Finding Presence As A Work-At-Home Mother

When I got pregnant over 6 years ago, I knew I wanted to try for the best of both worlds. I wanted to work, and I wanted to be the primary caregiver for my daughter. I figured I could do this by starting my own business and working from home. I was wrong.

While I may have been home, I was not always there. I had tea to mix and invoices to bill. I had marketing to do. I had a website to manage. I tried to run the business alongside raising my kids. Literally. Which meant I did neither at full speed and I always felt spent.

Possibly my greatest regret as a mother so far is that I have not always been present for my children.

But, there's a light and a shadow side to everything. I was able to breastfeed my daughter on demand through her toddler years. We spent copious amounts of time together. We still do. She received plenty of unstructured undirected play time. Now, she has a wild imagination and she can play "pretend" like no body's business.

I had high hopes for working at home. I thought my daughter could learn a strong work ethic by seeing me work. I planned to automate most of the business so I could make money and still be at home with her AND have time (and money) to write. I thought Timothy Ferris' book, "The Four Hour Work Week," offered the perfect blueprint. I just needed to fill in the blanks. Reality proved far more complex.

When my second daughter was born, my attention became divided once again. My older one came up against a brick wall of jealousy, and I struggled to carry her over it. I could not physically care for everything and everyone. Running the tea business became a burden that ceased to pull its weight. I learned the lesson we all learn sooner or later, sometimes more than once: I needed to do what I loved most. I couldn't divide my attention into so many pieces. I needed to edit and discard.

I continue to grapple with presence. I carry around books and notebooks, hungry to read and write at every opportunity. Though the books mostly remain unopened, I like to have them close by. They bring comfort. As I mentioned in my post about winning, you never know when a thought may strike or the children may become so absorbed in their play that I can read a few lines.

Modern humans have a billion different things to do and watch and read and be. Meanwhile, a bit of undivided attention goes a long way, whether it's applied to a child or a website or a novel or a movement. When faced with a gamut of opportunity, how do we prioritize? Ideally, we do it according to love. Not prestige. Not expired ideals. Not outside expectations. Not habits. Not other people's passion. But our love and our passion.

When my daughter erupts with emotion, what she needs is my full and honest presence, with a side of snuggles. In those tender moments, I see how motherhood can be simple. But this simplicity requires, without exception, presence.

This is day 11 of 30 consecutive days of blogging. I’m glad you’re along for the ride. If you liked this post, please share using the buttons below. If you have something to add, feel free to comment openly or anonymously.

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Things I Miss

There are things I miss when I'm focused elsewhere but the beautiful perfect present--distracted by the fierce competition of to-do lists, thoughts and the technology I keep forever close to my fingertips. I miss the details of my living room, the marble framing the fireplace, the blue chesterfield armchairs from my childhood, the columns that have showed up in five homes where I've lived and loved.

I miss the breadth of my child's smile and the depth of her questions. I miss the wonder in my baby's ever shifting gaze and the cadence of her babble.

I miss the whoosh of the cars on my city street and the sunshine soaking my garden. I miss sitting on my chaise lounge and tilting my face towards the great expanse.

I miss words that might come if I faced the blank screen more often, letting the discomfort scrape away the roughage to make room for something I can never know without trying.

I miss eye contact with my husband and playing with my children and ideas that only grace a spacious uncluttered mind.

I miss reading books and seeing strangers, really seeing them. I miss eavesdropping and people watching. I miss conversations with people whose name I've yet to learn. I miss meeting people. I miss knowing them in the flesh.

I miss the dreams I don't write down and the phases of the moon and the guideposts planted carefully by serendipity.

I miss teaching moments and learning moments. I miss the direction of the wind and the full body of my coffee and the sweetness of a crisp cold apple.

I miss the fullness in my belly after a good meal. I miss the tension in my shoulders and the strength in my legs. I miss the brightness in our eyes and the softness of their skin and the shape of their cheeks pressed against me.

I miss the smell of leather and the silhouette of a beautiful boot. I miss unexpected art exhibits. I miss the chance to help people with a smile.

I miss loneliness etched in faces. I miss the moment when someone opens their mouth to speak to me, then stops. I miss imagining an entire lifetime from the three words an old man says to his companion on the bus.

I miss questions. I miss answers. I miss jokes. I miss chances for laughter. I miss knowing them better. I miss understanding.

I miss looking up.

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To read more of my thoughts on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

Lessons from My Children: Be Giddy

These are Lessons from My Children, a new series on the blog. Everything we experience is temporary. Feelings are fleeting and newborns learn how to sit up. Sadness ebbs and flows. Happiness is a choice, a way. Like beauty, success exists in the eye of the beholder.

Children beg us for attention and this confuses us because we think our attention is nothing too special, nothing worth working hard or crying over. We don't always know what our children know. We tend to forget we're all babies, innocent to the mystery of existence. I'm not sure who has more to learn from the other--children or adults?

We call children innocent because they know so little of the world we've spent decades seeking to understand. Including their own cuteness, their own perfection. (Does anybody?) Skyla, now 12 weeks young, bobs around in our arms, her piercing black eyes looking at everything and nothing, taking it all in, this wild world of ours.

But I'm starting to think she knows things I don't. About God and angels and the intricacies of the human face. Things I'm too busy to notice.

Giovanna spotted a butterfly on the other side of the car window and she squealed like she'd seen a miracle.

And she did, didn't she? The caterpillar, who went to sleep and awoke with wings, thinks so.

She dragged me into the front yard because "something happened." Her face looked the way we think kids should look on Christmas morning. But she didn't need a truckload of presents.

I peered between the newly opened petals and what I saw turned my skin to gooseflesh. I felt like I'd become privy to a secret, a certain intimacy with nature. In blooming, the poppy showed us what she was made of. Not just pistil and stigma, but pattern and individuality, every flower exhibiting different interpretations of the same genes.

Not unlike people. Whether you like it or not, your DNA is 99.9% the same as your neighbor, your enemy and your best friend. In that 0.01%, our opinions reside like stubborn rocks and our passions begin and bloom and wilt and die.

There is no one who experiences pleasure as you do. There was no other baby who cried just like you and there will never be another adult who can offer the world what you have.

It doesn't matter what excites you, what makes you giddy, it only matters that you let yourself be giddy over the things that bring you happiness in the eternally fleeting moment, whether it's a flower or an ice cream cone or an unexpected smile. Let yourself memorize faces and stare at patterns until they become something else entirely. Look up. Follow the gaze of children. Just by noticing their enthusiasm I find my heart growing and my mind wandering into uncharted territories where words flow like waterfalls and beauty appears everywhere, as prolific as flowers in the month of May.

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