Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The real problem with being a working mom

Everyone knows returning to work after vacation is a tough adjustment.  Especially after the long break I got to enjoy in PA this year (almost 5 weeks!).  Even at the risk of complaining about a long vacation, I realized something when I came back.  Yes, heading to a work again was hard.  Yes, the return of the alarm in the morning was a fun suck.  Yes, lazy summer days are certainly more enjoyable. But the worst part of going back to normal life was missing my kid.

My time in PA had allowed me to enjoy all day with her.  Even on days when she woke up cranky, had a meltdown, or frustrated me, I was still enjoying her company all day, every day for 5 glorious weeks.  Admittedly toddlers are not fun all the time (oh the whinning, the endless whinning about everything...) but it was still an amazing thing to really be present with her.  We had adventures. We laughed about small things.  We caught lightning bugs and read books.  We jumped in waves and marveled at the ocean. We took long car rides and surprised friends. We played in the rain. We cheered for baseball, we gasped at fireworks.  We played skeeball and wasted quarters on games. We hugged and snuggled.  We ate the best pizza and the best donuts. We had days with big plans and days with no plans. I answered one million questions about everything from sand to God. I got to just be a mom for a while; no job, no time commitments, no distractions.  Still lots of laundry but hey... that's mom life.  Summer felt like summer used to when I was a kid, carefree and endless.  It really felt like a break, not a rush of a week or two trying to cram in everything I could. 

Thats an old school candy cigarette in case you were worried.
And when I say miss her, I mean really miss her.  She is growing like a weed, absorbing so much each day.  I couldn't believe how much I learned about her in those 5 weeks of undivided attention, play time and travel.  Did you know how funny kids are at this stage?  I mean laugh out loud, they didn't even mean to be funny, pee your pants, snort laugh funny.  I saw glimpes of this from her before but while on vacation I laughed at her every day.  Really laughed.  She is clever.  And so thoughtful.  I felt like I could see her mind processing things sometimes, rolling them around to make sense.  I learned that she was dreaming now, both from having to comfort her after nightmares and her telling me about her dreams when she woke up a few times.  How amazing is that? I learned she talks in her sleep, sometimes even yelling at me! She could spend 5 minutes making up an elaborate make believe story sounding so real you'd think it was all true.  She invented a freckle store where she buys the new freckles that have shown up on her checks and arms.  She makes  up words.  She wants everyone to be playing and together, gathering family members from different rooms and places to beg them all to play her games. She made us be silly, in turn finding silliness in everyone.  She was the life of our party, and she has redefined our family dynamic. 

Vacation gave me unique ability to learn so much more about my kid.  I always knew I loved her, but I also realized I liked her too. I like the way she remembers small details.  I like the way her imagination is always going.  I like the way her heart bleeds for others.  I like the way she values friends.  I like the way she lights up about beach days.  I like the way she sounds when she really gets belly laughing.  I like how she is equal parts tom boy and girly girl.  I like the face she makes when she is in deep thought looking out the car window.  I like the way she needs to be sitting on me not with me. I like the way she takes her time when making decisions.  I like the way she is quick to give a kiss, even when you aren't expecting it.  I like the way she remembers song lyrics, or makes up her own. I like that she is happiest when the whole family is staying together.  I like that she is not too keen on sharing Daddy as a sweetheart for me and her. I only get a glimpse of those things now, while on vacation I got to watch them closely every day.  In some ways I don't think I even appreciated it as much then as it was happening as I do now. I certainly didn't expect to miss them. 

Now that we are back to a work schedule, I see my daughter for breakfast and a few hours in the evening.  That's it.  And most of that time is all about business.  Get dressed.  Eat your breakfast.  Get in the car.  Stop that so I can cook dinner.  Pick up your toys.  Put away your shoes.  Get ready for bed.
That's not quality time. 
That's not enjoying really BEING with her. 
That's not the mom I want to be, the only mom she sees that day.
I loved being on vacation, it allowed me to a different type of mom for a little while.  But I am a little lost on how to be that same type of mom here where my job and day seem to demand my attention. 

In some ways this is fixable, I need to be better at being in the moment with her.  I need to be intentional about seeing the joy in everyday life, and see less of the dirty clothes on the floor.  But the other part of it is trying to find a better work/life balance.  I am not cut out for stay at home mom life all time, but honestly I want to be home more.  I want more time with her before these early days slip away.  So many are gone already.  So many were lost to work commitments and office hours. 

Right now I think about lightning bugs.  In PA, for the past two summers she ran around the yard, made makeshift bug jars, and roped the whole family into chasing around little bugs that glow.   But in Oklahoma I have never done that. 
Maybe its the heat.
Maybe its the timing.
Maybe its killjoy of not sharing it with my Reger family.
Maybe its the lack of plush green grass in our yard.
Maybe its that my effort is different here.
Maybe my attitude changes when I am on red dirt soil.
Last night I had my normal routine of sneaking away at 8 pm for some "me time" after a work day.  Daddy did bedtime and feel asleep with her, I was happy to settle for a goodnight kiss and do my own thing. It had been a hot day, Reagan had been cranky for no reason during the short time I had to spend with her that evening so I didn't even care about missing story time or snuggles. But as I sat watching my shows on the DVR in my bed something kept catching my attention from the corner of my eye. I realized it was a lightning bug flashing through the windows of my porch door.  It was like God was sending that little bug right to me, reminding me they lived here too.  Here where I worked, here where I had a more demanding schedule, here where it was harder to take a minute to even notice a little flash in the evening air. Lightning bugs still glow and fly on Oklahoma summer nights.  Lets go catch some tonight kid.