Juggling Act (Day #39)

It was the last full day of our vacation.  I’d been up for awhile, trying to get a little writing done before everyone else woke up.  Lil Mil was asleep in her new I-won’t-moan-if-you-keep-me-here position:  seated upright on the couch next to me, my arm wrapped around her, her back resting against my shoulder, her face buried in the crook of my elbow.  We’d been sitting like that for over an hour, which meant that any writing I was doing was being done with one hand, with my laptop balanced precariously on my knee.  My back was aching from the awkwardness of the position, but that didn’t matter.  I couldn’t move, because if I moved, she’d wake up, and if she woke up, my writing time would be over.

At 6:00 a.m., Sister and Niece H appeared.  Niece H hurried forward to see Lil Mil, and when she did, she giggled.  “She looks funny,” she said, then promptly picked up her markers and began coloring.

I looked down at my daughter.  She did, in fact, look funny, her little body all squished and hunched over.

“Is she comfortable like that?” Sister asked.

The answer was unequivocally no.  There was absolutely no way she was comfortable.  Yes, she was asleep, but that was only because she was too tired not to sleep, which is the reason I had to resort to this position in the first place.  The more tired Lil Mil is, the more moany she gets, and the more moany she gets, the less productive I am.

Hence, our new position.  Holding her close to me keeps the moans at bay, yet the fact that she’s not actually in my arms makes it easier for me to type with my free hand.  Nevermind the fact that the position involves my putting Lil Mil into what is essentially a chokehold.

My daughter is tired and moany and here I am trying to figure out how to silence her so I can keep working.  If you’d haven’t already nominated me for Mommy of the Year, you’ll definitely want to do it now.

Fortunately, Sister understands the predicament.  She’s a single mom with a five-year-old and a never-lets-up career.  She understands what it’s like to manage competing agendas.  So, by asking if Lil Mil was comfortable, what Sister was really saying was, “If you want me to take her, I will, but if this is working for you, I won’t mess it up.”

I did, desperately, want Sister to take her.  But I knew that if she did, Lil Mil would wake up, still tired, and the moaning would resume.  And I still had pages to write.  A chapter I wanted to finish.

I looked down at Lil Mil.  “I know she’s not comfortable,” I said.  “She can’t be.  But this is the only way I can get her to stop moaning.  This is the only way I can get anything done.”

At that moment, Niece H looked up from her coloring book.  Fixing her big blue eyes on me, she said:

“You’re still a good mom, though.”

Unprovoked.  Out of nowhere.  I didn’t think she was even listening to us, and yet she’d heard what I hadn’t actually said.  The question I’m constantly asking myself.  The question I’m too afraid to ask anyone else.

Does this make me a bad mom?

Baby.  Book.  Blog.  It’s a constant juggling act.  The balls are always in the air.  There is no denying it:  my parenting choices have been and will continue to be informed by this project.  I’ve built Lil Mil’s nap schedule around my writing routine.  I breastfeed in coffee shop bathrooms because I’m more productive at Starbucks than I am at home.  I hold my daughter less because I don’t want her head near my computer’s potentially brain-damaging wifi waves.  I sometimes put my work first.  I don’t mean to.  I don’t want to.  But I’d be lying if I said I never did.

I don’t know if Niece H is right.  I don’t know if I’m a good mom.  I hope I am.  I want to be.  I try to be.  I’m worried I’m not.

You’re still a good mom, though.

It shouldn’t have meant as much to me as it did.  She’s five years old.  She says a lot of things just to say them.  But then again, she’s a very smart little girl with a mom who’s in the middle of her own juggling act.  Maybe that’s why her words have stayed with me, hanging around in my psyche, repeating themselves at random moments.

You’re still a good mom, though.

I juggle.  I drop the ball sometimes.  I struggle for balance.  I teeter on the edge of chaos.  I strive and I fall short.  I feel inadequate.  I feel inept.  I get overwhelmed.  I doubt.  I have NO IDEA if I’m doing any of this right.

I’m still a good mom, though.

Maybe it’s the lie we tell ourselves to get through the day.  Or maybe, just maybe, it’s the truth we’re too hard on ourselves to see.


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