Women are known to be superior multi-taskers. Mothers are the super-human versions of the ultimate multi-tasker, wearing multiple hats that help them meet the needs of others, their home, and themselves.
This morning, my 2-year-old woke me up at 4am. I heard the "click-clunk" of her door opening and her little feet pattering in hall coming my way. I got out of bed, met her at the doorway, and scooped her up in my arms. She didn't say anything, no crying or whining, and she simply melted into my neck as I breathed in whole hunks of her whispy hair that still smelled of sleepiness.
Who knows what woke her up? A bad dream, a strange sound, or maybe just restlessness had prompted her to crawl out of her crib at an ungodly hour and come find comfort. Either way, she just needed her mama.
I rocked her in my arms a bit before returning her to bed. I swayed back and forth, stroking her hair and rubbing her little back, remembering the hours I would spend doing this when she was but an infant. I am so grateful for these times when my being provides everything that is an answer to her needs - I know it won't always be so simple.
In my weariness, this sweet moment made me nostalgic, and I thought to myself - Oh how I wish I could only be a mother. I laid my sweet baby in her bed and snuck quietly out of the room, miraculously not waking her sister laying in the toddler bed only a foot away. I went to go back to sleep, and spent the next hour pondering the sadness of my nostalgic thought.
Then, it occurred to me: What if I gave myself the freedom to just be a mother? What would it look like to just let myself do that? I don't need to be everything all at once all day long. I can't be. Why am I trying to be, for goodness sake.
I'm wearing a lot of hats these days. As a wife and mother, a writer, and a grad student, I often feel like I'm working three full-time jobs with no pay. My days are filled with the hazy lines of where one part of me ends and the other begins. I find myself increasingly frustrated with not being able to "find balance" or multi-task beyond my capacity.
When I first became a mother, I had three glorious months of maternity leave. I stayed home, stared at my baby, and knew it was a sacred time in my life that would be short-lived. It wasn't "easy" by any means, but it was simpler and such a special time in my life that it needs no romanticism to be remembered as lovely.
When I returned to work, I had a new schedule that included working from home one day a week. This started off fine - as my newborn slept on and off throughout the day and remained immobile in her swing or bouncy seat while I did the work I needed to do. However, as my baby grew, so did her needs; and it wasn't long before I yearned for the separation between work and home as I chased my crawling child, made a phone call, attempted to nurse her, and answered emails all at the same time. It was crazy-business, and it made both jobs SO much harder.
Here I am again. I have two kids who I desperately want to engage with. I have the luxury of being able to stay at home with them and be with them. And I am constantly allowing myself to be bogged down with the pressures of work and school that are all vying for first place in a mental race inside my head.
I'm needing to re-establish some serious boundaries in my life. I'm realizing that motherhood is the only job that doesn't allow for you to tell others "I'm sorry, can't you see I'm working right now? That will have to wait." If I was sitting in a cubicle at a computer, I would never expect another employer to walk up to me and ask me to mop the floor while I was sitting there. See what I mean? So, why am I expecting myself to be able to work for multiple "employers" all at the same time? I'm just being a bad boss if that's what I expect.
I need to let work be work time (even if it's at 5 in the morning like today), let school be school time (even if it means watching less TV), let couple time be couple time (oh yeah, I have a husband I adore), and let mommy time be mommy time. I want to want to be there for my kids. I'm tired of letting my other (albeit important) tasks interrupt the focus of my life.
I needed to be reminded that life can be simple. It can be me, holding my child, just swaying and praying, and that is more than enough to take up all of me in that moment. I'm praying now for God to help me be able to establish clear lines of how to appreciate it all, but not feel like I need to do it all at once. I'm called to be a wife and mother, a writer, and a grad student at this time in my life. This season is not as simple as I might have once thought it would be, and maybe you know how this feels too.
How many jobs are you trying to do at once?
If you're like me, then it's rare that you just hold your kid and only be a mom for a moment. I'm always thinking ahead to the next chore on my list: what emails need to be sent, what chapters need to be read, that project I'm presenting, that paper that's due soon, what blog should I be working on, that article I'd like to write, those contacts I need to connect with, that phone call I should return. those library books that are overdue, the milk that's running low, the meat I forgot to thaw, the oil change that my car needs, the birthday card I have to get, that check I need to mail, etc. etc. etc.
Welcome to the mind of a woman, right?
How did my life get so crazy that I'm trying to juggle all these things at once!? (And I'm guessing your life is no less crazy - we each have our own version of juggling mayhem!) I remember learning to juggle tennis balls in gym class. I was never very good at juggling, but one thing I do know is that when you learn to juggle, you don't throw all the balls up in the air all at once - you'll only watch them all fall down in chaos. But, if you keep your eye on one ball at a time, you can get into a rhythm that allows you to focus on each one of them in their given time.
I know I can't always keep the boundaries from intersecting. Sometimes I will have to stop swinging my girls and take a phone call. Sometimes I'll need to put my kids in front of the TV so I can cook dinner or write an urgent email. And sometimes it will be a great example for my girls to see that their mom loves what she does by using the gifts that God has given me and why it's important to work hard.
But...most times...being a mom is the only thing I need to be for my kids.
They don't need me to be a student, or a writer, or a great cook, or a perfect housekeeper, or a super hero. I can't juggle it all on my own, and I want my girls to grow up knowing that I didn't! I have a supportive team and a mighty God who is here to keep me in line and encourage me along the rocky road of life. And, I have two sweet daughters who gave me the (literal) wake-up call to remember how simple it really can be.
[Time to put the computer away. My mommy shift is about to start.]