The Invisible Mom
She tries to find time for herself in places that don’t exist. She lies to herself that she will get to those places, just after the last of the dishes are put away. The laundry. Tomorrow’s lunches are packed. Whatever it is.
She can finally climb into bed with hubby and and it is well past the latest bedtime she can handle. And his.
She scans her home throughout the day, picking up, tidying up, wiping up, fixing bruises, trying to run a business, run her homeschool effectively and with passionate rigor she doesn’t always feel, directing traffic, the weather, anything she can be “on” for before she finally hides in the closet, hugging herself that her to do list is checked off in her head more than it is in her daily life. What was even on that to do list?
She longs to enjoy the picked up home and envisions herself collapsed on the couch, reading a book, the children playing board games her husband reading the paper every night. This is a pipe dream most weeks. A lost American dream. A downright cruel lie. Bedtime approaches far too quickly. Nights and days blend into themselves and she disappears amidst all of it.
She longs for a spa retreat weekend in AZ, anywhere, with her girlfriends and tells herself a nice bath, instead, wouldn’t break the budget or threaten an already bursting at the seams schedule. She texts her friends, “We need to get a pampering day” and pretends its going to happen any time soon. Or, that there is enough to spend this on herself, without taking away from the kids’ needs.
(Silly girl. You gave up your well paying career to be with your kids. You have a beautiful, supportive husband. You can’t complain.)
She longs to sit and spend quiet reading time with the kids every day, if only to feel their affectionate little bodies pressed so eagerly next to hers. She does’t want this time to ever end. She begins reading the chapter in her animated voice and witnesses incredulously as that voice trails away, again, as she falls asleep in the middle of the fifth paragraph faintly hearing, “Mom! Mom!” and her fading response, “I just need five minutes. I have to nap just five minutes…”
She walks into the kitchen, sees water boiling on the stove, and asks her husband what he needed the water for. A few minutes later she is reminded she had meant to steam the soggy frozen vegetables sweating on the kitchen island, where she left them about a half an hour ago.
She dares herself a glass of wine at 10am in the morning, just to be bold and wild and young again and remembers she can’t. She needs to be completely awake to drive to another class, an appointment, a something that kills the wild side in her she secretly fears died a long long time ago.
She dreams of running away, just to feel the freedom of no attachments and actually does so every now and then, when things get too intense and she “can’t take it anymore.” On such great escapades, she finds herself in the parking lot of the local library or a park, with no where to run to but a friend on the other side of the cell phone who, empathizing, laughs she has no where to run away to either. But wouldn’t it be amazing? Hanging in that parking lot, remembering how crazy real mothering life is compared to what it looks like in books and movies, it was the best “playdate” she has had in a long time.
She delights in family devotional time, how sweet it is, only to let her guard down and let her “wolf” lose on the kids when everything that earlier seemed so right, all of a sudden, turned out oh so wrong. She slumps down in a guilty mess. Defiant still. And then she swallows humility, opens her heart back up to her children, admits she really just makes mistakes too and would they forgive her outburst, she loves them so, and let’s pray for continued protection from such spiritual attacks?
She flinches at the sound of her name, “Mom” on the birth certificate, and wants to pretend she doesn’t hear. Or, that she is not anywhere nearby. And then she takes a breath and answers as lovingly as she can muster, relieved, despite herself.
She looks all around the house for a place that looks even slightly museum like. She’ll settle for a cozy corner that looks like something out of a Homes & Garden magazine. Not a chance. She sighs, finding too many things in all the wrong places instead.
She hears her mother’s voice. She sees her. Her memories of her live so clearly in herself in the way she walks swiftly with full arms through doorways, falls asleep in the car on long drives and jerks her head awake. She mimics her cooking for hours at a time all weekend, moving like a blur at the store, standing endlessly at the sink. She hears her mother’s words coming out of her own mouth sternly, lovingly, desperately, knowingly, so long ago only now she is repeating them to her children, secretly wincing and smiling all at once.
Her mother is not there but everything she ever heard her say about cleanliness, about doing things right… they echo through the halls of her own home. This mother is invisible to everyone else in the room, but, to her daughter, she is there.
She finds strength in the memory of it all. She knows she will one day leave some kind of impression on her own children. Probably very similar or, dreadfully, far worse than she dares to fear.
She writes before the sun comes up. She smiles. She laughs to herself. She presses on.