There is only now

there is only now | mom-101By day four of a business trip out of the country, my heart truly starts to hurt. By day 7, as I’m supposedly enjoying a final night out with colleagues it’s nearly intolerable. And it’s not just the third rendition of the Don’t Cry For Me Argentina cover at the South American themed restaurant in Prague that’s blaring from the speakers right into my ear.

My mind is skipping right to the moment I walk in the door, let my suitcase fall to the ground feel those little arms wrapped around me, break open the travel gifts, and cuddle on the couch like I never want to let go, jet lag be damned.

Yes, it’s maybe 16% working mom guilt (a number that seems to be decreasing by the year, praise be). Mostly, it’s the pain of absence.

It’s love.

Still, have you ever noticed it’s different for the kids?

It’s as if for them, the moment you return, the time you were away is already gone.

There is only now.

The longing of the past somehow never happened. Or if it did, the time is so bendy and twisty in a child’s mind, it could have been a week ago or a year ago or maybe something in a dream once.

We so easily attribute our feelings to the children. I used to joke to my mother that she always said things like, “I’m cold…do you want to put on a sweater?”

(And now, I do it. We are our mothers.)

More and more I see that children do see the donut and not the hole; it’s not what you’re not doing with them when you’re not home that matters, it’s what you are doing when you are home.

I want to be in the now with them. Their now.

It’s not always easy.

There are emails to return and birthday parties that need planning and dentists that need scheduling and camps that need their deposits and work emergencies that probably really aren’t.

There is also a blog that has been neglected for a week.

I decided that the blog will be okay for another day or two.

Instead, I am watching the puppet show the girls wrote for the new marionettes in the collection, in which they spend more time fighting about who says what line or whether the sorcerer is really a sorcerer or just Ron Weasley in disguise, than actually delivering lines.

I am watching them fly across the monkey bars, showing me how they can now skip a bar, which is evidently the Olympic gold medal of all playground feats of athletic prowess.

I am sitting across the table learning the new clapping game while we eat, instead of scolding them to hurry up and finish. (Priorities.)

I am pushing for more interesting sentences in the “write 10 interesting sentences” homework assignment.

I am trying and make sense of Thalia’s insanely long recap of a recess conversation between six girls that is about I have no freaking idea.

I am scratching Sage’s back by demand, no UNDER the shirt Mommy, and don’t stop until I tell you.

I am saying yes to ice cream. Yes to scooters. Yes to running around naked after bathtime.

(Them, not me. You’re welcome, Brooklyn neighbors.)

I don’t think children’s minds will work this way forever. I think like tooth fairies and elves under the bed and the belief that anyone can grow up to be an astronaut-princess-kindergarten teacher that some very beautiful aspects of childhood give way to adolescence and there’s nothing we can do about it. The moment will change. The longing or resentment may kick in. They will become more like us. They may need that sweater after all.

But for now…there is now.

And there is a puppet show on the couch.

puppet show


29 thoughts on “There is only now”

  1. I’m impressed you don’t have that weird transition period where your children fall apart in a way that they seem to be punishing you for your absence. We usually experience that wonderful huggy euphoria in the first half hour of a return, and then some sort of insidious confusion or fatigue sets in resulting in explicable tears. (But maybe we are out of the norm because of my husband’s deployments. When someone goes away for at least a year at a stretch that makes an impression on even a kid’s malleable sense of time.)

    Welcome home!

    1. Like I said, things can change at any time. Right now they’re pretty great that way and they’re lucky to have loving grandparents and lots of family with them if I’m gone.

      I can only imagine how hard it is to acclimate again after a year. I hope that gets better.

  2. Your children are not your children.
    They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
    They come through you but not from you,
    And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

    You may give them your love but not your thoughts, 
    For they have their own thoughts.
    You may house their bodies but not their souls,
    For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
    You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
    For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

    You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
    The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
    Let our bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
    For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

    Khalil Gibran, On Parents

  3. Welcome back home! I travel for business and it seems that children don’t mind me being away. Never complaining that I am leaving them, but once in a while acknowledging their happiness about lack of future travel.
    I am happy that they are not lamenting behind my back. However, with an inherent obligation to feel mommy guilt, I feed bad as if they don’t care whether I am gone or at home with them.
    Regardless of the guilt, traveling makes the “at home time” much more valuable. I try to stay in “now” more than I would have if I weren’t missing my kids (and my husband).

  4. Beautiful, as always. I know that aching well; it happens to me when I’m only gone a full day as I start to transition back into more of a work-outside-the-home kind of life again. You can tell he’s missed me, but only for a few moments. Then the overflowing joy kicks in; I inhale the sweet scent of his fine hair. Aaaaah. Home again.

  5. So sweet, I was wondering when the working mom guilt passed! I’m only on my first baby, 11 months old, so I have a long way to go! And that huge grin and break-neck crawl to mama always makes everything else go away. Thanks!

    1. Disclaimer: I cannot guarantee any end to working mom guilt. I can only say (brace for cliche…) it gets better.

  6. Had a rough start to my day. So needed to read this post. Now I can’t wait to get home to see my kids.

  7. This is a beautiful reminder of what truly matters.

    I am currently looking for jobs. One I’ve been interviewing for would require some evening hours and a little travel. Nothing like you do, but still a big change for me. I’m going to bookmark this just in case I get that job.

    Thank you.

  8. After a few terribly consuming weeks at work, I too have been trying to be more in the now – throwing more frisbees, searching for more lightning bugs, throwing more basketballs into really low plastic hoops. And once I started doing all of that, the guilt I felt about the previous week’s less than stellar balancing act of motherhood and work and… seemed to slip away. Because you are so right – they weren’t angry at me for it. It is the now that matters more to them and I’m going to try to let myself remember that more often.

    1. That’s such a good point, Sarah. There are times I have to take the conference call or wash the dishes or or or…but I’m trying to differentiate between have tos and not-so-have-tos

  9. Sigh…this post is beautiful! Like you said, it’s not the guilt…not much, anyway. It’s the love. The not wanting to let them go. The days when you don’t feel like sitting at your desk, even if you have to. Thank you so much for this. xo

  10. I think we’d all be so much better off if we learned from their now. Instead of the “later” or the “right now, damn it” that I seem to be fluent in. Welcome back!

  11. You know the funny thing about mom guilt, right? It just never goes away no matter what you actually do as a mom. Like when I worked full-time I felt guilty for not being at home. Now that I’m home, I feel guilty for still not being present enough with them. I can feel guilty for not doing all the domestic things well and feel guilty for not spending more time playing with them at the very same time. And when you add in the special needs factor, I feel guilty for not being enough of a therapist while I trying to be a mom. I think I may always struggle internally with identifying false vs. true guilt. When I read beautiful stories like yours though, the identifying gets a little easier.

  12. “The moment will change. The longing or resentment may kick in. They will become more like us.”

    In my family this happened as soon as each daughter matured enough to see that each absence was not inevitable but a deliberate *choice* that we made. Once they were old enough to understand that we could stay home if we had a different set of priorities and made a different set of decisions, then they also understood that we were *deciding* to leave them behind. Didn’t matter what the reason for the trip was. Didn’t matter if we were going away on a business trip, or to help a parent in a crisis, or to celebrate a milestone anniversary, or to visit a dying friend. The glad “there is only now” reunions stopped and the weepy late night “you’re not here when I NEED you” phone calls started — also the “punishing” transitional acting out before and after each trip.

    Before then, my trips and my husband’s trips were an unwelcome part of life that appeared to be immediately forgotten upon our return. After that, hoo boy….

    May your daughters n0t respond the same way to the realization that you do not actually *have* to go on business trips.

  13. I don’t know how I missed it, but I’m so glad I stumbled upon this post this morning. I’ve been so struggling with being in the present with my kids. And it’s so important to do it. I know there’s a reason mothers with children who have grown tell me all the time that these are the best years. Thanks for inspiring me to remember that. Hope you’re doing well!

  14. Exactly. This is such a hard concept for moms to grasp, whether traveling for business, personal reasons or just gone for the afternoon. When we’re WITH them, we need to try and be present. And when we’re gone, we need to remember that re-entry is different for them than it is for us. Loved this…

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