What do you do when you run out of time? When you find yourself with 30 minutes to do the thing you’d really rather have a few hours for? When a deadline is facing you down, and you have no choice but to finish what you need to do in the limited moments you have?
To me, this sums up so much of motherhood. There is always someplace to be, something to do, someone who needs me. And I struggle with it all. With the hurrying and the constant in-my-head evaluating of what needs to be done first, now, 20 minutes ago. I want to be present. I want to listen. I want to be calm and centered. I want to offer my kids and my work and the unlimited chores of family life the time and attention and energy they all require. And the truth is, the reality is: I cannot. I am constantly telling my kids that there is only one of me. That I can only be in one place at a time. That I can only listen to one of them at a time.
I am constantly making lists. Of things needed at the grocery store. Of things I need to remember to do at work. Of phone calls I need to make and emails I need to return. For appointments and playdates. Follow ups and inquiries. I’m constantly keeping track of who has enough clean socks for the week and when the milk is likely to run out and what time this weekend’s birthday party starts (and did we buy a gift yet)?
These are the details of my life as a mother of three employed outside the home who also volunteers at her children’s school. And none of these details even touches on my writing. The big part of me that gets only fleeting direct attention. The growing part of me that only gets heard when everyone else’s needs are met adequately enough for now and those items at the tops of the lists have at least been given a moment of review.
And yet. And yet the very truth of it all is that I wouldn’t be the writer that I am today if I hadn’t lived these last nearly nine years of my parenting life. Motherhood defines so much of what I write about and how I approach my writing, I can’t imagine I’d have much of anything to say if these three loud little bodies weren’t ever-present. Even as I sit here, late to submit this post, with now less than 30 minutes before I have to take my daughter to ballet rehearsal, her lunch not yet made, the wet laundry at my feet needing to be hung on the drying rack, I want to dwell on the contradictions of my life. And I can’t. I need to stir the noodles. Check to see if my daughter needs help with her tights. Find the flyer with the details for today’s first rehearsal for the spring show. I need to leave this house having hit “submit,” so that at the very very least I have followed through on one of the items that needed doing.
This isn’t what I was going to write about, of course. And yet, sometimes the words that come are the ones I must accept. I have learned this along the way, too. I buy the groceries and make the meals and meet the work deadlines. I make the appointments and read the chapter books and love love love the people in my family. I make the time for it all as best as I can. It’s all connected. It’s all my story. It’s messy and unorganized, and it feels never ending. But even as I sit here with the winter sun streaming in my bedroom window, laptop perched on my lap as I listen for the water to boil in the kitchen, I know that allowing the mess of these words to spill out, resisting the urge to go back, edit, choose better words, make it all neat and tidy, this piece of writing illustrates honestly my life. In particular my life as a mother of three on a Saturday morning. My life. Today. With not a lot of time but lots and lots to fill it up.