A Week in Review: Acknowledging Priorities

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It’s Sunday evening.  Again.

I recall last Sunday evening with clarity.  After our daughter was bathed and put to bed, I gathered my thoughts for the week ahead.  I had plans.  Like many, my Mondays start with a lengthy to-do list of tasks to be accomplished.  I also set goals for work on various projects.  Given my circumstances, those goals were modest purposefully.  And, as is the case with goal setting, my goals–what I hoped to accomplish in a week’s time–reflected my priorities.   I wanted to review and edit a few chapters of my manuscript and I wanted to write a few posts about current events weighing on my mind.

I failed to accomplish either.

Fear not.  This is not a missive about how busy or unproductive I was last week.  To the contrary, I accomplished nearly every item on my to-do list.  I picked up my glasses, prepared for our meeting with our accountant, paid the cable bill . . . you get the picture.  I also partially reviewed and edited a few pages of my manuscript and I drafted several paragraphs for different posts.  Those meager accomplishments took five days to complete and left me feeling inadequate.  My failure to do what I wanted left me frustrated, distressed, annoyed, cranky, and disappointed.  At the end of each of those five days, I sat with my husband on our couch before going to bed with a proverbial cloud over my head.  Why was I unable to accomplish so very little?

Less than a year ago, I could do.  And did it well.  Making telephone calls, preparing e-mails, drafting and finalizing documents, and advising all were easily done.  Now I am unable to accomplish even a fraction of what I once did.  Today, a phone call involves a good deal of holding, bouncing and walking, and apologizing for my joyful noisemaker interrupting the conversation.  E-mails are scanned quickly and responses are left for when I have the time.  This shift in priorities is uncomfortable.  I know that every working mother has to make hard choices about what comes first–the job, family, paycheck, children, and/or spouse.  But I don’t work.

I am a mother.  No, it’s not a job.  Rather, it’s a relationship with my daughter.  Yes, it oftentimes feels like a job.  There are aspects of the relationship I’d prefer not to have to do, sometimes I feel un- or under-appreciated, and while I can commiserate with friends and family, no one knows exactly how I’m feeling or what I do all day.  At this stage, as it has been since she was in utero, our relationship is not one of give and take.  It is one where I provide for her needs and wants.  She uses my body, be it caressing my face to explore my mouth, eyes or nose, feeding from my breast, or pulling on me to stand up.  Of course, my daughter brings me indescribable joy.   But she needs to be cared for and comforted regardless of how I’ve slept or how I feel.  And this will be the case for years.

As I was wondering the source of my immense frustration, I came back to the one discomforting truth.  I’m selfish.  I desperately want time to pursue my interests.  I wanted to write a clever piece about  whether the narrative of Chris Kyle as an American hero was warranted or appropriate.  I wanted to question the wisdom of his judgment for bringing a Marine Corps veteran–one who had been in and out of the VA system for PTSD symptoms–to a shooting range.  Not only an unpopular opinion, but one that has been muted by the cheers of the “American Sniperpopular culture.  I wanted to let veterans know that they can–and should–reach out for help if suffering from similar troubles.  I wanted to calm the sea of voices who lifted one veteran up in worship while damning another.  Alas, the verdict was returned last Tuesday and the moment has passed.  I also wanted to write about the wisdom and importance of deconstructing Marie Harf’s “job for jihadis” argument.  After all, why are so many young men (and women) disaffected and seeking to be part of an organization that endorses killing, hatred and destruction as integral to its ideology?  Certainly a worthwhile inquiry given the state of the Middle East.  Perhaps President Obama was dumb like a fox when he stated that the war is not against Islam, the fastest growing religion in the world.  Indeed, we need not give those who hate us even more reason to do so.  But that moment also has passed.  Those words won’t be written.  My voice won’t join the discussion.  My thoughts won’t be heard.

That’s it, really.  I desperately want to be heard.  I want to have a voice.  I want to express my thoughts not as my daughter’s mother or as my husband’s wife, but as Kimberly.  Kimberly who attended law school.  Kimberly who worked as a professional for many years.  Kimberly who lived in New York City.  Kimberly who lived as an expatriate.  Kimberly who is a daughter, sister and aunt.  Kimberly who was single until her late 30s.  Kimberly who is married to loving, understanding, and patient man.  And, yes, Kimberly who is a mother.

Despite being dedicated to my relationships and the commitments I’ve made to nurturing them, I am troubled that my identity is becoming less relevant, if not irrelevant.  I acknowledge that my priorities have shifted dramatically.  I’m tickled that I am more curious about the safety records of select car seats and playground culture than the front page of the New York Times.  But I wonder who I am–now?  A woman who can’t be satisfied?  After all, it was a long road for us to welcome our daughter and I couldn’t be more grateful.  Why then am I struggling with my new role as a mother?

Last week, I told my Mother, a woman who raised four children, that I felt my identity was being overrun by motherhood.  With a gentle reproach she reminded me that I am growing, adjusting, and learning about the expectations and demands facing me as a caregiver.  She reminded me that my identity isn’t being replaced by my relationship with my daughter, but being enhanced by it.  She reminded me that I am still the same Kimberly with varied interests and opinions, but my priorities have shifted, for now.  She reminded me that my voice–a richer, deeper voice–will continue to be heard, whether it be today, tomorrow or next week.

It’s now Monday and I feel just fine.  Lesson learned.

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