insert emoticon here, The Tiniest Capen, working mother

rollercoasters are exhausting

Last week, on Monday, we drove for 4 hours with Gwyn and spent three days in a hotel while I participated in all-day and all-evening business meetings and networking. Then on Thursday we drove 4 hours home. On Friday I took a day to recover and repack my suitcase, and in the morning on Saturday I left a fussy and slightly sick Gwyn with Justin and drove to Montreal, then flew to Texas, where I checked into another hotel, had dinner with a friend and some librarians, then in the morning on Sunday I gave a speech, ate lunch, and flew home again. I drove back into the States around 11 pm on Sunday.

So that was my week. A year ago, that would have been an easy week. No problem, I can do that.

Now? “What the fuck was I thinking?” comes to mind.

There are several answers to that. I was thinking that this is the person I want to be, professionally, and sometimes you can’t argue about timing. That I’m the incoming Chair of the organization, so I needed to be present at the 3 day meeting. That I was well-compensated for the talk in Texas, and had signed a contract to do it ages ago, and I don’t go back on things like that. That I can, in fact, do just about anything, even when it’s hard.

All of that’s true. It’s also true that it was wrenching to be away from Gwyneth for 2 days, and hard as hell to figure out how to pump breastmilk when spending 7 hour blocks in airports and on airplanes, or when you can’t check into your room for two more hours (thus adding “the front desk manager’s office at the Hilton Fort Worth” to my “places I have pumped breastmilk” list). That I was flat-out exhausted by my 12 hour days of meetings and chatting and relationship-building, but I still had to get up at 5 to feed The Pook. That the very last thing I wanted to do at 3 am on Saturday morning was get up and drive to the airport. That flying on an airplane with my chronic sinus issues and no Sudafed due to breastfeeding is actually torturous. That my milk supply dipped because I was away from my baby. That I have never been so happy to be home as I was on Sunday night.

And then this week I started back to work half-time. A few mornings, a few afternoons. No problem, really — I have a lot of email to read, reports to assess, progress to get updated on, and plans to plan. I’ve started chipping away at those. I’m figuring out how to schedule my days so I can pump. I’m figuring out which of my clothes fit me, and which most surely do not yet. I’m learning how much time I have to add to my mental estimates so that I can get to work on time. It’s all good, and fine.

On Friday it was better than fine. Gwyn and I hung out all morning so Justin could work in the dental lab, and we slept in, we played, and then she slept again and I got a bunch of stuff done — prepped dinner in the crockpot, froze some chicken breasts and marinated others for dinner this weekend, made lunch for me and Justin, put away the clean dishes, started some laundry… all good stuff that made me feel like I had a handle on life. And I went to work for the afternoon, and was feeling equally good there. I started going through my email, putting invitations to events and meetings into my calendar.

And as I went to put a meeting with Ithaka S+R into my Saturday of ALA in Vegas, I saw a note in my calendar for the last weekend in June. It did not say “ALA in Vegas.” It said “Vermont camping trip.” And I realized what I’d done.

I double booked my two summer obligations.

I double booked our two summer vacations.

I double booked both sets of grandparents on the same weekend.

It’s too late to change either of them.

We have to cancel one of them.

My heart broke. My mood crashed. I’m still struggling to pick it back up.

There’s a lot to unpack in my strong reaction to this; part of it is about self-perception and self-identity and where I put my pride of accomplishment. Fucking up something like this really hits me in the soft spot of my sense of self, in which I am capable, competent, reliable, and on top of details. I also truly dislike disappointing people, and no matter which way we go on this we disappoint a set of grandparents and ourselves. And then there’s a sense of loss — we lose a vacation I was looking forward to, and I lose a piece of identity. I will not get to go camping in Vermont with my husband and his family, nor will I have the luxury of believing that I don’t make this kind of mistake. Because I patently do, and as a result we don’t get to do the things we wanted to do.

All of that hurts. And it would hurt no matter what, but it hurts more because I was feeling so good yesterday. I had a great morning, I felt like *myself* for the first time in ages, getting things done at home, handling planning and execution of a list of tasks with ease and comfort, and knocking down to-do-list items in my office. So when I hit the wall of my own mistake, it just threw me into a tailspin. If I’d been having a rough day, I probably would have felt just as bad, but the crash wouldn’t have had nearly so far to drag me — I was flying high on Friday. Right up until I wasn’t.

In any case, it’s been a rollercoaster month, so far. Emotionally weighty, physically demanding, and pretty fraught from my end of things.

I learned a lot these last two weeks, about how I might be able to make all of this work for the next few months, and what probably won’t work. Justin forgives me for screwing up our vacation in Vermont. And my baby is getting deliciously fat, so I’m clearly doing something right. Small victories in life are what keep each day moving, and I’m counting them.

But I’m tired.

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