. My 16-year-old will be in charge and I’ll just pray that the house is in tact and our kitten still alive when I return!
It’s dawning on me that maybe, just maybe, it’s time for them to do more. I see my friends who let their kids bike and walk to school every day solo and wonder why I never let my youngest do this. Some have their kids make their own breakfasts and lunches and then do their own laundry. We are a single parent household, yet, I hardly ever ask my kids to even take out the trash. I do too much. Maybe I’m trying to overcompensate for their dad leaving. But in the end, maybe the kids will benefit more from the value of pitching in, helping out. I asked my oldest to take the trash out this week. SCORE! My youngest is making his own breakfast, too. Hip Hip for little victories! Maybe now, I’ll shower and brush my teeth in the mornings before heading out, lol!
The morning of that picture I was experiencing confusing brain drain (see article here) before my day had really begun. Scientists call brain drain the syndrome of over-working brains from multi-tasking non-stop to the point that it becomes hard to make simple decisions. I had stayed up late the night before, after teaching yoga classes, cooking & cleaning up from dinner, trying to wash our kitten’s infected paw (that’s insane! you should see the scratches on my legs!) then filling out applications for financial aid for my son’s symphony trip to Spain, and answering questions from my other son’s therapist. I couldn’t sleep. Yes, I had meditated, but life was too lifey. In the morning, instead of showering and brushing my teeth, I had prepared breakfast, made a lunch box, and dumped out kitty litter and signed parental slips for something or another, while slipping into an energy of fear and lack of gratitude. I suddenly forgot something major, but didn’t know what it was.
It’s time to get more help around the house. I can’t keep up with it all. Shouldn’t I let my nine year old do his own breakfast and lunch box and dump kitty litter for me? I bought the cat for him, right?
The morning of that picture, I had raced through my calendar and a mental list of parental duties/worries I needed to perform, that seemed like they’d over-take my life. Orchestra meeting, check. Soccer dues, check. Dad note regarding birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, check check check. Yoga classes scheduled or subbed, check. Therapist note about my youngest, check. Teacher meeting note, check. PSAT nagging for oldest, check. New York flight and hotel for writer conference, check…can I actually GO??? Easter trip to visit colleges, oh shit. Summer symphony trip shit shit shit.
It’s so easy to get over-whelmed and since my ex and I don’t really talk, I end up managing it all solo, and in my mind, I have discussions with my universal guides about what I should and shouldn’t do until I just drop and feel like I need to wave a white flag or give up teaching or writing. But giving up means giving up a part of myself. I now understand why my mom insisted on working as a social worker while raising four children nearly solo, since my father was away most of the time. If she gave up working in a field she was passionate about, and had worked so hard to achieve, she’d be giving up a part of her soul, her identity.
It’s worth fighting for. It’s just not worth getting sick for. My health and sanity need to be a priority too. So, for now, I’m asking my boys to do more. OH! I signed up for health insurance and dental, as I’ve been three/four years without. I know. I know. … it was just too expensive, but I’m biting the bullet. And, I asked my ex-mother-in-law to fly in for a weekend so I can take time off this month. I asked my boy’s dad to fly in when I go to New York. Baby steps, right? It’s a journey of self discovery. I have to ask to receive. I have to believe that I’m worth it, in order to strive to take better care of myself. Balance requires effort and vulnerability and the willingness to receive help. I love to do for others, I’m a giver. But I need to allow others to give from time to time. I’m learning, slowly. A sense of humor is necessary! 🙂
Have a blessed week!