I had a huge revelation this weekend that absolutely blew my friggin' mind: I have a daughter. Now you would think this little nugget of wisdom would have hit me sometime shortly after she came busting (and I mean that literally) out of my vagina. But no. Three years after her birth, it had yet to sink in.
I was sitting in a hotel room in Dallas, a million metaphorical and 1,558 literal miles from where I wanted to be -- which was playing with Sophie, hanging out with her or even fielding a tantrum. Really anything that involved real-time proximity. Instead, I was in a Hilton waiting to drive to a bookstore that would be completely empty (football game, the owner shrugged, offering us free pastry) and wondering how I had gotten into that situation.
I have always been a "say yes to everything" kind of person. If you're not saying yes, how do you know you're Making Anything Happen? After my time as an actress (Audition's at 11 p.m.? Sure! At your house? Um, okay. Nude?) it took me a long time to draw any boundaries because there were always one hundred five-foot-four brunettes behind me who wouldn't. And the same work ethic leaked over into my writing career. My partner, Emma, and I are always writing more than one thing at a time. While promoting the last thing. While trying to get an-y-one interested in the next thing. Which was always manageable if we occasionally forfeited sleep and tested the patience of our husbands.
And then I procreated.
For the first two years we were writing two books, so life was pretty routine. Drop Soph off at daycare, write all day in a sweaty panic, stop hard at 4:30, run to pick her up and cajole her exhausted self through the evening. The books took longer, I looked like ass, but I tried to maintain consistency so Soph knew what to expect every day.
And then we came out with our newest story, Over You, about a teen breakup coach, and we were so excited about it and wanted people to know it was out there. (And my bank goes all aflutter when I make my mortgage payments.) So when we were given the opportunity to fly ourselves to Nordstroms across the country to promote it, I leapt at the chance. Out of the corner of my eye the schedule looked brutal, but I could do it. I was a trouper. When I was three months pregnant I started hemorrhaging seconds before a reading. And I did the reading. Don't f with me.
Only the problem -- the hard truth that hit me in that hotel room -- is I'm not an "I" anymore. The phrase that came to me over and over this past weekend was the line from the Lorax, "I speak for the trees." When I get a new schedule, mine aren't the eyes I need to look at it with anymore. "How will this impact Sophie?" needs to be the first question. How will it impact my husband, who this past week had to step in on the first week of a new job of his own? (Hi, guys! Thanks for the opportunity! Got to leave early -- cool? ) He was understandably pissed. How will it impact my sister, who has to step in looking after my mom when I'm away? I'm really the last person I have to consider.
As women, we want to please. We want to be everything to everyone. We say yes to organizing the bake sale and throwing our friend's shower and making dinner and picking up the slack for a colleague on maternity leave and pretty soon we are so overextended we don't remember what it felt like not to be resentful.
So I want to make a vow: I will give myself permission to say no without guilt. I will respect that I can't be the mom I want to be and do all the things I once did. I won't feel like a failure. And I will make this vow from a centered place that respects that the demands on a mom are real.
It's hard because I want to say that we can do it all and have it all, but time is finite, energy is finite. So some things, some of the time, have to give. And I am going to learn to be a mom who can come from a place of no.