Monday, February 21, 2011

Another Juggler's Confessions

"Everything will be fine" was not a possibility that had occurred to me.
--Tina Fey, Confessions of a Juggler

Mothers worry.  Fathers do too, of course, but us moms seem to have a particular ability to tie ourselves up in knots over whether we are doing a good job or not.  Although my evidence is purely anecdotal, my guess is that most of us have come to expect a regular hour or two of worry in the middle of the night. 

I myself try to devote at least part of my nocturnal brooding to issues outside of these sorts of unbidden questions:  When did I last change the furnace filter? Should unplug the almost-empty beer fridge in the tool shed? What happened to that pair of black pants I keep in the back of the closet for when it's February and those extra pounds of winter weight have made getting into the four other pairs I own a matter of too much information for anyone seeing me wear them? 

I go through phases where I worry intensely and exclusively about work.  But mostly I worry about the kids, or really just the many, many ways in which I am no doubt failing them.  The bifurcated life of a co-parented child, for starters.  The fact that I cook for them but that, because of evening work/school/extracurricular issues and the occasional blog post to be written, we don't often sit down to eat together. My inability to remember the names of many other mothers at school. The things I say in traffic. 

Reading Tina Fey's essay in the current issue of the New Yorker cheered me, not just because it is funny, which of course it is, but because I realized that even fabulously smart and talented women with rapier wits and bodies fit to wear Calvin Klein on the red carpet lie awake and wonder if they are bad mommies.

Fey is agonzing over whether to have a second child or to stay in the hunt for the few remaining parts left for women of a certain age. (Her definition of the show business definition of "crazy" is hilarious, but only because it's no doubt true.) She doesn't take herself too seriously, but since actresses are a lot like professional athletes, with a much shorter career period in which to make real money, she's trying to be pragmatic, especially now that she's passed the four-decade mark. 

And Fey's husband? Like all the nice ones, he just wants her to stop agonizing. Lovely of him to wish for it, but good luck with that, buddy.
 
I did the second kid decision crisis a long time ago, with equal agonizing though needless to say lesser career considerations. I have moved on to worries about teenage testoterone levels and how they combine with motor vehicles, how an eleven-year old should spend his summer while allowing me to be gainfully employed, and whether my laisser-faire attitude about homework will continue to be rewarded by good grades now that high school is in clear view.  Never mind how much cars and college tuition cost. Those nights don't involve going back to sleep at all. 

Luckily for me and every other harried parent (is there any other kind now?) the days are often so long and exhausting that we manage to sleep right through.  Sometimes this is best, for I know I lose precious time and energy in the worrying and don't actually enjoy what happens when I am with my kids.  I try to remember what John Lennon said: life is what happens when we're making other plans.  And of course, as Fey's doctor told her, either way it will be fine.  Easy for her to say.

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