It was 10 a.m. when I finally pulled away from my kids’ school for the day. Shuffling the kids out of the car earlier that morning, my daughter exclaimed from the back seat, “Mom! I don’t have my backpack!” A quick search revealed she left it hanging on the hook at home: fully packed and in its place, entirely forgotten. My eyes glazed over, and I stared straight in front of me, scribbling rows of complex equations on the front windshield with my mind, calculating the most efficient course of action. A local grocery store was closer than the backpack at home, so I veered off my schedule, and filled a shopping basket with a package of lunchables, pretzels, lemonade, and packs of raisins. Don’t like raisins? Don’t forget your backpack next time kiddo. Subtle reminder.
This kind of thing has been happening a lot lately. Or maybe, it’s happening the exact same amount as it always has, but I’m tuning in and noticing it much more: My time is getting interrupted by my family. As I huff and moan about my child’s forgetfulness, the government employee in my head shakes his fist and rails, “That’s not my job! I’m just the driver on this route. Who is going to fix this mess? Certainly not me, I’m far too busy.” Then I look around to find the manager, only to find that the manager is: me.
Oh. Right. Well then. Ahem *Donning the manager cap* Let’s see how we can fix this mess…
Repeat that last exercise a few dozen times, and you’ve currently got me, with a glittering new thought in my head:
More than being interrupted, it’s my job as a mom to be available.
Which can look dangerously close to being unproductive. Or – Lord have mercy – lazy.
But I’m finding my job is to be available for the unexpected needs of my family. When I run myself so ragged that unexpected things completely throw me into a smoking spiral, I cannot do my job effectively. My schedule needs to pare down.
This realization has been a tremendous tool to relieve my brain, when I find myself feeling rushed and grabbing for the riding crop to whip my canter into a gallop.
Because, in my weird brain’s economy, if I’m not busy, then I’m not productive, and if I’m not productive, then what am I even doing with my life?
To answer that, let’s think for a moment: how many of us remember all of the activities our mothers drug us around to? My mom was a gymnastics coach, and I remember countless afternoons in the car doing my homework on the way to practice. But it was all a blur. I loved gymnastics, and I loved my mom, but there wasn’t anything particularly memorable about all those workouts. It was just normal life.
I do remember one time sitting next to my mom at her sewing center, the racks of thread lining the cabinet beside me, while she taught me how to cross stitch 3 red hearts onto a bookmark from a beginner’s kit. I used that bookmark in my favorite chapter books as a kid. Later in my teen years, I remember vividly one time my mom holding me while I sat slumped on the floor, crumpled and sobbing, weathering my first heartbreak with me.
She was available, when it mattered most.
I am reading Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend, and the parenting chapter reaffirms how healthy and necessary it is as a parent to be available to my children. Available for everything: from changing sheets in the middle of the night when someone had an accident, to thoughtfully answering questions about heaven, and snakes, and apples, as they pop into their little heads. It builds in them a belief that they are worthwhile, that there’s time and space for them, and gives them a safe, solid place from which to cope with everything from bullies at school to their future marriages. Available parents let kids lead secure lives, with the confidence that they matter.
I must be available to my husband too. This should actually go at the top of this post. He is the one who first captured my heart, he is the one working all day to make my lavish lifestyle of “availability” possible, and he is the one who I will get back all to myself after the kids have grown and left. He rarely asks things of me, knowing that I’ve got my hands full with the kids right now. But the other week he realized his car registration was going to expire in a day. So he asked me to pay it in person at the DMV. Because I hadn’t completely booked myself solid, I could oblige him. After all, my love for him stretches as high as the sun, as deep as the oceans, and as long as the lines at the DMV. Somebody get me a hallmark greeting card for that…
When I switch the concept of my job as a wife and a mama from being interrupted, to being available, my entire attitude changes as well. I see the interruptions as opportunities to be there for my family. When I think about the people I hold most dear in my life, they have earned their spot in my heart because I can point to specific times that each of them were there for me in different ways. I want to be this to others as well. God has given me my husband and children to “be there for,” first and most importantly. If I’m not, Gabe has other wife to turn to, and the kids have no other mom to cry out for. Thus I must take this job seriously. It may look unproductive from the outside, but make no mistake: I’m resting in between calls out to the field, cleaning and organizing my instruments, and placing a roast in the crock pot to prepare for dinner, lest my job take me away from my regular routine.