We’re now officially less than one month away from my daughter’s 11th birthday. I am pinned between the rock of her ever-increasing independence and growing up-ness (and all the complexities contained in that) and the harsh reality of having gone from a lengthy, not chosen, stint as a stay-at-home-mom who fell completely in love with that job, hard as it was– to a 50+ hours a week working mom. For those who equate tears and struggle with bad– you’d be hard-pressed to categorize how I am. I’m doing great, I’m thrilled, and I feel just awful a lot of the time, and this job, and the things I do at work are the most fun I’ve had in a long, long time work-wise. I mean really, serious fun. And I am, as I said just the other day– bone-tired.
Since I’ve gained confidence on the job, and the first rocky, scary weeks of new-jobness have ended– I’ve turned my attention a little more outward. As a result, I have been bursting into tears quite a lot when I think of the hours and hours I am not getting to be with my daughter. I just can hardly bear it right at the same time I am loving what I do at work. If you could grant me the 48 hour day and she could sleep quietly while I work, I would, I think, be happy. But I cried with my boss on Friday when I realized I was going to have to work all day Friday and then a fair bit over the weekend.
And I burst into tears when I walked through the door at home on Monday night at 8:30. I’d been at the very last of a series of in-the-evening community meetings. And then, at the very end, they decided to schedule another meeting this week that I have to staff– for 5:00 p.m. tomorrow. I literally barely kept it together at the meeting itself when they decided on a second this week. And I will work this weekend while daughter and partner go ahead on a long-planned camping trip to a gorgeous park on a river where it is nearly impossible to even get a permit to go there and camp. Me. I have to miss that. Aaaaachhh.
I wasn’t actually with my daughter all the time when I wasn’t working. Sometimes I felt I was barely with her. She went to school and camp and Hebrew school and basketball and drama club and wanted playdates with friends and… she was busy. But I was with her a lot and I was available— and she knew it and I knew it. Being truly available to a young person is kind of like being together though nothing like being together.
I’ve been walking around for days trying to pull up from some distant memory– or some non-existent memory, a phrase I believe I’ve heard, for what I am feeling. If after I write this, you know or want to make up the phrase– please do write me. Comment. It’s something like womb-loss or early-empty-nest but not really either of those. I mean by that, not either of those at all. Something else. It’s a phrase that connotes excruciating, tectonic plate-shifting loss even though it’s really change and not loss at all. Maybe the word I’m looking for is weaning, only it’s me who’s being weaned. She’s busy, interested in her friends, her iPod touch, her YouTube videos, something she calls “alone time”, nail polish, friends, art projects, wrestling, playing hard outside (sometimes) and a whole lot more. She misses me a lot, I know– she cried about it one night last week and I really felt terrible, like I’d let her down. But I miss her more, I really do, though it isn’t a competition. The fact is, this change has been hard on all of us, but then so are life-saving surgery, childbirth, writing and editing a book, starting a marriage or life with a new child, and training for a marathon to name a few. I’m not sure which of those I’m in the midst of, but you get the picture.