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Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Mania and mother guilt

So it’s the eve of the first day of school and all is quiet in the house, except for the crazed mom who is still working to meet an insane deadline. It will be worth it since I’ll get to spend the next two days getting my boys off to a good start for the school year.

I owe it to them for a less-than-stellar summer. Tremendous amounts of mother guilt are oozing from every pore as I think of the lengths I’ve taken to balance motherhood and business. I’m not proud of my efforts. In fact, I should be sporting the bag of shame after some marvelously maniacal episodes.

At one point I was in my office on a phone interview and I heard Michael screaming downstairs at his brother. As he started up the stairs I ran to shove my foot against the door so he wouldn’t come in. So there I was on the phone with an EVP from Office Depot, my laptop spun around so I could take notes, the phone cradled between my shoulder and ear and one leg bracing against the door as Michael wailed, “Mom! I want to play Playstation!” with his little fists banging on the floor outside my office door.

Uggh! It was a horror of horrors. And did I get off the phone and give some lovin’ to my little Mikey? No sir. I flung the door open and screamed, “You CAN-NOT do that when I’m the phone.” Mikey wasn’t the only recipient of my wrath that day. I reamed the older two for not appeasing their baby brother by letting him play when they knew I was on the phone.

My house is the prime spot for the neighborhood to congregate. The mom in me enjoys keeping tabs on what’s going on, but the businesswoman in me cringes at the sheer volume of little boys ages 5-12 running around the yard and the house. At one point they were having a fierce game of war and one of the favorite ambush spots was in the hedge just under my office window, which is always open. And so in between screams of, “Joe, you can’t do that I was in the safe zone” and “Mikey you’re out of ammo” and the dog barking and, well, let’s just say it wasn’t optimal for writing, let alone thinking.

So I would sit at my computer with my head in my hands and just feel the tension rising throughout my body. Usually that would be about the time I’d get an e-mail from a client looking for about 20 different things ASAP. Those were the moments when I had to strap on the running shoes and blow off stress and steam with a long run.

Last night as we reviewed the household budget for September, my husband and I had a “spirited” discussion about Michael going to after-school care every day after kindergarten. After my experience of this summer, I think it’s only fair that he be able to play with his friends and have fun without his stressed out mom trying to balance the two. Because the hard, cold reality is that, without the assistance of a babysitter or nanny, it’s impossible. You can’t be both mother and businesswoman at the same time. Something has to give and I’m afraid it’s usually both.

But tonight we’re in a different place. All three boys are so excited about starting school tomorrow. I teased my older two that I haven’t seen them this excited to start since they were in kindergarten. So before I turn to finishing a column that was due on Monday, I decided to take a moment, put on the headphones and listen to my summer soundtrack and remember that the start of the school year is always a new beginning—a chance to do it all better…

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