I’ll never feel “just right” as a mother. That’s what I’ve learned. No matter what I do, a piece of me will wonder about the other side, the other choice. I’ll crave it a little, yearn for it a little, lie down at night and wish for it, a little.
I’ll wake up in the morning and go on with my day anyway.
I’ll wake up and get dressed and go to my office and write. It will feel right. I will feel refreshed to be out of the house and alone, invigorated to be doing the work in my gut, trying, bringing our finances to a more comfortable level.
“When I grow up I want to be a writer like you, mama.”
Ha. George thinks I’m a writer. Of course she also has a fake friend named “Carrot” (who’s also a giant), but her declaration makes me smile all the same.
I get home from work and Mac has taken the kids to swimming lessons. I bring home Mexican food but we miss each other. I eat alone and leave again to work with women alcoholics.
When I get home, Arlo is already asleep.
My breasts and arms crave him. I’m a little irritated at Mac for putting him to bed, which is insane, and I know it. It’s not him it’s me. It’s the sadness, my choices and non-choices, the guilt and stab at my heart. The not right. The just not quite right.
“But I have to nurse him!”
“I’m sure he’ll wake up for a little nursing, Janelle.” Mac is right.
I lie beside my babe and pull him close and he nurses instinctually, eyes closed, wide open mouth like a little bird. We settle down near each other as we have since he was a newborn, in the same bed, and I kiss and smell him over and over again like a starving person who just found food.
I physically crave my baby.
I physically ache for him.
I imagine this is the ache that drags bereaved mothers to the brink of insanity. Hair-pulling batshit total delusion insanity. Because if that craving could not be satisfied…my God. I think of my friend Kim.
Three days a week, from 9am until 4pm. That’s how long I’m gone. It’s not long. I used to work more. Some moms work 50, 60 hours a week.
Some evenings I’m gone too, but I’ll be gone a lot more than 3 days a week if I start drinking again.
I know these things, all of them, and yet at the close of the day I think of my first baby turning 14 in a few months and last summer, when I was home all the time with them and we went to the library every day with new tiny creation Arlo and how Ava mentioned it as the best summer and how this summer we’ve only gone once. To the library, that is. We swam on Sunday together as a family and Ava played with her siblings. I wonder how much longer she’ll do that.
When I think about it like that I curse every moment I’m gone and want back. BACK HOME. Back with them.
Yesterday though I met with a filmmaker who’s working with me to write my first screenplay and when she and I are talking I feel an energy vibrating through us and I think there’s no way I would survive without finding out what the words will say.
Now, and in 20 years.
I can’t quit silent.
From the outside it looks sometimes like women are secure and clear in their choices or non-choices. For better or worse, it appears black and white.
I want my kids to see an independent mother.
I want my kids to see a mother at home.
I want my kids to see a professional mother.
I hate staying at home.
I hate working.
I work because I have no choice.
I stay home because I have no choice.
For me, it’s all gray. (Maybe it’s gray for all of us, deep down.) I work because I have to and mostly want to, but I also know if we seriously down-sized I wouldn’t “have to” anymore. But I don’t want that either. I’m never “sure.” I’m never not regretting, sometimes. I’m never just right.
Maybe you’re the same.
I see you.
And here’s what I want to tell you: Maybe not just right can actually be “just right” and life can roll on okay with us over here flailing a little back and forth, acutely aware of how little we know, and how much we’ll never be clear how to be, exactly. And what’s “best,” always.
Maybe this is it. The clarity and the best.
Maybe I can be grateful for my life, my choices my words my home my breath my kids and husband and trust that this is enough.
I think this is it. I think I can relax in the gray and be here now, in my office writing to you.
And home in a couple hours, wondering what the fuck happened to the kids’ room.
And sitting down to play the sorting house with Arlo because 9am to 4pm is an awful long time when I walk in the door and he comes toddling so fast his tiny legs blur like the side of me that will walk out again tomorrow.
You know, because I called Ava yesterday while she was visiting her grandparents and asked how she was keeping herself entertained. She responded “looking at feminist posts on Instagram.” And I thought well that’s pretty rad since there are a few thousand other things a 13-year-old could be looking at with her smartphone and Rocket read his fortune the other day in the Chinese restaurant by himself without even a lick of fear and George, well she wants to be a writer now and Carrot is doing just fine,
and Arlo will wake up for a little nursing.
He’ll find me again, even with his eyes closed, in the gray of evening when we can’t see a thing.
Somehow still here, just right.