Staring at the clock in the corner of my computer screen. It is 4:25 p.m. Five more minutes until I pack everything up, rush out the door, and sit in I-26 traffic for at least 20 minutes before my second shift starts at 5:20 p.m. on the dot. If I am late, the boss will not be very happy. Although he is only 25 pounds, he is very demanding.
4:30 p.m. I immediately head for the door. I try to squeak by without much noise so I don’t come across as a slacker who never stays late.
The truth is, I want to stay late. I miss staying late.
I am so behind on work stuff but the thought of not beating traffic looms over me like a dark storm cloud. Every minute I stay late equates to 5 extra minutes that I miss out on him.
It is inevitable. On my way out the door, a colleague catches me and has a story to share. She is as sweet as can be, but I am on a mission and I cannot afford to be sidetracked. I listen as she tells me about a rough situation at home.
I want so badly to listen more intently, to be with her in that moment, but I just cannot. Not at this hour. Not right now. My mind is a million miles away.
Can she see through the act? Does she sense that I do not seem to care? Who else can read past my facade?
I stare up at the clock in the lobby and see that it is now 4:38 p.m. I failed today. I am going to hit traffic and I am not going to make it home on time.
As soon as she is finished telling her story, I book it out as fast as I can. On my way to my car, I feel awful that I was not better for my colleague.
4:50 p.m.traffic. I listen to motherhood podcasts on my commute home as a way to convince myself that I am using this time in my car to transition from one job to the next. Why is there traffic anyways? Can’t everyone just move and go where they need to go? Who designed this highway?
Today, they are ironically talking about work/life balance. As I listen, I realize I have yet to find what they are discussing. Every day is a triathlon as I go from one thing to the next, the clock is a reminder that I am always behind, and I feel that I am always in last place.
When does a mom figure out this balance that they speak of? Will I ever get there? It has been a year and I have yet to figure it out.
5:42 p.m. I sit in my driveway with my car turned off. It is quiet in here and I take a moment to breathe in and breathe out. I close my eyes feeling that when I open them, I will be “mom” and not “working professional.”
This minute is mine and I need this minute so bad. I feel selfish taking this one, small minute for myself as I am already late.
5:44 p.m. he is waiting for me in dad’s arms when I walk in.
“There is your sweet Mama! You’ve been waiting for her!”
I am so sorry I am late my sweet boy, I can only hope this hurts me more than you. I think to myself.
He points to me, babbles, smiles, and reaches for me.
This is the moment that I live for every day. This is the good stuff.
In this moment, I forget about the infinite amount of post-it note to-dos that are waiting for me at the office. I forget about why there was so much traffic. I forget about not being a better listener and colleague. I forget about all the emails that I never responded to.
I embrace and squeeze him as if I have not seen him months. I kiss and tickle him so I can selfishly hear his laughter. I think for a moment how dull walking through the door after work was before him.
This is the moment that gets me through the hardest of days. This moment is what my life is all about and yet the euphoria of this feeling is over in a split second.
5:46 p.m. the stress ball in the pit of my stomach creeps up on me as my second shift work commences.
He has missed me all day and wants to nurse. I try so hard to enjoy this time as I know it will be over soon, but my mind is so busy to give him my full attention.
As I sit on the couch and cuddle my little lovebug, my other role, the one I always seem to put last, comes to the forefront. My husband wants to tell me about his day, about an article he read, a news story he heard. My facade comes back.
I feel so burnt out. I just cannot right now. I want to, I want to more than you know, but I cannot. I think in my head. When did I become such a horrible wife? He is such a wonderful husband, a wonderful man, and yet I give him nothing back. I want to, so badly I want to, but I can’t.
He knows me better than anyone else, can he see my facade? Does he know I am not fully present right now?
6:05 p.m. what’s for dinner? The chicken in the fridge expired 2 days ago. Writing the reminder on the fridge did not help me out. Flatbread pizza it is.
6:48 p.m. let’s play on floor little one. Bob, the giant red stuffed fox, makes a comfy pillow as I lay playing with blocks on the floor. I could fall asleep so soundly right here.
Keeping a one-year-old sitting still fails me. He wants to run around, climb stairs, get into things. I chase him all over the house as my husband cleans up after dinner.
What time is it? Is it bedtime? Mom guilt sets in and it is so very real. I have been home an hour. One hour and I am already wishing for bedtime. I am just so exhausted.
7:20 p.m. the night commences upstairs for the bedtime routine. I opt out of bath time since tonight, I am just too tired. Will tomorrow be any different? I sit in the rocker as my husband changes the diaper and puts our son in his pajamas.
I have to take a shower, I should answer some emails, I have to get lunches, bottles, bags, clothes ready for tomorrow, I am drowning.
7:30 p.m. my son is quietly nursing and we are rocking. I rub his back, I run my fingers through his hair, I kiss his cheek. He is the most beautiful being I have ever laid eyes on. Perfection.
“I am working so hard for you my little one, I am doing my best. I hope you feel it.”
The stress ball in my stomach fades away, if only for this quiet moment. As I look down at those sweet, innocent, blue eyes staring up at me in the dark, I feel in that moment that I am doing at least one thing absolutely right.