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God bless mothers who work full-time outside the home. I don’t know how they do it. By which, I don’t so much mean I don’t know how they physically get everything done-I’ve got a pretty clear picture of how that happens—but rather I don’t understand how they clear out the head space.

The last two days I’ve been in the midst of a work emergency, the type that has me burning the midnight oil, getting up early, eating mindlessly and irregularly, and not paying attention to the people around me.

I’ve been completely focused, consumed you might even say, by finishing the task at hand, and any interruption or distraction has been unwelcome. It’s not just that the ringing phone has annoyed me; it’s that having to stop to go the bathroom has annoyed me, getting sleepy has annoyed me, and getting hungry has annoyed me. Basically, life has been an unwanted distraction.

This fugue state is all too familiar to me. I wandered into and out of my own life in college, worked like a demon for much of grad school, and experienced similarly intense periods during my start-up days and at my current job.

I used to blame the situation, but I now understand that the common thread is me. So far as I can tell, some folks are good at “work-life balance” and some are not. I fall into the “not” category.

But it’s one thing to periodically neglect your spouse, your friends, your hobbies, and yourself, and an entirely different matter to neglect your child. And I’m afraid that for the last two days hearing Simon cry, wake up from a nap, or ask for something, or require food or a diaper change has been greeted—internally, for the record—by a small voice in my head saying “not now, Simon. I don’t have time.”

That voice, that voice I know so well and have lived with for so long, is the exact reason I went to half-time when Simon was born. Every now and again I think about going back full time, feel guilty about my current rather cushy situation, or feel like as long as I work more than half-time in reality I might as well get paid for it. And then I realize that my choice is not about how many hours a week to work, but rather about how to draw a line around my job and not let it take over my entire life and supplant my parenting.

Tonight at dinner time I consciously decided to take a break. While the water boiled on the stove, I sat on the floor and rolled a car back and forth to Simon. As we played, I took in his long fingers as he revved the car before releasing it, the way his newly cut hair is shaped over his ears, the food stains on his pants, and the remnants of hot cross bun icing in his hair. Each of these mundane things helped bring me back to the present and to the life of our house.

For the last two years, work-related fugues have been the exception because I have set external controls on my behavior. I know in my heart that if my work life were different, I’d live outside my life and my family much of the time.

So truly God bless those full-time working mothers. I don’t know how they do it.

One Response to “Now Back to My Regularly Scheduled Parenting”

  1. bethnbobinnc says:

    Honestly, I think I have it easier because I get to leave my house and go to an office that helps me clear my head space. I’d be horrible at working from home! Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re a great Mommy!

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