Tuesday, July 5, 2011

On the Brink

Disclaimer: This post does not contain a lot of funny. Consider yourself warned.

Today has been a tough day. Really tough.Nothing truly significant or catastrophic happened, but I've realized I'm getting terribly close to my personal breaking point. Wanna hear about it? Nah, probably not. It's boring, typical, "that's life" sorta' stuff. But I'm going to tell you about it anyway because I'm hoping it'll free up some space in my brain. (I'm pretty sure my brain works just like my computer. When it starts to feel full, I can just move some of that "stuff" to my blog to get some of that space back.)

Work has been tough. The project I've been working on for the last six months was just about to wrap up when a related project appeared with this crazy deadline that seems practically impossible to hit. Everyone is going to have to bend over backwards to make it happen. And I, as the project manager, am going to have to be the person begging lots of people to stop the really important stuff they're working on at the moment to do my really, really important stuff instead. Add to that I'm managing the project, but currently have no one to actually give the work assignments to, so I'm ending up attempting to do most of it myself. This isn't working out so well since there are only so many hours in the day and so much that one person can accomplish. But I'm not the kind of person who likes to see things get missed, so it's really stressing me out that it looks like if we continue the way we're going, lots of stuff could get missed.

Today was the first day back after a three-day weekend. I had plans to accomplish three high priority tasks today. I got a call 5 minutes after arriving at my desk that de-railed those plans. I spent the rest of the day working on fixing stuff that was supposed to be fixed last week. None of my three things got done. The thing from last week still isn't fixed. I also added four more things to my "things that have to get done NOW" list.

Add to that, I've been really struggling mentally with being back at work full-time. I had been working part-time for the previous two years, but the extra 2.5 days is adding much more stress than I had anticipated. I actually have an amazing job. Flexible hours, flexible location, and decent pay. Plus, I'm pretty good at what I do. I also have a nanny who watches my kids and I am able to work many hours from home. As I type this, I know that there are so many moms who would kill for that kind of arrangement, and I am very thankful for what I've got. But nothing's perfect. Every hour that I work from home with my kids in the next room feels like an opportunity missed; like I am choosing work over them. They will be all grown up in the blink of an eye and I will have spent so much time in the very next room, but with the door closed tight. Every time I hear the nanny reprimanding my four-year-old, I wonder if he'd be acting up if it were me out there. I wonder if I would have handled the situation differently. I wonder if he's acting up more because I'm in the other room instead of at the office. I am actually very productive when I work from home, often much more productive than when I'm in the office, but I often pay for this increase in productivity with a feeling that I'm failing at my more important job of being a mother.

Add to that, today was my 4 year old's first day of swimming lessons. He hasn't spent much time in a pool. Kiddie pools and splash pads and sprinklers, sure, but actual pools, not so much. My husband and I really want him to learn to swim this summer and he was SO excited about starting swimming lessons today. I actually left work a little early today so that I could take him on his first day. He was giddy. We got there early and he was so excited while we were waiting by the pool. When it came time to sit by the pool and put his feet in, he sat right down. But when it came time to hold the side of the pool and get in the water, he was absolutely terrified. The instructors put him in the water and when he turned his face toward me, I could see that he was bawling. He pulled himself 90% out of the water and was gripping the side of the pool like his life depended on it. I wasn't sure what the official rules were regarding parent involvement, but I didn't really care. I walked over to the side of the pool where he was. He was so scared, but I got him to breathe and to calm down. I explained that he didn't have to get back in the water if he didn't have to, but that we would stay there by the water in case he changed his mind. For the next forty minutes he sat on the edge of the pool with his feet barely in the water. I watched the eight other kids in his 4- and 5-year-olds class get carried through the water by the instructors. One other child looked terrified as they did this, but they continued to go through the motions. They continued to ask my son if he'd like to try and again and again he said no. I didn't leave his side the rest of the time and could see the fear in his eyes rise every time an instructor would come near. I know that the he would be fine if I let him go. I know that they would not drop him. I know that he would learn that even though it was scary at first, he was safe. And I know that eventually he would learn to swim. But I also know that there is a way to teach a child to swim that doesn't involve them becoming absolutely terrified. I will find another swimming instructor.

So after a work-day filled with stress, incomplete tasks, and de-railed plans, I spent forty minutes with my son holding on to me in terror. As we were driving home, while waiting at a stoplight, he says to me from the back seat, "Mommy, you see that man in the pickup truck?"

"Yes," I say.

"I was waving to him. Wasn't that nice of me?"

"Yes, sweetie. That's very nice."

"I was waving to him because he is a good guy. I could tell he's a good guy because he was smiling and waved at me."

Hearing him say this was when I hit my wall. I wanted so much to take the opportunity to tell him (again) not to talk to strangers, or take things from strangers, or go anywhere with strangers. But having just spent forty minutes watching him terrified, it was all I could do to just not speak and hope I could hold it together while the fear of my child not knowing that a smiling man is not necessarily a good guy threatened to tear me apart. When I got home, I promptly handed him off to Daddy, who had a very thorough conversation (again) about what we do and do not do with strangers. (Waving at strangers from our car = OK. Everything else = NOT)

Just a tough day. Tomorrow I will wake up and continue to convert oxygen into carbon dioxide. I will put one foot in front of the other. But today, today was tough.