Dropping the Smallest of Balls

Posted on | June 8, 2011 | 18 Comments

Working outside the home as a mother is … um… not easy.  Which is basically the understatement of the year.  But when you throw in the fact that you are working outside the home, and inside the home, and there’s no one else to pick up any slack around the house or with your kids, you might as well audition for the circus.  Because you are a juggling queen.

The thing about juggling though, is that if you drop one ball, even the smallest ball in your arsenal, all of the balls will inevitably fall.  So while the big things want most of your attention, you actually have to pay just as much attention to that teeny tiny ball, the one that doesn’t really make a difference to anyone.  My “big” balls are things like nutrition and exercise for J, paying the mortgage and other bills, accomplishing my to-do list at the office, feeding and walking the dog, taking care of the car, and keeping my house free of rodents and/or social services.  These are the big things I worry about.  I have to make time to vacuum up all the dog hair and clean the counter tops.  I have to make time to run a load of laundry and change the sheets on the beds every week. (or more if J pees through yet another diaper).  I have to dust the fans and the wood in the family room and J’s room because of his RAD and I have to change the filters on the regular for the air conditioner. 

I have to make dinner, even if that dinner consists of opening a Lunchable for the meat and cheese and slapping some green beans and sugar-free applesauce alongside. I have to make time to sit and play with J for at least thirty minutes in the evening after work and between dinner, bath, and bed so that he knows how important he is to me.  I have to make sure he eats something nutritous in the mornings, even though he can have “breakfast” at school because sometimes the “breakfast” they serve is a cereal bar and peaches from a can.

I have to make time to get to the office on time and have my wits about me for my boss and my clients.  I have to remember to feed my poor, neglected dog.  I have to remember to change the oil in my car and dear GOD I have to remember to put gas in it.

Those are my big balls.  Those are the things that have to, 100%, get done every day. 

And then there are the otherballs… the things I very much want to get right.  Things like reading a chapter out of the Winnie the Pooh book to J every night before bed.  Things like having dinner at the table with J every night so it feels like a family dinner.  Things like letting him splash and play in the bath tub for as long as he wants until his feet and fingers get all pruney.  I want to get in 30 minutes of exercise for me and J every day, even if it’s in the form of a 6 am dance party to a little Michael Franti in the kitchen.  I want to get to work without stains on my suit and without tear tracks on my face.  I want to leave J at daycare with a smile on his face as well as mine.  I want to cook on the weekends so that there are home cooked meals at least a few nights a week, even if it’s homemade spaghetti with a little too much garlic because I let J help “shakeshake” the seasoning in.   I want to put J down in his crib, kiss his little forehead goodnight, and have him sleep all night through, without the nightmares that wake him up at all hours screaming frantically for Mommy as though she may have snuck away in the night.

 The “want to” balls are not always juggled simultaneously.  Sometimes they sit by the side while I stare at them longingly wishing I had time to pick them up and throw them in the mix. (Ahem… like exercise.)  And sometimes, a ball slips in to the rotation that I didn’t even realize was there.  Inevitably, that’s the ball that I drop.  And then I drop them all in exasperation and hide away for a while until my wits collect about me again and ask me to kindly stop blowing snot into their hair.

This morning was one of those mornings.  Although I should probably give a nod to last night and J’s inability to go to sleep until snuggled tightly in bed with Momma around 9:30… and of course, that was after a massive number of tears on both his and my part.  But let’s jump to this morning, or rather yesterday afternoon.  J came home from school with his info sheet and on the back of the info sheet was a form indicating what to bring for “Water Day.”  Earlier in the week, he had brought home a schedule indicating when “Water Days” would be this summer.  I read it, and then put it somewhere safe which was promptly forgotten.  When the water day sheet came home yesterday, I made a mental note that water day was today.  I got up, put J in his adorable little fish swimsuit (which he calls his “Nemo”) and got his sunscreen and towel and change of clothes.  I told him about how he was going to get to play in the water at school and talked it up so much that even I was excited about water day.

In the car, all he kept saying was “Pool! Water!”  He was so excited.

We pulled up to the daycare and went inside.  The whole way in, he is repeating “Pool! Water! Pool! Water!” as though his little heart would explode with sheer happiness.  And then it happened.

The director looked at me quizzically.  She smiled a little and said “Tomorrow is water day, not today….”

Guys? I lost it.  Somehow I managed to take J to his classroom, leave him, and exit the building.  But once I hit the parking lot, there was definitely water… but not the kind you play in.  I was absolutely bawling.  Like I ran over a puppy.  Over a mistake about water day.

I realized how ridiculous it was. I still realize how ridiculous it was.  But I couldn’t stop crying.  I had dropped the smallest of balls.  I had gotten my child’s hopes up for something that wasn’t coming.  I had dropped a ball.

I don’t like dropping the ball. Can you tell that about me? I’m a raging perfectionist.  So dropping that one, teeny, tiny ball, left me feeling as though I couldn’t do a damn thing right.  I felt like I was failing J and failing myself.  I cried as though I had fed my dog rat poison instead of dog food… you would have thought I had dropped one of the big, giant, breakable balls.  And then I called my Blanche, one of my besties, and she quite rightfully stifled laughter at my “misfortune.” She told me to run water in the pool tonight and play in the water with J at home.  She told me it was okay and that I had not dropped a big ball on this one.  She told me it was okay.

And it was okay.

It is okay.

There are going to be times when a ball gets dropped.  There will be dinners from McDonalds.  There will be nights where J sleeps in my bed instead of his crib.  There will be days when I have to haul it home at lunch because I’ve forgotten to feed my poor dog.  There will be dropped balls and probably lots of them. 

But if at the end of the day, I can run a little water in the baby pool and relax on the patio with my son who is healthy and happy and knows he is loved, then I’m doing it all right.  As long as J is happy… we’re doing okay.  And that is just one ball. 

Anyone can juggle one ball.


18 Responses to “Dropping the Smallest of Balls”

  1. Miranda
    June 8th, 2011 @ 9:54 am

    This is why clowns juggle rubber balls. Because inevitably, the process of learning to juggle, one or two get dropped and need to bounce.

    Good job on the bouncing and juggling.

  2. Stephanie
    June 8th, 2011 @ 10:02 am

    I am a law mama myself, and there are many things you write about that resonate with me. A couple weeks ago, on your recommendation, I bought “The New Perfect,” and am reading it. It has helped me to see that letting go of the need to be perfect is one way I can be the best mom, wife and attorney I can be. I think you need to cut yourself some slack, lady. You are doing a good job! So you forgot that tomorrow was water day. Ohhhh well. That’s not dropping a ball… that’s being human. You should celebrate your accomplishments… because honestly reading about all of the things that you have to do on a daily basis made me think, “Damn. She has it all together.” I have a stay-at-home husband, and we still miss appointments, leave laundry piled up and eat hamburger helper occasionally. We neglect our dogs, forget to dust our house and kill houseplants. If “The New Perfect” has taught me anything, it’s to look at things from 500 feet versus inspecting everything under a microscope. Ok, so you forgot something… in the general scheme of things, you’re juggling all the balls. Amazingly, I might add. Be your own biggest fan. Really. You deserve more credit than you’re giving yourself.

  3. Lauren
    June 8th, 2011 @ 10:23 am

    I wouldn’t look at it like you disappointed J… Look at it like this: You are so awesome, the kid has TWO water days. What a freaking awesome Mom are you?! Every other kid just has one. 😉

  4. IdahoGirl
    June 8th, 2011 @ 10:30 am

    I agree with Stephanie – you deserve more credit than you’re giving yourself! I get it though, I’m a perfectionist too and want to manage all of the balls perfectly too.

    I think that’s the toughest thing of motherhood – whether you’re working in or out of the home, whether you have a partner who contributes, a partner who does not or no partner at all….the realization that we have to change our definition of what’s perfect.

    You are so new to this – so new to being the only one to rely on….you will find your stride such that the balls you’re juggling become routine and thus if a new one is thrown at you, you’ll catch it with grace and ease.

    Give yourself time. Give yourself the grace that we do. And know that at the end of the day, all J remembers is that he’s loved.

    And when things are not so hectic and you haven’t just moved and just gone through a divorce and spent money you probably weren’t planning on, hire out the juggling of the balls you can so that the really important ones – the ones involving J – are the ones you can take time for.

    Hang in there, Mama.

  5. Janet
    June 8th, 2011 @ 10:46 am

    Give yourself some time to adjust. You are doing great. Hope this helps-After my divorce, I adopted a new motto “Done is better than perfect” & let that apply to hasty dinners & crappy mornings with my 2 kids. Overwhelmed just seems to be a single moms middle name, so don’t sweat it.

  6. MusicMomma
    June 8th, 2011 @ 11:17 am

    First of all … quit being so hard on yourself! You will drive yourself crazy if you try to run on empty all the time. Second … figure out what really is important. Is the dog more important than your son? Maybe there’s a friend who can take the dog for a while. About the sleep thing … would it hurt to have him sleep in your bed, or in the same room with you so he knows you’re always there? When he wakes up he’ll know you’re still there & just nod off to sleep. Gradually you can put him in his own room. But for now, he needs his Momma!

  7. KLZ
    June 8th, 2011 @ 11:30 am

    One ball is a happy manageable thing.

  8. Sara
    June 8th, 2011 @ 1:03 pm

    I felt your sadness reading that about water day… your friend is a genius! It’s water day at home today, everything will be all right.

  9. R's Mom
    June 8th, 2011 @ 1:35 pm

    As excited as J was about water day, he probably forgot about it once he got in the classroom and saw his friends and focused on other things. And he will get water day tomorrow…you’d feel worse if you totally forgot about it and he didn’t get to participate, right?? (I’m trying to look for a different perspective here).

    I’m a perfectionist, too, so this advice is a little bit pot calling kettle…but you need to give yourself a break. You don’t need to set the bar for perfection, because NO ONE can achieve that — regardless of what else is going on in their life. I see one of your “big balls” listed as playing 30 minutes a night with J so he knows he is important. Trust me, he knows he’s important. And I’m a big advocate for putting other things aside so that I can play with R…the laundry will wait. But don’t convince yourself that your play time with him needs to be on a timer. Some days it might be longer. Some days it might be shorter. But I guarantee you that his feeling of love and importance does not hinge on whether you played for 30 minutes or not. Also, some mornings, it’s okay to have a granola bar and canned fruit. It’s maybe not ideal, but it will get him fed.

    Just to make you feel better, last week I forgot to bring diapers and wipes to daycare, after they sent a note home that he needed more. Completely, totally forgot. It happens. I didn’t feel great about it, but it was a busy morning and I was thinking about a work meeting the whole time I was getting ready that morning, and I forgot. So don’t beat yourself up about this, and don’t convince yourself that you are falling behind and that other moms wouldn’t have messed up…because we have, and we do.

  10. lisa
    June 8th, 2011 @ 5:36 pm

    i think you dropped the smallest balls when you got separated. They were attached to a man.

  11. Law Momma
    June 8th, 2011 @ 6:13 pm

    Lisa: You are my newest best friend. That was amazing.

  12. Roxanne
    June 8th, 2011 @ 6:47 pm

    Your friend is so right. It is okay.

    I just love your words. You always seem to say things that I have felt, in just the right way. I thank you for your beautiful (even if sometimes sad) words, because they help me to know that I am not alone.

  13. Cate
    June 8th, 2011 @ 6:50 pm

    Ouch! You’re right – it’s just a little ball… but disappointing our children is also one of the biggest balls for many parents.

    I HATE it when things don’t go to plan for my kids. So much so that I’ve developed the strategy of not telling them about some things until a nanosecond before whatever-it-is starts. Even then it might not go to plan. Now I try to frame it as a lesson in how, despite our best intentions, things can change (and I try to teach myself that lesson while I’m explaining it to my kids). Which is not to say I’ve not had to deal with tears (their’s and mine)…

    Please be gentle on yourself: these things will happen (an annoying side effect of being human) and, when they do happen, let the tears flow. Just let them express how you’re feeling but DON’T feel shame. How often is it that a big ball is dropped? Hardly ever – it’s always the little things and, for me, the upset is always accompanied by a snide little voice in my head – that one that’s so hard to turn off – saying “I can’t believe you’re losing it over the (tiny ball: whatever it was that set me off)”.

    It wasn’t just the swimming though was it? If you’re anything like me (and perhaps you aren’t – hopefully, you’re thinking “who is this strange woman and who gave her licence to procreate?”), it spiraled into thoughts of all sorts of wrongs, real and imagined, that have happened, may happen, could happen, etc. Yep people; that’s why I’m in therapy!

    You are holding it together. It’s ok to fall down in a heap every now and then. In our society, it takes courage to stop. To stop and just crash, even for a minute. And then call a friend who will stifle snorts of amusement at your predicament 🙂

  14. Adriane
    June 8th, 2011 @ 11:07 pm

    You’re doing an amazing job, as far as I can tell. Just felt compelled to let you know that I’m thinking of you and wishing you well.

  15. Jessica @ Raising an Owlet
    June 8th, 2011 @ 11:41 pm

    I just started reading a new book- The 10 habits of happy mothers. I am recommending it to everyone, but I am especially recommending it to you.

    you’re doing so great as a mom, you need to not be so hard on yourself.

  16. monk
    June 9th, 2011 @ 9:17 am

    you are ballin’, law-momma. (is that the proper use of the term? it is now).
    Sometimes you have to grab the bull by the…balls.
    you defintiely made some lemonade today, monk. J will have no real memory of this. He definitely will not forget the confusion, but he will remember spending a special night with his mommy.
    love you.

  17. Laura
    June 9th, 2011 @ 10:35 am

    I use the juggling analogy SO often when I’m venting, to my therapist, to my coworkers, to anyone who will listen in the line up at the grocery store… because it really is the best way to describe the terror and fear that rules my life… dropping one tiny ball that then brings my whole house of cards crashing down all around my head and bringing ruin down onto my boys and myself – be that ruin financially and we find ourselves on the street because for some reason the mortgage payment didn’t go through, or we have no power because the hydro bill got buried under a pile of discarded transformers, or emotional ruin because I forgot once again that my 5.5 year old had show and tell and he had to once again show his dinosaur sun hat for the 2nd time just so he could stand up in front of the class room and share something… you get the picture. I live in fear of dropping that one ball that I can’t fix with my supermom powers – the ones I’m slowing beginning to belive are mythical creations of my desperate imagination…

    So yes, this one really hit home… and I have to say I’m not the only one doing the circus clown impression with the makeup running down my face while I cry in a parking lot… Hugs…

  18. Rachel
    June 9th, 2011 @ 10:51 pm

    I enjoy reading your blog-very deep stuff.

    If you don’t already use them, try Huggies overnites for his night time diaper. My little one used to always wet through his diaper by morning, but these diapers usually work for 12+ hours! They are worth the extra cost.

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