If you know me, you know that I’m a wife and mother first and foremost. Kevin & I will be celebrating 14 years of marriage in less than a month. These days don’t look a thing like our newlywed years and being present is a conscious decision I have to make. It’s easy to veg on the couch when the bustle of the day has finally died down and I get 5 minutes to myself, to tune out everyone and everything else and just be… but that often comes back to bite me in the bottom as I realise I’ve heard our conversations, but wasn’t actually there for them. The words entered my ear canal, and then dissipated into nothingness as I didn’t actively listen and engage, only to have him say “Well, I told you….” while I look at him cluelessly not recalling a thing. Hands up if you hear me!
I’m finding as the boys grow older and more independent, it’s been easy to get so busy that I’m not “there” for them as much. The younger one has made a few innocuous comments lately that got under my skin – not intentionally hurtful, but in his expression I’m hearing things that have been hitting a little too close to home. It’s easy to see the to-do list, to commit to be there for everyone, to say yes to another project, another event, another committee, another social evening… and then feel like things at home are out of control.
“But they’re old enough to fend for themself for an hour…”
“Well Kev can put them to bed tonight…”
“Man, my day has been so busy I just want to disconnect…”
All these excuses and thoughts have rolled through my mind in recent weeks Housework needs to be done. My laundry pile is growing disproportionately to the number of people in our household. The gardens have been overtaken with dandelions and wild raspberry vines. If I don’t take on Project A, who will? I even went a few days without reading…. and then I casually mention I’m not around for something, I hear a little disappointed sigh and a casually tossed out “Well, that’s nothing new.” Ouch. I’m acknowledging that even though they don’t “need me” – they aren’t even with me more than half the time I am home – there are moments that they still need my presence. They need to know that even if we’re not conversing, that I’m there to care… that I’m there to listen… that I’m just there.
So yesterday, after another full day, I sat in traffic due to an accident, hot and flustered, covered in bug bites from an outing with a friend, and all I wanted was 15 minutes to decompress and gather my reserves before tackling the to-do list. And J reminded me that I told him we could go to the library and pick out things for the raffle baskets at school. I, me, the great lover of books, dreaded the thought of another trip to town, but I knew in that moment that my word and our time together meant more than any excuse I could come up with.
I took 10 minutes to breathe… and then we headed out and roamed the stacks, walked down every aisle in the dollar store, we giggled, we rolled our eyes at each other, and I put aside the to-do list for a couple hours and enjoyed just being with my kid. It’s my prayer that whether he remembers that specific moment 10 years from now, he’ll remember that he had a mom who was there – who wasn’t always saying “Not now,” “Maybe later,” or “Let me finish this…” – but one who recognizes that while being productive and organized and having time for myself is important, that sometimes just being present with those we love is the most important thing, whether we’re discussing the merits of orange-grape flavoured gum over icy berry, or cuddling on the couch, or folding laundry while he prattles on about his mishap on the playground. (I admit I didn’t listen as closely as I should – it’s a flaw – I do know that it involved rocks in his pockets because he wiped out.)
So when you feel overwhelmed with the balance of motherhood, marriage, career, and life – remember that your presence is what’s important.
You’ll have to excuse me while I put this reminder into action and rearrange my schedule.