Last Saturday was my big show. I co-produced the Listen to Your Mother Boulder show this year, and it has been a TON of work with huge rewards. Saturday was the day when everything came together, colliding in a big, beautiful, chaotic culmination of all our hard work. I was incredibly proud of putting this show together and I couldn’t wait to see the finished product. Producing this show—although it was about motherhood—was not about “Mom-Me,” it was about me, Stephanie, the writer, entrepreneur, co-producer. I wanted that day to be a celebration of undivided focus, where I got to be fully present all day long in preparation for the show.
You can see where I’m going with this, can’t you? The four days before, during, and after the show were an unbridled clusterf*ck that involved me wearing all my hats at once, or frantically pulling one off and throwing another on in rapid succession. It was just unfortunate timing, really, or maybe a cosmic joke, and it wasn’t really anyone’s fault. Both of my children were off school Friday and the following Monday thanks to assessment days, and my husband had to run this big important annual City-wide cleanup thing that of course fell on the same weekend as my show. Awesome, huh?
Basically this meant that I had my children with me constantly for four days straight, aside from the time on Saturday when I had to leave for the pre-show prep and Saturday evening for the show itself. I had been planning to bask in self-indulgent post-show bliss by myself on Sunday. And I had envisioned Friday to be a day when I released stress by working out, perhaps did some meditation and visualizing, and focused on finishing up last-minute show details.
Instead I dragged both kids with me to my music classes the day before the show (where my four-year-old sported perma-pout the entire time), skipped the gym, and lugged them along to my co-producer’s house where our four collective children “helped” us stuff programs. (OK, the sarcastic quotation marks aren’t exactly fair: 3 of the 4 children were super helpful. My preschooler? Not so much.)
When we arrived home that evening I felt my blood pressure rising and through gritted teeth informed my children that “Mommy needed ten minutes alone” and headed upstairs to meditate amid loud arguments about which movie would be viewed over pizza that night. I was interrupted at least eleventy-hundred times while I diffused peaceful essential oils, lit a candle, and angrily tried to force the stress from my body through calm, centered breathing. (**This is not a recommended meditation technique.) You can imagine how successful my efforts were.
The next day I allowed my children to enjoy an undisclosed number of minutes of TV while I stayed upstairs in my room, feeling surprisingly calm and grounded. A sense of peace and perhaps even quiet joy had descended upon me. The show was going to be fine. The kids and I would be fine today while I loaded my car with everything I would be hauling to the venue, tried to replicate the “hair-curling” lesson my good friend generously provided me days earlier, showered, did a bit of grounding yoga, and ran a few errands.
And we mostly were. Our unfortunate emergency trip to Office Depot resulted in obnoxious kid behavior, a misplaced stuffed animal that I was irate to discover had been dragged into the store in the first place, the loss of Mommy’s cool, and muttered swear words while attempting to locate aforementioned misplaced stuffed animal. I yelled. I cried a little. The kids cried. It sucked. I was pissed off; I didn’t want to be juggling my show duties and parenting responsibilities at the same time. I didn’t want to be Mommy on Saturday; I wanted to focus all of my energy on this one thing I had worked so hard to pull off. I wanted to be Stephanie.
My husband was working until the last possible minute when I needed to hand off the kids, which meant I had to load the car myself, something I suck at. There were boxes of books, programs, bags of food, overflowing sacks of emergency supplies like tampons, curling irons, static guard and hairspray, my dress, my shoes, and a giant cooler I had to precariously balance on my knees while hefting open the hatchback of our minivan. It was an irritating game of backseat Tetris. I had to do the literal heavy lifting, and I wanted somebody else to do it for me so I could do other things like, you know, drink too much coffee and find my freaking Zen.
The show. The piece I read was called “My Name is Mommy” (I’ll share the video as soon as it’s up this summer!) and it was about my maternal identity crisis. I share the story of my single parent years when I was raising my two-year-old and dating my now-husband; to say I struggled with my identity back then would be an understatement. And it’s not a far stretch to say that I still struggle. I often find myself searching for the spaces in my days when I just get to be me.
I count the steps after I drop off my preschooler at daycare until I arrive to teach my music class in the next building. I inhale deeply, absorbing the music that blasts from my carefully selected and aptly named “Songs I Want to Hear” playlist in my car as I drive to pick up my kids after school. I crave the minutes when I meditate and read alone in bed before falling asleep. I seek out moments in my day when I am not working, when I am not parenting, when I feel like my truest self. I search for these spaces every day.
And during the days this past week when I most wanted to find the space for myself, there was no space. I was working, parenting, planning, doing it all at the same time. I was all of me, all of my selves, all at once. And you know what? It was kind of fitting. It was perfect in its own way, a poetic justice of sorts, that as I prepared to read about my own identity crisis of motherhood at Listen to Your Mother later that night that I had to do and be everything simultaneously.
I was Stephanie; I was Mommy. I didn’t have space or the luxury of putting some of it down. And I survived. Maybe there really is no balance; maybe those spaces are just an illusion. Maybe it’s about integrating all of ourselves, Sybil style, to find something that is imperfect and messy but works. Those smooth edges and tidy boxes where we compartmentalize the different parts of ourselves are bound to get seriously jacked up by real life. And that, my friends, is where the true richness is.
P.S. The show was freaking amazing. Packed house, close to oversold, even, and the cast read more bravely and beautifully than ever. One of the best moments of my life. For real.
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