On the way to Dick’s on Saturday, Ryan and I had the following conversation:
Ryan: Hey, so I talked to our friend and she’s going to put together a beginner’s tennis league for women and it’ll be on Sundays. She said that will be best for you and your schedule since you’ll be working.
Me: That’s really sweet! Yeah, I talked to her a few weeks ago. But I might just do the Friday night mixed doubles league.
Ryan: Well I think it might be best for you to start out on a beginner’s league with your same sex.
Side note: who says “same sex” in casual conversation… just say a “women’s team” or “all women.” We aren’t in a hospital laboratory.
Me: Okay but my Sundays are really to starting to fill up with church, then teaching in the kindergarten room at church, then small group that night. That’s going to be also be my day to organize my week, meal plan, maybe cook extra meals… since I’m going back to work.
I could feel my voice start to wobble and tears form against my will.
Ryan: But I —
Me: Plus! I thought the mixed doubles would be more fun and you said that it was really casual and we keep talking to people about it! And now you’re telling me I’m not allowed?!
Actual tears are rolling down my face.
Me (still): And I thought it was something fun that we could do together! I’m fine with the women’s team— except also, I will be 100 years old and everyone else will be 23.
Ryan: No… Wait… I just thought that this is what you wanted. Um… because you said this is what you wanted—
Me: No I didn’t!!
I definitely did.
Me (without pause): And why are you acting like my tennis parent, making an arranged tennis marriage for me without even talking to me??!
Now I’m just full on ugly crying. In the car. On the way to Dick’s. To buy new lacrosse-watching-chairs.
It’s possible that I was not actually crying about tennis.
I’ve been very much looking forward to getting into tennis, we’ve been talking about all the different options, and both teams offer opportunities that would be super fun. Even though I will definitely be playing with moms who have toddlers.
So it’s more likely that I was crying about something else.
It could be the fact that my daughter would be taking the driver’s test the following day. That she has an actual job where she filled out her own W-4 form (she filled it out inaccurately because she asked the wrong parent, but she still had a W-4 form in her hand to fill out). And because she is now, officially, a junior in high school and we have something like 130 Saturdays left with her, a thing that my husband decided to point out to me recently.
It’s also possible that I was crying because our youngest daughter is going to be in eighth grade. That is all. Eighth freaking grade.
I’m also probably crying because Ryan would start his new job on Monday. And it’s the culmination of one of the most challenging and magical seasons of our lives. It has been that kind of hard that has had moments tinged with despair, filled with dark spaces that have no answers. It has also been this profound season of transformation. We have been through tough seasons before. A lot of them. But this one was different. We remained sort of untouched by it somehow, like someone had taken withering, struggling plants out of a storm and gently repotted them in a greenhouse. While the storm raged around, we simply continued to grow.
I have dreamt and prayed for and imagined this moment so many times. The moment when I would exhale, pop champagne, dance around the kitchen amidst confetti and celebrate The Day We Have Been Waiting For! In the end, it didn’t really happen like that. Ryan has been working, in some form or fashion, since a few weeks into this job loss. He set up his own company, he has had several consulting gigs, and, in the end, had two job offers that we spent several days discussing and deciding between.
I’ve known I would go back to teaching for months now and so on this particular Saturday, the week when it all was going down (a driver’s license, Ryan’s first official day, and my first day of teaching summer camp), I found myself sobbing about tennis.
Which brings me to the final reason why I am probably crying.
To the moms out there who have been working since your children were babies and are crushing this Working Mom Thing (or at least looking like you’re crushing this Working Mom Thing), please look away. I am embarrassed by how hard this feels. And you all have been grinding it out for years, making it work, and your eyes might just roll all the way back into your head and get stuck there at all of my car sobbing.
I also think this is likely the reason I haven’t posted about this yet. Or in a while. The weight of this transition is sitting heavily on my heart and I’m afraid about being judged for it. About how hard and terrifying and enormous it feels even though my children are sixteen and thirteen.
And yet, I have been the default, primary, at-home parent for over sixteen years. Every other job I’ve had has been done from home, on my own time. I have been able to very easily slip in and out of that role on a whim for every sick day, school event, and volunteer opportunity. And now I’ll be working in a job where I can only be reached if the girls call the school office and they walk down the hall to relieve me from the classroom. I feel like I am going into a sensory deprivation tank for the next calendar year.
I feel the need to rationalize it. To say that I know I’m not going to be in surgery, I know I’m not reporting about news in a war zone, I am aware that I’m not negotiating a merger or an acquisition, and that there are not millions of dollars at stake. I get that this is normal and everyday and it feels simple. But it is still a massive transition for our family and I am feeling every bit of it.
And yet, I am blissfully, fully, deeply ready for this. Ryan is ready for this. My children are ready for this. It is time… a good time. So I’m holding both things at once, the tenderness of my heart and the joy in my spirit.
When I am given free rein, I will help the people in my life to a tremendous fault. One of the gifts I gave my girls for Valentine’s Day was to make their lunches for the rest of the year. (This was during a time when we had no income and they have never been more excited about a gift in their living lives. But still… who does that??) And while the task can sometimes be annoying, I love the feeling of it.
I do their laundry, fold their clothes, clean their bathrooms, make all the food. My love language is seriously NOT acts of service, but I am a Two on the Enneagram and I default to this one hundred percent of the time. If this continues, I will cripple my kids into being the sad and confused children who go to college and not know what to do in the laundry room. When unchecked and unhealthy, I can do everything for everyone in a simmering stew of resentment.
I am so deeply craving a place where I can fill my heart by giving to small people who need it so much, the way my daughters once did. So that I can give those daughters what they now need so much. And that is space. Space to figure it out on their own, to learn how to be more self-sufficient, and to rely more on their dad.
But it still makes me cry. Even thought we are ready and it is really good. Maybe mostly because it is really good. This has been a tough two years and the blissful feeling of our current situation is unfamiliar and scary and makes me feel wobbly and vulnerable.
I watched the Brene Brown special on Netflix last night and… dang, it is so good! And in these moments of profound goodness and beauty and joy, we have this human need to reach for fear and wear it like armor. Feeling like this is too good to be true or waiting for the other shoe to drop. We want to protect ourselves from the pain that could rip this all away and how much worse would that feel if we are really, truly happy, dancing away in an open field and not down in a bunker expecting it all to go to to hell?! At least we’d be ready!
But I don’t want to live in a bunker. It’s dank and muddy and super gross down there. The antidote is, of course, gratitude. So my plan is go into this season out on that open field, with a grateful heart, a list of emergency contacts on the refrigerator, and plenty of tissues in the car.