This morning I rushed out of the house. My son, who was characteristically unpredictable on the first day back from his dad’s, was beginning to storm. We were on a precipice. My hands were ridiculously full. My daughter was setting down her water bottle and homework folder instead of picking them up. We were unusually on time, but the “Out-the-door-train” had started, and dangit, I’d be darned if it was going to derail.
A few minutes later, safely in the car, meltdown averted and armful of stuff safely deposited, my cell phone pinged.
“Have a wonderful day at work.”
Crap. It was my fiancé. In the bustle and the “hurry ups” and the “don’t forgets” and the “did you bring your…” I’d forgotten all about him.
“I didn’t say goodbye. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” he said.
“No. It’s not.”
And there, in a four minute text message session (using voice text of course, because, driving) – I saw the struggle of the blended family, of the working mom, and of the single parent.
Is there room for me?
As an executive myself, I pack my days full of meetings and tasks and even the occasional workout. Then there’s meal planning and kids’ extra-curricular activities and helping with homework and remembering to have them read and oh-yeah-how-about-some-snuggles.
Then there’s a partner and intimacy-building and budget discussions and house maintenance.
And there’s laundry. There’s always laundry.
So it’s not so unusual that in that cacophony of all this activity, someone gets lost.
For me, it’s too often my fiancé. He’s 45, after all, and can make his own breakfast. He puts himself to bed and can even cook without burning the house down. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t need a little bit of me.
For the single moms, and I know this first hand, it’s her. I mean, with a kid or three climbing up your leg and the macaroni and cheese burning and the dog needing to be walked or fed or taken to the vet, and the boss on the phone and the electric bill overdue – there’s no room for her.
In blended families, I fear it can be anyone. It can be my daughter when my son is acting up; my son when my daughter is deep into her gymnastics routine for the fifth, “watch me!” It’s me when I haven’t yet sat down for dinner, and it’s getting cold but everyone keeps needing something.
What’s the Answer?
The struggle is finding room for everyone to be themselves, to have their identities, to be valued and respected, to be them — and to have their needs met while still meeting the needs of the family unit.
Impossible? I hope not.
The magical and elusive solution here is to build a life where everyone fits. I admit, I haven’t solved the equation for my family — yet. But it’s my hope that with mindfulness, awareness and the discipline to keep it in the front of my mind, we will find it. It won’t be 100%. Once in awhile, someone is going to have to put their hand up and say, “Hey, is there room for me?” But I hope that for us, and for you, simply acknowledging that life has a way of squeezing us out will remind us that maybe it’s time to slow down, cut back, take a breather, give a kiss goodbye.
When I leave for work tomorrow, I know I will.