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Thursday, 22 March 2001

Working on Being

Written by  Michaela Russell

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It's not every day that I think about my children while I'm at work.

It's every minute. Almost.

I'm sure that my colleagues are sick of hearing about the cute / brilliant / awful thing one or the other of my kids did or said, but I will still not hesitate to share these stories. It's every bit as important to my daily work ritual as is my first cup of coffee, and believe me when I tell you that coffee is important to me.

I enjoy collecting the things my kids say and do because it keeps me in touch with them. It's like a psychic paper clip, in a way. As long as their names are on my lips, they don't feel so far away.

Even though I am certain that my kids are happy, safe, stimulated and loved, my hungry motherhood mourns that it's not me doing all of it.

The problem is, my intense focus on them and their well-being, whether communicated to them or not (and I tend to think that even the littlest kids have seismographic abilities), does not allow me to ever just BE with them.

The road to neurotic children is paved with good intentions.

Sure, I can take a walk with my older son, and just listen, and not drill him for information or affirmation. Sure, I can be natural and fluid. But at the same time, I am secretly recording the conversation somewhere. I'm sure he sniffs out that I am collecting scraps of soul food. Like someone who is starving.

Which I am.

Because I work full time.

I am starving for confirmation that they are turning out OK even though I'm gone most of the day.

Starving to know that my older son can still confide in me, even though he spends as much time with Batman and Mary Kate and Ashley as he does with me.

I am always scared that they will look back on their childhood and remember precious little other than my car pulling up in the driveway. And even though I am certain that my kids are happy, safe, stimulated and loved, my hungry motherhood mourns that it's not me doing all of it.

There is an intangible melancholy standing between me and my kids sometimes -- perhaps their precocious self-sufficiency that makes me proud and breaks my heart all at once.

I look at my boys, and I see two fiercely bright, funny, and resourceful individuals. Small, charming men. Did I do that, I ask myself? Or did the empty space I leave do that? Are their self-reliant characters borne of upbringing, or of a certain longing for approval?

I am starving for confirmation that they are turning out OK even though I'm gone most of the day.

So why do I work?

Aside from actually needing every penny I earn, I work because I think I have something in me that would die without cultivation in a work environment. Something important in defining who I am, even though I cannot, or will not, name it.

I feel that my creative (not to mention social) juices need to flow, and that they flow best in more public directions. Were I to be at home exclusively, my guess is that I would be bitter, which is not an emotion I'd like my little seismographs to detect.

I need other fulfillment, and I like it. This gargantuan fact looks at me from time to time, and I look at it, and we spit at each other.

But I still wish for a certain wholeness that I only feel when I've been home for a few days. A yellow, round, calm inner sun that warms everything and takes the edge off. Time moves slower at home, and is sweeter and fuller.

I cherish those moments when I can just BE, to a background symphony of giggles and shouts.

I love those molasses days holding soft, chubby hands, and the way the sun hits the back of the couch at 11 a.m.

I love talking to my kids, instead of about them.

It keeps me going.

Last modified on Tuesday, 01 November 2011 08:05
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Michaela Russell

Michaela Russell is a pen name.

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