I've been taking on too much lately. You know how it is, you pile on thing after thing, thinking you can do it all, but it's that one last thing--that smallest of all the things--that ends up being the one to topple it all. Like, saying 'yes' weeks ago under some duress to an invitation to attend an evening event on campus this past Friday, only to discover, three days later, that it was the same night and time as my daughter's school's fall festival.
Her new school. Her first fall festival there. And her grade worked hard on making bottle cap magnets to sell at the event, to raise money to help heal Haiti. After agonizing for a bit, I came up with a plan: go to the campus event (I had already sent in my RSVP), leave after forty minutes, and dash over to her school which, in ideal circumstances, should only be fifteen minutes away. It could work, but smooth implementation of the plan hinged on getitng the kids home, and dinner ready, and everyone fed by 4:30 so we could leave at 5:00. I would drop Scott and the kids off at T.'s school, and keep going to my campus in time to get to the gallery event by 6:00. I was a well-oiled machine, I tell you. I whipped up dinner in record time and had it ready by 4:35.
At 5:05 I was at the front door with T., purse over my arm, ready to go.
At 5:10 I was still there, at the front door. I love my husband dearly, but he is not what you would call fast on his feet. L. inherited those genes, for sure. By the time we did leave at 5:20 I was frazzled and grouchy and working hard to keep it together. It would take twenty minutes to get to T.'s school, and another twenty to drop them off and head downtown to my campus, park, and walk. I'd get to the gallery late, which would mean leaving the event later than I had planned, which would mean getting to the fall festival even later.
My plan! My plan was unraveling before my eyes!
"You knew the timing had to be right!" I grouched at Scott. "It's all ruined now!"
I was in full fuss mode, like a runaway train--the mean-spirited one in The Little Engine That Could. it had been a long week, and Fridays are supposed to be my time to exhale; they're supposed to be easy, and not so difficult like this one was turning out to be. "Maybe I should just skip the campus event," I said, a little hopefully.
"I think if you sent your RSVP you should really go," Scott said. "Even if it's just for a litle while."
Of course he was right, I saw that. But that wasn't the answer I'd wanted from him. T. burst into tears. "I want Mama there ALL night," she wailed. L. let out an exasperated yell from the backseat. Someone honked at me when I was slow to turn across traffic.
"Do you see?" I said snappily to Scott. "This is what women have to do all the time. Make choices. Work, or family. Family, or work." I ranted and raved some more about feminism, and inequality and life choices. It did all feel unfair to me right then, cars all around me, on my way back to work again when I felt the pull to be with my family, holding T.'s hand and oohing and ahhing over the bottle cap magnets.
"Everything's going to work out just fine," Scott said. But I was in no mood to agree.
I wish I could say I rallied and pulled myself together. I wish I could say I looked into the rearview mirror and gave my daughter a big encouraging smile, the kind that says Look! Women CAN conquer the world! We're just like that Little Engine that Could--we CAN do it all. But I didn't, because at that time I felt just the opposite. I let Scott and the kids off in front of T.'s school with a hasty good-bye and the promise to be there soon. The truth is I can't do it all, not all of the time, and certainly not well all of the time. Nobody can, really.
And I'm not sure why I even feel I need to, really? Or why we mamas are sometimes our own worst critics?