Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Reckoning heartbreak

There is nearly an entire wall of glass, beyond which there are oddly industrial yet romantic fire escape ladders. The sun pours in, washing the entire space in a honey glow. Beneath the window is a run of pipe, shuttling hot air from the radiator to and fro across the back wall, above it runs another pipe, tailor made for little kids to shimmy and scurry along.

"Look at me, mama? I'm a'walkin'."

Along another wall there are bins and baskets filled with toys. Mismatched, bedraggled and forgotten, until the sun hits the chime of the tambourine just right and they careen as one to the trove of neglected fun, reviving it in an instant with their squeals of delight.

"Ooh, looky-dat, a Buzz Lightyear."
"A 'nudder one, Buzz Lightyear."
"A ball, let's play and kick'a da ball."

They scamper this way and that, one giving chase while the other speeds away, then in an instant a juice box breaks the spell, they collapse drinking the juice as ferociously as a runt finally finding its way to nurse. The satisfied grunts and gasps make me smile. They are happy. My fingers speed along the keyboard, clackety clack clack clack Sun splashes across my desk top, a caramel wave that warms me.

This is my perfect. My work, my girls, my triumph.

And yet there is more, a different kind of light, a shadow really. It is the truth of what is best. Are those beams of light truly so magnificent, or are they relief, obscuring what is really before me? Are my girls playing in the water or are the buoys, bobbing and brushing against a line that is more tether than plaything?

This afternoon, snacks arranged, toys gathered and reserves thoroughly replenished from hours of family time, we were there. Together. Me at my keyboard and they at play.

But the words didn't come so easily, the silence between the squeals grew longer and longer.

"Mama, I just wanna go home."
"I just don't wanna be here anymore, Mama."
"Mom? You hold me?"
"You just stop working and you hold me?"

My agony splintered, a hazy mix of defeat, resignation and fury. I have always known that there would come a time when it would not work. I thought that I could eke by for a while longer. Parts of me still raw from the clawing this route, I am not ready to give way. Time has changed and I have slowed my feet, not wanting to match pace with a truth I refuse to see.

I cannot have it all, this I know, but letting go of it, even though it's long since lost, is harder than I thought. Perhaps it would help if I said their names.


They are my core, nothing less. And though in many ways I am still their axis, I am not enough. I can no longer fool myself that they can play at the office. They cannot be expected to stay quiet during phone calls, to play independently. They need engagement, each craving challenge and surviving on questions and conversation. They need me to be there or to let them go.

I want it to be true that they are better off with me, that a sitter is a substitute, but the truth is, somewhere along the way, I lost myself, and all that's left is a substitute. I'm a jumbled mess of mouse cords and princess ribbon, from which neither mother, nor professional can truly be found. And this afternoon something about the timbre of the plea to leave broke through. This wasn't about office or home, sitter or secretary, this was about us.

"I just want you, mama."

I need to be here. There. I need to be where I am. Nothing less is fair to Briar, Avery or even to me. Sean and I talked tonight and as his eyes reflected a compassion, he spoke slowly and quietly

"I'm glad you are realizing this. This is a good thing, babe."

I wanted to scream, wanted to push the chair from the table and knock it behind me. I hated what he was saying, despised him for saying it. I wanted to explode, but those blue eyes shone back at me, he never looked away as my anger flashed silently across my face. I sat so still and then, more than seeing the truth, I felt it. Sean, the one that hovered beside me, encouraging me as our girls came into the world, the one that held me as I sobbed the night before my first day back at work, has paced me stride for stride. Tonight he held my hand and gently led me off the path, It's time to stop running, old girl he seemed to be saying and suddenly I realized how tired I was.

And so I pause. I need to take a long, hard look at what is going to best for Briar and Avery and their mama. We need to carve a new way, one that allows each of us to dance in the afternoon sun and release peals of laughter, together and alone.

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slouching mom said...

Wow. Sweet Amanda, this is so, so tough. And you're very wise, to see it all as clearly as you do.

You're allowed to mourn the passing of one kind of time.

And though this new space you forge will be different, who's to say it won't be better?


flutter said...

Oh Amanda. I can't say it any better than SM did.

Dr. Leah - Transformation Revolution said...

"...letting go of it, even though it's long since lost, is harder than I thought"

I love this line. It says it all. Wish I had something profound to say - but I don't. I only have commiseration because I remember those days. I'm not sure they are gone, but they are different now.

Mrs. Chicken said...

It is a hard place you're in. I made the decision many moons ago, it seems, but the ache still remains, the knowledge that we are not able to be all to everyone.

My heart is with you, dear.

pgoodness said...

hard times, my friend. my boys have been bored at my office for awhile and i deal with the guilt of not being there when i'm home and not being with them when i'm there. but we need the time apart - i need to work, they need time with someone else, just for a little while.

different isn't necessarily bad...and peals of laughter? always good, alone or together.

Crystal said...

Yes Amanda, I know exactly how you feel. I am in your boat, riding the waves with you.

Oh, The Joys said...

...and just when we get it sorted out... something shifts... and we sort it out again.

Thinking of you...


The End of Motherhood? said...

Finding yourself, wherever you are, is a good thing.

Amy said...

It's so hard and we're constantly second guessing ourselves.

Thinking of you!

Chaotic Joy said...

Oh it's so hard isn't it? There is no answer that is a perfect fit. So we make the choice that feels the closest to right for each of us. Kudos to you for stopping to examine things. I hope you find peace in whatever you decide.

cry it out! said...

Oh exactly what oh the joys said. I gotta feeling that no matter what you do, the kids are gonna be great. How can they not with you in their lives? (Sean, too.)

Lisa said...

So hard & so well written. I made the choice to be home full time when Goosey was born, and there are still days that I second guess what is best for me & my girls. I think that's part of motherhood...the second guessing of every decision.
My mom worked full-time & was big in corporate America. When I look at her three "products", now adults, I see three people who turned out just wonderfully. We couldn't have turned out any better had Mom been home with us all day every day. I think it's more about you and what you need. Staying home is as much for you as the girls - that's what I chose for now - this selfish time where I can have my girls all to myself. But...there is no wrong choice for your girls.. They will end up being lovely, strong women no matter what your choice ends up being....
Good luck to you! May you be at peace with whatever you decide.

Ree said...

Sigh. I can't say I'm surprised. I've often wondered how you did it. I had Mr. Hot at home for so long, and I needed (needed) to be out of the house....not away from my son, but out of the house.

You're not built from my cloth as I'm not built from yours.

But we need to fit in those clothes, don't we?

liv said...

My heart. I have struggled with this, too. How to work, pursue my joy, be the mother I want and need to be. It's a tough thing. I am so glad that you have Sean by your side.

Janet said...

I have a friend whose only career goal growing up with to be a mother. She is expecting her fourth child and a more contented woman you will never meet. I sometimes envy her single-minded focus on her children, while I try to meet a tight deadline, a pleading toddler tugging my hand and saying, "No 'puter! Play."


I just know you'll find the right solution for you and your girls 'cause that's the kind of mama you are.


BetteJo said...

I stayed at home with my kids until finances and then divorce forced my hand. But I had come to a place where I could not be only one thing - I was losing myself.

Maybe a measure of my insecurity, I don't know.

But you Amanda, are so sure in your love for your family and so incredibly in tune with all of their needs - that I think no matter what path you take - it will be good for your girls because you will make it so.

A thought - if you are unhappy - it will be harder to make your choice work. If your choice feeds your soul - it will be reflected in how you make it all work, and in your family.

I know what I mean - I hope it makes sense to you.

Amy Y said...

I know this, too.
And even when you think you have it all figured out, the perfect balance, life happens and you see the flaws. It's never perfect but all you can do is the best you can do for all 3.5 of you. Good luck, Mama...

John-Michael said...

"The privilege of a lifetime is BEing who you are.” Joseph Campbell

You make it so very difficult, my Darling Amanda, to turn from the mesmerizing beauty of your "as ferociously as a runt finally finding its way to nurse," "to match pace with a truth I refuse to see," "a jumbled mess of mouse cords and princess ribbon," and "allows each of us to dance in the afternoon sun and release peals of laughter, together and alone," and slap myself into a conscious recognition of the reality that all of these magical renderings are expressions of agony.

How I do love this wondrous Person who you are ... and Life's rich gift to You, in the Person of Sean. For, don't you see, a lesser Character would give no pause to these challenges to your Self.

I have not even a whisper of doubt or hesitation in my complete confidence that your following of your magnificent Spirit will unfold satisfaction and peace for all of your family.

My love and admiring regards to Sean, and to You, Dear One.

Amy said...

The balancing act of a working mother is the hardest act to follow and I only have one to tend too (for the next few months). I'm sure the balance will fall into place as naturally as it can. Soon they'll be off to school spending those precious 8 hours with classmates and teachers...cue the sappy country song, "You're gonna miss this." Have you heard that one? It gets me everytime.

Here's to peals of laughter together and apart.

Momma Bean said...

Ah...there you go again.

I burst into tears reading these words, knowing exactly what you are going through. Yet again, you've put into such wonderful words the things that are in my heart.

Even the short hours that I am away from them, I feel the pull, the missing parts and I know that the person that I was three years ago with dreams and ambition is not the person that I am today. I still have dreams and I'm still full of ambition. But it's different now...and so much more.

Here's to freshly carved ways...

Kimberly said...

I struggle with this too. I work part time - two days a week in an office and then a 2-3 hrs on the other three days. The balancing act is so difficult. I sometimes feel like I'm bouncing back and forth from Mom to Professional so often that I'm not doing either very well. I admire your strength in coming to the conclusion you have, as well as your beautiful words and dedication to your family.

Anonymous said...

What a beautifully written post! I think we are all just doing the best that we can. And a good mother is a good mother, no matter what she does. I also really feel that moms and kids benefit when they spend each day home together, learning and growing as a family. I've chosen to stay home with my boys, and its the most challenging/rewarding thing I have ever done. I am grateful that I can be here at the "crossroads" of our home and their lives. I have a new blog if you want to check it out.

the new girl said...

What a thoughtful, awesome post.

As. Usual.

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