Frantically, as if my life depends on it, I pull up to the house and push on the brakes as the car comes to a sharp halt. I place the car in park and for a moment, a small fleeting moment, I close my eyes and try to breathe.
Reaching over the passenger side seat, I grab my bags, phone, and sunglasses. Clasping the keys out from the ignition, I push open the car door and run toward the house. The key turns the lock of the garage door and I hear a quick, sharp click. Before the door is pushed open, I take one more breath.
My second shift begins.
Within moments, my head is swirling with an overload of stimuli and information.
Fractions, difficult geometry homework, (Wait, where is your brother, can’t he help you with this? Isn’t there a video we can pull up for you to watch??) and a new slew of vocabulary words await; there’s an upcoming event a child needs three things for, a social studies test on Friday, a medical form that needs to be signed, a consent form for an upcoming trip (I need to write all of these dates down!) and swim practice is in less than one hour. That’s right, during the very first part of this second shift, I have less than sixty minutes to get these kids to finish their homework, be fed a decent meal, and ready to swim like a fish, only to get back in the car and race across town before the night shift begins.
There’s not one second to waste. Every single second of my life seems to be accounted for. Every single second is bookmarked with a specific place, time, and function. Did you use the bathroom? Do you have your towel? Swim cap? Goggles? Did you grab your water? Did you finish your homework? How was your day at school??
Back in the car and flying across town, the only thing I can think of is the long list of to-do’s that patiently wait for me to get home. It’s what I call the night shift and sometimes, it feels like the longest shift. Dirty dishes, a load of laundry, the final checking of homework, assisting with baths, brushing of hair and teeth, bedtime reading, a few snuggles, and the list goes on.
But don’t worry, we get to do this fun again tomorrow.
Lately, motherhood feels like one big race, a race to the finish line. But for what? Where am I racing to? Where am I going? Why am I always rushing? And exactly what is at this finish line? A carrot? Ice-cream? A special award?
I tried the old, “Life is a not a destination, it’s a journey. Enjoy the journey.” But the only thing I am enjoying these days are the minuscule moments I cling onto that lend me some peace and quiet among the craziness. At this point, I am running on fumes.
I’m spinning on the hamster wheel with no end in sight. It’s like being on a moving train and I missed my stop. So I keep riding, staring out the window, watching the world pass me by.
Where is my stop? When does all of this calm down? When does any of this get any easier?
The short answer is, it doesn’t.
Each stage of motherhood presents its own set of challenges and recently, the biggest challenge for me is time. I don’t need more of it, because I’m certain that if I was given more time, it would fill up quickly. Someone would have a dentist appointment, someone would require a volunteer effort, someone would need another piece of me, trust me, it would be filled. So if more time isn’t the solution to this madness, then what is?
I found my answer a few weeks ago when I was in the car with my daughter riding home from swim practice…
“What’s up sweetie?”
“Can we stop at the ocean? I want to sit on the bench and watch the waves with you.”
I grasped the steering wheel and felt a pang in my stomach. Stop at the ocean? But how could we? Every second is accounted for! Didn’t she understand that dirty dishes await? I mean homework hasn’t been checked yet! And a load of laundry needs to be started. And my son needs help with that science project.
Baths, reading, and so many other to-do’s quickly begin to flood my brain and haunt me. Any other day I would have said no but the hamster wheel is killing me. And so is the checklist and the race to the finish line.
I’m exhausted, burnt out, and I miss my kids.
I miss spending quality time together. I don’t want to stay on the train just to look out the window. I want to get off at the next stop – any stop – and take in the sights. I want life to slow down so I can enjoy these precious moments because I feel like it’s all passing me by.
I looked at her in the rear view mirror and with a confident smile I said, “Sure we can sweetie, that’s a great idea.”
Without further hesitation, I pulled up to the stop sign and put my blinker on. I turned the car left and we drove two blocks up to the ocean. My daughter and I got out of the car slowly, looked at one another, smiled, and grabbed hands. Crossing the road, we took off our flip flops and felt the sand settle in beneath our toes.
It was glorious.
We walked up to the top of the dune and took in the sights. It was breathtaking.
The dishes can wait. The laundry can be done tomorrow. The homework can be checked later. If we miss swim next practice next time, that’s ok because these are the moments that need to be accounted for.
These are the moments that should overload my brain.
I’m getting off the train and taking in the sights.
It’s about time.