Tuesday, February 27, 2007

This is the Moment

This morning, I was making my way through the milling rush-hour crowds that the Yonge & Bloor subway station - late as usual. I honestly don't know how working mothers get to work on time. It's a skill that I have yet to master, and it's been a year. Anyways, I was stuck behind this tall guy wearing a furry hooded jacket who was walking v e r y s l o w l y, feeling very much like Princess Leia behind the Wookie. (I know I'm showing my age with that reference, but that quote still cracks me up: "Will someone get this big walking carpet out of my way?". Hee, hee!). Turns out this guy was walking so sluggishly because he was busy checking his IPod. Not only is this a pet peeve of mine, but there are few better ways to set off my already fractious morning temperament. I think that people should focus on the task at hand. I'm all for "stopping to smell the flowers", but you're more likely to hear me say "walk like you have a purpose". You can stop and smell the flowers when you get there.

After my temper cooled a bit, I stopped to review. Why was I so angry? Why does it bother me when people put on makeup while driving, read books while walking, or talk on the phone when they're in the loo? I am a multi-tasker at heart, it's part of what makes me who I am. How can I criticize others when I'm not happy unless I'm doing seven things at once? In fact, much to my dismay, I've come to the realization that I'm guilty of multi-tasking when I'm with the Boy.

Last night, I was pretty much at the end of my rope. I had a bad day. I got through the Boy falling and hitting his face on the corner of the table, struggling through the snowstorm with the stroller, angry people yelling at me at work, and my boss interrupting a client call to tell me that I was wrong. I had had enough. The thought of picking up the Boy should have filled me with excitement, but instead I was dreading the energy I would have to spend entertaining a toddler for the next few hours. I just wanted to crawl in a hole and sleep. For a few days. The only way that I could get through that time was to do other tasks simultaneously. It calmed me to know that once the Boy was in bed, I could just crash, instead of doing the multitude of tasks that I do on a regular basis. He watched while I shovelled snow. He ate dinner while I did dishes, he stuck stickers on his shirt while I got things ready for bed. I was not being the best mother I could be. But what hurts the most is not what happened last night. I did what I had to do to get by. I'm not proud of it, but I'm not ashamed. What I am ashamed of is that I do things like this on a regular basis. It's so easy to make phone calls while the Boy is playing. To fold laundry. To check emails. To check blogger comments. To not be there for the Boy. To not be in his world. To not be in the moment.

Now, I don't think that you have to "be there" every moment of every day. Especially not if you're a SAHM who is there all day long. Kids need to learn to play independently. They also need to learn that while it might be fun to play all day, that there are chores to be done that are necessary to make home life run smoothly. But I'm not a SAHM and my time with the Boy is even more precious. Do I use that time to focus exclusively on the Boy, or do I continue on my day as if I was there with him all day long? Is there a happy medium? I'm not sure. For me, it's kind of a slippery slope. I'm either completely Boy-focused, or I do one little thing. And then another. And then another.

I think that I need to realize that this is the moment. Every moment that I let slip away is not going to come back. And these are the moments worth living for. The moments to be proud of when the day is done. I should listen to my lovely little Boy whose new sentences include "Mummy play a bit" and "No, sit awhile." Or, to quote Mr Earth's favourite composer, William Finn, "The living was the prize. The ending's not the story."

16 comments:

Suzanne said...

This post really resonated with me -- I felt like this the entire time I was a working mother (3 years); there was so much to do at home that once I got there after work I wanted to just do it all so that I could rest after the kids were in bed. That meant, as you wrote, not spending a ton of one-on-one time with them. I always felt guilty about that and tried to devote a block of kid-only time before I dove into the tasks. I don't know if there is a happy medium, but try not to beat yourself up about it.

ewe are here said...

I'm sorry you had such a crappy day. It can really make everything seem so much worse than it is. Like how we 'treat' our children attention-wise.

I really think you're being too hard on yourself. We all struggle with the 'play'/'work' balance, even those of us who are currently SAHMs. The happy medium you are looking for is what works for you and your family ... you'll find it. Really. And it can and will fluctuate daily...

Hang in there.

Sandra said...

Wow. This one hit me right in the gut. I can relate to completely. I am on that same slippery slope. The way you described those moments at the end ... was perfect. I feel like I should print it out.

NotSoSage said...

Um...are you my conscience?

Okay, I'm going to get off my butt and go pay a little attention.

Mad Hatter said...

This is a tough one for me b/c my daughter won't let me do anything else and that sometimes fuels my temper b/c, ya know, the dinner does need making and the snow needs shovelling. It is so hard to find that balance.

BTW, I read at B&P's that you are going to interview Daniel MacIvor. Cool. Don't be nervous, though. He's a down-home Bluenose from what I understand.

Beck said...

Ouch. Being really present is an issue for me, but I'm definitely guilty of thinking that having me here physcially all the time will make up for me being a bit emotionally absent. However: One bad day does NOT sum you up as a mother. February is HARD.

bubandpie said...

This post captures perfectly what I tried to describe as my hardest struggle as a mom in the CHBM interview: I'm always facing that temptation to multi-task, for a lot of the reasons you described. I really, really love it when I can just BE in the moment with my children - but somehow that doesn't make it easier to do.

metro mama said...

I caught myself this morning, engrossed in blogs and emails. Cakes was eating breakfast and wanted more milk. She was saying "please", "please" and I wasn't paying attention until she finally screamed at me. I was not proud.

Kyla said...

I think we all struggle with this one. KayTar has recently begun demanding my full attention, so it has made it much easier to let go of the multitasking I usually attempt. If she is content to play nearby, I let her do that while I go about my various tasks or while I relax. If she needs me to be there or makes it clear she wants me, then I am there in an instant. Lately, there has been no content playing, unless I am on the floor playing, too. But if tomorrow she is back to being content? I'll be back to the multitasking. We all do it, and the important thing is to be there when they want us to be in the moment.

Mimi said...

Ooof. Like so many of the other commenters, this really hits me where I live: what a great, honest, thoughtful post.

In the moment: yes, I too lie in bed thinking of the irretrievable moments I have frittered away in multitasking when I might have been focusing.

I don't know what to do about this. Every time I try to focus in on Miss Baby, I last for a bit, then I get bored, even if she doesn't. I'm not sure if this makes me a bad person, or an adult. And I'm also dreaming of the quiet, chore-free time I'll get once she goes to sleep if I can just ... mulit-task ... right ... now ...

The guilt is likely worse because I work: if I don't see her for most of the day, how come I'm so easily distracted when I finally get home?

Dunno. This one is hard. I'm with you, sistah.

kittenpie said...

Boy, do I understand this. I've been running on empty lately, and I too have found myself just getting through the evening until Pumpkinpie's in bed so I can flake out. I hate thinking of it like that, finding myself thinking, "Whew, go through another week." Because the next thought is - wait, slow down! Try to enjoy the weeks with this little golden toddler while you still can! But the energy saps the will, doesn't it? In the mornings, she gets little attention, often watching a tv show or two while I get us both dressed and everything organized. At night, I focus on her until her bedtime, but it's not much time. So I feel torn on the weekends. I want some "me" time, but I know it's prime Pumkpinpie time, too. Gah!

MotherBumper said...

Oh how this spoke today me, especially today. I try to live in the moment, but it is so easy to be distracted and forget. What a wonderful quote, I'm writing that one down to remind me. Great post.

jen said...

it's so true, isn't it. there is no other place we should be, should want to be, and yet life shows up and we are human and well...we do the best we can.

you are a lovely mum.

NotSoSage said...

nme: while the weather outside and my coming weekend are not likely to support this, if you're interested in bringing Mme L and The Boy together for a mommy date, I'd totally be in.

e-mail me if you're interested: notsosage[at]yahoo[dot]ca

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cinnamon gurl said...

Ok. This is the third post in a row I've read of yours that makes me think you live in my head. Do you?