It was one of those days. Not enough hours in the day to be a fully-present parent, fully-functioning worker, and fully-attentive wife. At 9 pm there was still work to be done, despite having started my day 14.5 hours ago. There was still so much work to be done. Meetings to be scheduled. Emails to be returned. Tomorrow’s work day to be planned out. Blog posts to write. A fabulous Spring Gala for my daughter’s school that I have to plan. And of course, the next day was our turn to bring snack in for the whole class. And there were still children to feed, bathe, love, and put down to sleep. And dishes to wash and well, you get the picture.
I realized that I might have to pull an all nighter to get some of this done. And I am not even saying it would have been done to the best of my ability, the way my former, pre-child self would do it. I have said good-bye to the perfectionist in me a long time ago. (But to be fair, my pre-child self would not have to worry about her turn to bring snack.)
So…back to the all nighter. This is not the kind of all nighter we used to pull in our college days. Like when you were cramming for your macroeconomics final at 3 am because you spent the whole day procrastinating as you slept off your Sunday morning hang-over and then hung out with your friends in your dorm watching movies on the VCR while eating stale pizza all day. NO! This is a different all nighter as there are no naps and dilly-dallying involved in any part of the day. They are much worse because you actually were doing your best to be out there in the world as a productive, efficient and upstanding parent and member of the community. You paid your dues all day long and still came up short.
But I know my plight is not mine alone. As parents we are all up pretty late doing ridiculous things for our children. When these creatures come into our lives as tiny, helpless beings, we are up with a crying, hungry baby. As they get older we find ourselves making cupcakes with perfectly pink frosting at 11 o’clock at night to make Little Penelope’s fifth birthday a memorable one. Or we’re helping the future Einstein of the world with their science fair projects at midnight because Johnny waited until the last minute. Or we find ourselves nursing a sick baby who had been up vomiting banana chunks all night (or maybe that’s just me?).
I did not fully realize I signed up for all of this stuff when I became a mom. But you know what? It keeps me going. Makes life more interesting and worth living. Pushing and challenging myself to do more, especially to make my kids happy, is worth it. It tests my strength, patience, and sanity. But nothing makes me feel more powerful then when I rise against inertia and do all of the things I need to do on any given day. It makes me feel extraordinary when I can achieve all of my ordinary responsibilities. But I must give credit where credit is due – my husband is there to help me through it. Without my spouse, I would not have been able to go to bed at 11 pm that night instead of staying up way later like I was thinking I had to do. I know the Sheryl Sandberg’s of the world tell us to Lean In, but I have learned that I must “lean on” my support network and “let go” of perfectionism to get me through this whole working mom thing. And I have to fully embrace that this is my new normal. There will be days where it seems like the to-do list will never be fully checked off. Then there will be days when I just don’t give a darn and choose baby snuggles over being the responsible parent because really, what’s the worst that could happen? You will still have gainful employment, your children will still love you, and you still are a superwoman for making it through the day.