A Breath

A breath. A grey morning. A toddler and her father peacefully constructing a marble run in the other room. A cup of coffee still hot. A mother-writer typing these words at the table next to the Christmas tree.

Yesterday, the mother-writer attempted this very same thing. She sat for a few early morning minutes with her coffee, desperate to type fleeting thoughts, to tie a loose knot, to knit the past to the present, to patch the precarious scaffolding she’s been building for 343 days, to locate the place inside, self, to tap the wellspring, to mine a vein and perhaps discover a glint of newness. But the family could not conspire on behalf of the mother-writer, who was on edge after giving and giving and giving. She simply could not give in to more giving, and so she hollered loudly, ferocious for the scrap of time she was not allowed. And then she got in the shower and cried. And then the busy day began.

It’s easier to write about failure in the third person.

In the evening, we had friends over for dinner. Children entertaining themselves in the den. Adults in the living room sipping wine and relaxing by the fire. I stood in the kitchen with my friend from California as she sliced a pear and assembled the salad items she’d brought. Our conversation swirled around itself, mine streaming from that place of I’m trying to get her into preschool and get my freelancing off the ground and I feel like I’m failing at mothering and failing at working and I wish I could split myself in half, and hers streaming from a place of working long days with high-risk students in Oakland and pursuing career ambitions but feeling like she needs to go part-time because she’s not with her kids enough and wishing she could split herself in half. We were coming from different places, but our feelings were so much the same. After she scattered the last of the sunflower seeds over the lettuce, she turned to me and hugged me for a long time and said, “You’re doing a really good job. We’re doing a really good job.” We were both crying, and she said, “It’s hard. It’s just really hard.” I poured olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the salad, and we drifted back into the living room with everyone. There was lots of laughter and catching-up and the kids running through, laughing through, dancing through before disappearing again. We spread out on the couches and floor and ate pizza and salad on paper plates. We talked about work, kids, politics, activism, parenting. We enjoyed that very particular contentment and ease that comes from being with old friends.

(Post 343 of 365)

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10 thoughts on “A Breath

  1. Oh I’ve been there so many times. It seems that no matter the path with motherhood (I’ve been home with my daughter full time, part-time, and now I work full-time outside the home), we always end up feeling the need to split ourselves in half. I hope you can get extra time just for yourself sometime soon and fill your cup after all the giving.

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    • Thank you so much for these reassuring words, Sarah! So true, no matter the path with motherhood and work, there seems to be no perfect balance. I was having one of those weeks where there just didn’t seem to be enough of me. I’ve gotten some time to myself this week and it’s been rejuvenating!

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  2. I think every mother goes through this. I’ve cried with co-workers about the very same thing. You want to give 100 percent to family and to work and sometimes it’s just not possible. We are much harder on ourselves than we need to be. I’ve had other moms ask me how I do it on a day or week I feel like a failure. It’s good to have friends to confide in. From the experiences you write about with your little one I think you’re doing great! (Side note: I am going to miss your daily blogging!)

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    • Susan, thank you so much for your candor and this lovely comment. It really is heartening to hear about your perspective and experiences. It’s that desire to give 100% (or more!) and feeling like I often fall short, and I suppose too, the invisibility factor. My friend was able to see it all without me having to say very much, and she knew just the right thing to say. A simple gesture can mean the world.

      Thank you for the kind words about the daily blogging! I can never be sure who (if anyone!) is reading, and so your words really mean a lot to me. I think my plan will be to switch to weekly blogging, though I may actually miss the daily commitment. Thanks again for reading and for commenting!

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  3. Don’t be too hard on yourself, mama. Yes, you give so much to your daughter. And when the little we try to give ourselves is threatened, we defend. It’s only natural. Focus on how important a model you are for your daughter, showing her that a woman must make herself a priority, too. It’s so much to balance, and you’re doing the best you can. xo

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