Woman. Girlfriend. Mom. Writer. Sister. Daughter. Friend. The pieces move, but woman always stays first. I’ve never been the person who puts mom in front. I tried it once. Me? A stay-at-home, alone, with no one but a baby to talk to. It was a true example of a messy extrovert explosion.
Years later, I found my balance. A solid 8:30 to 4:30 gig. Write by day, home by 5—with a run at lunch even. I get homework time while making dinner, games and science experiments with the 8-year-old, happy hour with friends, sushi outings with the teen, actual date nights with my man.
But I feel the balance slipping. The gentle slope tilting further as things begin to tip. 8:30 edges toward 8. 4:30 inches toward 5, 6, 7. Mark, can you pick up Ethan tonight? The asks are more frequent. A scramble up the sidewalk to the aftercare program as I count down the seconds before 6 p.m. hits. I see Ethan staring out the small window slit of the door, the last one standing with his backpack and coat in hand.
Want to play right now, Ethan? “Not right now.” But I haven’t prodded like I used to. Instead I swipe away at the phone, scanning for news stories I can use. Ave, up for sushi tonight? “I’ll let you know,” as he goes upstairs to study. Sushi soon replaced by frozen pizza and 10 minutes talking on the couch instead of a few hours catching up.
And there it is again. The disconnect, the small gap growing. It feels familiar. Takes me back a few years. Kids can’t divorce their parents though, right? But I’m so close, on the cusp of exactly where I want my career to go, and I’m loving it. Creative projects. Fun writing. Amazing interview opportunities. A return to bylines. Then the other day, my coworker said that your kids are only young once. Stab. I know. I can feel that ache in my heart. But what if my career chance goes by as fast as my kids grow up?
I want to lean in, lay down and lift off all at one time. I want to be “Woman hear me roar,” while I sit on the bed crying into my boyfriend’s shoulder because I’m so exhausted. For the first time I missed one of Ethan’s soccer games not because I was out of town or sick; I just needed more sleep. I have dozens of emails from my favorite people waiting for replies. I’m 10 pounds heavier. I have friends who are struggling, and I am failing them. I am failing.
Tonight I’m writing this blog in my head as I “sleep,” panicking I won’t remember anything by morning. Can’t stop. Won’t stop. That’s my mind these days. Permanent play button with short buffering interruptions.
I shouldn’t have let Ethan play so many video games on Tuesday. I should have pulled out some games to play together. I should tell Avery we’re going to sushi, somewhere close. No more than an hour. Everyone has to eat, and I’m behind on the teen slang by now. Guilt drips over every thought. The time ticks. 1 a.m.
I really need to contact this person for an interview. I want to cover this story with this angle. I’m getting excited. 2 a.m.
Wait, what if I talked to this person? Do I have time to write another article before I leave for the kids’ spring break? 3 a.m.
I have to make sure to leave work at home when we’re in Florida. Next week I’m going to splash with the kids in the pool. I’ll be the fun parent on the ground with the Legos. Popcorn and movies. I’ll do it all. 4 a.m.
When my marriage ended, I was shattered, but I picked up whatever random pieces I could find and built myself into something new, something stronger. So I know that this, I can get through, but for now, I’m watching little parts break off, haphazardly catching what I can. Maybe it’s okay to let a few fall to the ground. Today I’m failing, but maybe tomorrow I’ll fly.