I am operating at about 115-120% capacity all the time. This means that in a 24 hour cycle, I am spreading myself as thick as possible across all my responsibilities. In a day’s time, imagine what it would be like if all the balls I am juggling came down at once. Just sit back and imagine from my perspective how devastating that would be. You would realize that I really need to be working at 150% capacity all the time, but I cannot. I am simply unable to give more than 125%. That is my drop dead level. But, at 115% I am working at the bare minimum capacity to have things “livable.” That means I am not succeeding at one – or any – of my tasks beyond a basic level – it also means that no one is happy. My boss, my son, my self, my daughter, my parents, my ex-husband and even my friends are pressuring me at this level. No one is really bitching badly (God help me if I drop down to only giving 100%), but no one is really satisfied. I leave my relationship off the list of pressures, but this is the very first time in my life I have ever been able to do that. Imagine if, for the first time in your life, your relationship is a pressure release valve instead of a pressure cooker. That means a lot.
Let’s start the day at 12a. A really good place to start, I think. I am in bed asleep, or going to bed or still up, but soon after I am asleep… soundly.
I am awakened sometime between 3 and 5a by a sleepy, cranky Ezra wanting to crawl in bed with me. He may crawl in quietly (most nights) and snuggle in, but he may also demand milk and pitch a fit on the floor because I tell him to go get it himself and this offends him in some way. How dare Mommy not provide it to him on demand in the middle of the night anymore?! He does not care that he knows exactly where the milk is and that he is already up, having made it in the dark to my bedside from his. He also knows that he can see all the way into the kitchen and is perfectly capable of walking in there and opening the door and getting it himself. But it is 3a and he does not want to. Well, ya know, neither do I and seeing as though you are already up, capable and the one wanting the milk in the first place, I do not see a pressing need for me to get up. Flash forward 30 minutes later to me crawling back in to bed after walking a screaming child both to and back from the kitchen after walking him in there and making him get the milk himself… and him refusing. Good morning – welcome to your day – the sun will be along later!
I sleep a few more hours lying between them. I am both content and nervous. The clock will be going off soon and I have to be on the watch for it. I move Ezra’s feet off my bladder and try and reposition him so he is taking up only half of the bed. Jay rolls over and wraps his arm around me and I snuggle against him and put my arm around Ezra. I kiss his head and lay there feeling the both of them. Ezra lets a “stinky poot” go and I chuckle. I hear him suck his thumb. I hear Jay breathe. I know I am a bit cramped, trying to find a comfortable way to squeeze my arms in and fit – and still not get too hot, but I relax anyway. I drift off for a few minutes. Suddenly, I jerk awake. Is the phone going off?! If so it is 5:30, which means 6 and 6:30 are right behind it. No, no clock. Must have been the dream I was having. Either the nice one, the sexy one or the one where my boss, ex, daughter, mother, brother – past whoever – is yelling at me. I reconnect with where I am and grab the phone. I am still too tired to wake, but I am too nervous not to have it in my hand so I will both hear it and be able to turn if off quickly so it does not wake Ezra (or Jay). The alarm clock is next. I snooze it as many times as I dare, but it wakes Ezra, who starts begging me to “Get up, Mommy!” And so it begins… again.
Hey, at least it was not one of those nights where he is vomiting at 2a. Those do happen, but I generally get a day “off” that way. Meaning, I will be a full time mom today. A full time mom who is unable to go to her full time job because she has to be mommy right now. But rest assured, my readers, there are things piling up there whenever that happens. And there could be hell (or a cranky boss who hates for a second that he hired a divorced, almost single mom) to pay.
The manager’s thought process goes as follows, with variations on how much of an ass he is:
You are lucky, with all you have going on in your “private life” that I am still willing to put up with and employ you. You are lucky that I know that I am not an actual ass, I just play one at the office to whatever degrees I wish and manage to still maintain a clear conscience. Putting up with it and doing what I tell you is what you are paid (as little as we can justify) to do – and you agreed to it, so ha ha. You are lucky that I know that you do a better job than the last secretary I had for 3 years (and gave a recommendation to, btw), but I also know you need the money. I know I can tell you in a review that you are better than she was and that you operate at a much better level and provide me with superior performance. And I am lucky that I know I can still pressure you always to do better and make sure that you know that I am your superior and that you serve me at my pleasure and I have the control to completely fuck up your life, because making money to keep ends meeting is your top priority as a mother and I can use that to my advantage to make sure that your always on the edge and that if you feel that you are torn, well, yes, you will choose your family, sure, but you will do it with the knowledge that I am a scary figure and, in your life, I will always be able to make you feel guilty and scared every single time you have to choose your family over me. And I will do it all and still be a nice guy – putting even more pressure on because you know, I could be Rham Emanuel-esque and you would still have to be grateful you have me. And, btw, my on-going divorce, move and private life never, ever, ever figure in to how I deal with you and your performance, my expectations of you, my patience disposition or attitude. Never.
Oh, how I love being a working mother.
Somewhere between 6 and 7:45a. I am trying to get dressed and out of the house. I have been struggling with this. Between Ezra’s new clingy stage, traffic, and preparation, I have my work cut out for me. On a good night before, I have set the coffee pot. But last night was not a good night.
Ezra was in bed at 9p. It then took both Jay and I working in tandem just under 2 hours to get him to stay in bed and go to sleep. This includes a full 45 minute (at least) time period where I had to lay on the couch and listen to him scream my name over and over. And over. At the fullest decibel level a 3 year old’s lungs will produce. It is impressive. He is also peppering in that he has to go poop (something he knows will usually bring me running. But I know that he has gone 45 minutes before and had to work for that in an earlier ploy to stay awake – which was successful. He did manage to get about 15 minutes later and poo poo treats, but I got knowing that he could only pull it once tonight), that his leg hurts and that he wants his music (from the aquarium which is right next to his head and is designed so a 6 month old can turn it on). I can only lay there and wait him out. And I have to admit, I was breaking and Jay had to remind me not to go in there and lay down with him to stop his –and our – torture. But I have picked this battle and I have to win. At 10:30 or so, he has gotten to the point that he will no longer get out of bed (thanks to Jay’s efforts), but is screaming like his blood is boiling. We just start the movie we have been trying to watch since 9 and figure out the parts we cannot understand due to Ezra’s screams drowning it out. He puts up a fight. I swear he fell asleep before he stopped screaming. Wanna guess what tonight will be like? At midnight Jay and I stumble off to bed. You already know what is going to happen at 3a, remember?
Back to the coffee pot. We are at 6:30a or so. Things are looking ok. Ezra is on the couch watching Sesame St. He has milk and a chocolate protein bar. I have satisfied all requests for snuggling, etc and he is peaceful. I shower. And I have to admit that it is hard to speed this up. The shower feels so good. The sound of the water drowns out all requests from Ezra and the sounds of the TV and snoring I might hear. I am alone and warm and beginning to wake…AHHHH. I open my eyes and look at the clock. I have relished for 3 minutes longer than I should have and now I have to hurry. Because at any time any of the following can happen:
Ezra’s peacefulness is disturbed in some way that will need my attention. He could need to pee, he could need to poop (which still requires my direct supervision for the entire process and could be quick and easy or a constipated ordeal), he could need more milk (which he cannot pour), he could spill something – bonus points if it is on me, double bonus if I am already in my work clothes, triple if I did not get to the laundry completely done and it is possible that I can’t find a back up quickly.
Joe could need my attention in some way. Today I had to text him about a parent teacher conference – that was easy. If it is hard then he is pissed off (bonus points if it is something I think is dumb or inconsequential, triple points if it is making him mad with me directly).
There could be heavy traffic, a wreck, an idiot.
Greta could call and need me. This would be the equivalent to an atom bomb in my morning. Other bombs include me being sick, Ezra getting sick or any other possible catastrophe.
See why I love that shower time so much?
It is 7:35a. These few moments are critical. If I get in the car in ten minutes, the Garmin will tell me I will get to the office parking garage at 8:15. That will not happen, however. If I add the trip to daycare as a via point, it will tell me 8:30 at the latest. I have given myself 30 minutes of lag time, but more than likely, leaving an hour and 15 minutes before I have to be at work either #1 – will not be possible, or #2 – even if I made it, it will not be enough. And I cannot, cannot, cannot get up any earlier or go any faster than I have been going. The pressure of my boss starts to weigh on me and I begin to worry.
**Refer to earlier boss mindset.
And so I am here, writing this and venting it all out – and resisting the urge not to accidentally email it to my boss. I mean, I don’t know if it would get me fired, but it would get me close…. And I cannot afford that. Dammit.
So, welcome to the morning of a working mother. This is just a sampling… and I did not even get to traffic, daycare, more traffic and the parking garage, much less even made it to my desk to start the “work day.” And I have it easy compared to some mothers, trust me. I have a good man working with me. I have a good job and I am grateful for all of it… I just wish there was a way to do it without leaving me feeling as if my 115% was not good enough. But I don’t think mothers get that luxury. We just get to be mothers… and most days we know the truth – getting to do all this is a privilege as much as a responsibility. And we love every hard, wonderful minute of it. Don’t you??
Originally written September 2010