Here’s what happens:
You have this baby and slide right into full attachment for eight, twelve, sixteen weeks. This time is a blessing; fully dedicated to keeping the baby and yourself alive, which is harder than it sounds.
Eventually, you return to work and it feels good. You are pleased to learn that your brain still works, and right in the middle of this heartfelt reunion with your own independence, the babysitter calls.
The baby has a fever.
Dang. Did he feel warm this morning? Did you subconsciously play dumb because you had a deadline? Are you really this crappy at working-mothering, five whopping days in?
You hyperfocus on the child for the next couple weeks, managing to redeem the “mom” half of working-mom. You might make it through the next 18 afterall.
…and then, seemingly for the sheer audacity of your positive thoughts, you get an email from your boss questioning a piece of work you knowingly half-assed.
Dang. Was it that obvious you rushed through it so you could refocus on being a less sucky mom? Way to get it over-with; now look at you. Now you suck at career.
You hunker down at work. You take on a presentation that scares you and you nail it. You go girl!
You walk a little taller into your house that night and your husband snaps at you.
Dang. When’s the last time you paid attention to him? He seems like he hates you, this is not good.
You hone in on being a more thoughtful wife, plan a night away from the kids, fall back in love.
…and then the teacher “just wants to let you know” that the big one has been misbehaving in class.
DANG. Finally nailing the wife thing and now you’re a horrible mom again? You and Dad out there drinking wine and making out while kid is out there struggling…
The next thing you know you are $500 deep in extracurricular prepayment and baseball gear. The child is thriving, he is really good at this. You are practicing catching and throwing in the backyard and remembering snacks for snack duty. Nailing it.
The nerve of feeling good about your life next earns…
…a vet visit for the poor dog, another $500;
…a late notice on your water bill;
….a death in the family;
…a busted alternator;
…a broken furnace.
This is it, friends. “Adulting” as they say, and parenting, and whoever coined the term “emotional roller coaster” is a master of metaphors.
The thing is, metal health, balanced children, thriving careers, clean houses, healthy pets and exceptional marriages require individual forms of love and presence which cannot be given wholly and equally by one human person in the same day.
As a matter of fact, for the last week and a half at least, I cannot claim a single one of them. For the last ten-plus days I have merely survived, weathering emotions as they crashed into me, one after another. Sadness, gratitude, pride, disappointment, all of it, right in step with my busy life.
Will this last? Probably not. Times will be easier and they will be harder, but you know what I learn about this roller coaster the longer I am on it?
This ride cannot kill me.
I learn that I will make it around the sideways bend, down the 90-degree plunge, over the upside down loop, just like I did last time and the time before that. There could be a dark tunnel ahead, and chances are, I’ll make it through that too.
The longer I ride this ride, I learn that dips and dives and sharp turns are not coming at me because of poor management and lack of interest. Because I somehow invited them. They are coming at me because that’s what life does.
So I can grip the lap bar for dear life trying to control and avoid every uncontrollable, unavoidable thing, sucking the fun right out of it until my life ends; or I can let go and embrace all the unexpected change. Feel every emotion it forces upon me.
The real truth is that I chose all of this when I chose to get on here. When I chose to love, to have children, to desire a challenging career; I subsequently chose a life of feelings and problem solving. This is called “living.”
The longer I am on this roller coaster, I learn that it really is all good, so good, even when it’s bad.
Slowly, I learn to pry my hands off that bar and live the mess of it exactly the way I was intended to:
No hands. Big feelings. All in.
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