No matter where you are, be there.
Updated: Apr 28, 2020
I was nearing the end of my maternity leave with Cullen when a few of my co-workers came to Denver for a meeting. It had been a long three months without human interaction, and I wanted to see them. I genuinely like my co-workers, which is not a feeling everyone gets the privilege of having. Plus, I had reached that sweet spot with Cullen - he was somewhat predictable, still easily portable, and I had mastered the ability to feed him in public without displaying any (ok, much) side-boob. So, I drove in rush hour traffic down to Union Station, in the beginning of a blizzard, to meet them. Because that's what you do when you love people...and are desperate to have an adult conversation.
We talked and caught up, cooed over Cullen and had a few drinks. I listened to stories and shared a few of my own, and I headed home a few hours later. Later that night, Donald asked me how it was. I stared back at him and admitted that I couldn't really remember. I had a great time but I couldn't recall what we talked about. I knew I had a beer, but I couldn't tell you which one it was. It felt like I had gone but hadn't really been there.
I've sat on this memory for a while now. It stuck with me because it was the pivotal moment when I realized how incredibly difficult it is for me to be truly present anymore. No matter where I am, I'm somewhere else.
My body sat in that bar, but my mind was a million different places. It was thinking about Carter and wondering how his day was. It was worried that Cullen would start crying and he'd make a scene. It was trying to remember if I had sent the email I needed to send. It was thinking about the drive home and thought of sliding around in the snow with my new baby in the backseat. My mind was anywhere but at that bar, even though that's where I wanted to be most.
When I had my two babies - sure, they took half my heart. Maybe more. But they definitely took half my brain. I'm not talking Mommy Brain - though that's a real thing, and there's now scientific evidence that it is your child's fault you now consistently leave your car keys in the freezer.
I'm talking about the part of my brain that used to be able to focus on one thing. It allowed me uninterrupted thoughts - it allowed me to reason with emotion and pick the rational choice. It allowed me to be present in whatever moment I found myself in. That part is gone.
Instead, I am somewhere else all the time. No matter where I am, I'm somewhere else.
When I'm at work, I'm thinking about the kids. Did I leave enough milk with daycare? He's going through a growth spurt, so I probably should have left more. Speaking of milk, I keep forgetting to give Carter milk. Does that matter? Is his brain not developing right? Can I go to jail for that?
When I'm with my kids, I'm thinking about work. Did I send that email I needed to send? Did I block off time on my calendar so I can drop the kids off? Am I doing ok? Am I doing better than ok? What do I want out of my career? Oh, Cullen just vomited...brb Major Life Questions.
When I'm with friends, I'm wondering what my kids are doing. When I'm with my kids, I'm wondering what my friends are doing.
While it may seem like I'm painting this sad picture of parenthood - that it's just this 18 year journey of slowing losing your mind - I'm not. And it's not. But I have to imagine that I'm not the only parent that feels this way and further, I have to imagine there's a way to fix it.
That evening, I had the chance to do bedtime with Carter because Cullen exhausted himself from eating an entire jar of pureed green beans; promptly shitting himself and passing out early. Against his will, I pulled Carter into our rocking chair and lovingly forced him to cuddle with me for a hot second before he started his usual "GO NIGH NIGH!" chant. Knowing that I planned to write this post eventually and essentially admit to everyone I know and love that, "hey...you know every time I'm with you? I'm not really with you."...I did my best to start practicing a remedy.
I tried to be present in that moment with him. We rocked and I talked to him and swept his hair against his forehead in that annoying-mom-way that I habitually do. I tried not to think about the emails I hadn't sent, the dishes in the sink, or the fact that I had forgotten to give him milk again. I tried not to think about anything else but him. And you know what? It actually worked.
No matter where you are, try to be there.