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It ends well
Kids, prioritization, and finding the good in even the rough days.
“You took care of our children,” Brian said on Friday night after I cried to him over how poorly this week went.
I can’t lie comfortably in the figurative bed I made for myself, I said in far more words.
Over-extended, my “closing loops” daily action would seemingly continue to bite me on the ass for the next two months. Still, I don’t regret the overall habit built. I’m just glad I’m now working while scheduling endless appointments for myself and the family—it’s easier to make plans when you’re already doing the work.
Over the tail-end of summer, scheduling was my only job. Not laying out the full picture ahead of me was the unwise, poorly managed facet. And this week’s activities, plus (finally) mapping the weeks ahead proved just how ill-prepared and ignorant I was as I proudly ticked bullet point after bullet point of tasks off my lists.
You took care of our children.
Panicked, I wrote and wrote for 13 hours this past week, and none of it felt usable for today’s message. Panicked, I considered canceling my kids’ sleepover at our place this weekend, so I could try to finish the other projects I didn’t touch, and eke out a better message than the previous one. (I’m so out of practice.) Panicked, I broke down to Brian as he sat beside me, and I gushed about how badly I fucked things up for the rest of 2023. Like I’m alone with three kids. Like I can’t ask for help. Like he didn’t just sit down to listen, and to extend a hand.
“You took care of our children,” he said. “You went from a relaxing summer to full-speed with no personal recourse.”
I did. He’s right.
I made endless plans and scheduled countless appointments, trying to squeeze in as much as possible before the school year began. But when the time spent tackling those massive task lists bled over into the kids’ return to school, I hadn’t yet planned my projects out. I hadn’t worked in three months, but I just kept scheduling.
I realized that, although the act of closing loops every day is helpful and fulfilling, I didn’t forecast the fact that I would also be restarting Life and Other Stories. That I’d be working on projects outside these messages that are on a time-crunch due to the approaching year’s end, and putting them off would mean launching them a whole year later.
I agreed to activities and in-person therapies, sleepovers, and playdates without an overview of the little time I left myself for working out the kinks of starting full-time work again. I seem to forget who I am, how I function, and what my limits are, every time I come back from a break.
You took care of our children.
But what I didn’t do until Brian pointed it out is acknowledge and appreciate the fact that I did, in fact, take care of our children on a day that normally remote-working Brian went to the office: His family care-tasks became mine for the day.
I took our youngest to an important doctor’s appointment—two, back-to-back, which were supposed to run for an hour and a half, and instead went for two and a half hours. Being a car-free family, I safely got her to the school, transferring twice via public transit (and eventually having to get a Lyft so she’d make it to school just before lunchtime). Then, as I walked toward the train station inching on my lunchtime, my oldest texted, needing support. I huffed and sighed and stared up at the bright, clear sky. I considered telling her I’d talk to her when I got home, I need to eat, and I haven’t even sat down to work yet. But I went to her instead—another hour-long ordeal just getting there. I took time out with her, albeit jittery and stressed (and exacerbated by a man who sat next to us at lunch, who requires serious help; talking to the people in his head and pacing and laughing loudly, at random, didn’t help my heightened anxiety). But I listened to her as best I could, came up with a conversation-game-plan for when Brian got home, and, after eating, my disposition shifted and I leaned in.
I apologized for my anxious behavior. “It’s okay, Mama. You were hangry.”
We laughed. I most definitely was.
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I took her to the store so she could get her favorite snacks for the sleepover-weekend ahead. And when we finally got home, it was time to get the youngest from her bus stop.
I took time to be playful and give her the love and attention she needed. She told me all about her day and her friends and her awesome teacher. Then, Middle got home, and they had lots to say about their day, even sharing a photo of their “nature art” created in class out of found-in-nature objects that the earth could reclaim.
I took care with and of our kids.
After groaning to Brian about how badly I messed things up, he found the light in my spiral. And it instantly calmed me.
I forget too often that I have as much if not more to offer at home than I do in the world, where my actions and effort may or may not create even a ripple. Raising kids is a long-game process. It could take weeks or months, or even years to see the work you put into them—the time, care, and attention you give them.
The world, more frequently, offers instant gratification to the work-obsessed like me. But email responses saying, “Thank you for this!” and “I feel so seen after reading today’s post!” from adults I appreciate but don’t know shouldn’t hold more value to me than my kids saying, “You’re the best mom ever,” or “Thank you for listening to me go on and on. I love you, Mom.” I earned that, too. We did. Heck, we are part of the reason our kids can even verbalize appreciation. Why our kids can say, “It’s okay, Mom/Dad. We know you tried your best.” I would’ve never said or even thought to say such a thing at 10, 11, and 14. The nurturing of these incredible little human beings is just as important, if not more important, than my perception of independent, professional success.
This has been a problem I’ve bumped into repeatedly. One I can’t quite seem to shake completely. But, today, I can see it. It took help, but I see now.
I was there for my kids. A step further: I take care of my health, not just for my quality of life, but because I lost my mom when I was just shy of 19 years old. And I swore I’d do whatever is in my power to not “leave” my family before their lives have barely even begun.
What started as a stressful day and nearly ended as a mental disaster, was saved by one sentence.
I know I’ll have to remind myself (or Brian will) again and again, but I’m valuable whether I play with my kids all day, or publish a New York Times Bestseller. One doesn’t make me more valuable than the other—except one does for the future adults I’m co-raising. They’re the healthiest investment of time, energy, and love I’ve ever made.
I took care of my kids today. And it was worth it.
If you had all the time in the world, what would you focus on? What would make you feel the most successful or whole? What would you want to leave behind?
Explore, my friend.
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