After almost three years at home with my daughters, I returned to my job last fall. It has taken time for me to adjust to the change in rhythm. I’ve made mistakes along the way. But the Days of Awe and Yom Kippur itself hold a promise: No matter how grievous our sins, we can ask forgiveness and start again.
As I think of the people I may have offended or wronged this year, there is one name that keeps popping up. I have ignored her needs. I have harshly criticized her. My expectations of her are impossibly high.
Of course, that woman is me.
This year, I owe myself a few apologies.
For every time I’ve compared myself to another mother, I’m sorry. No matter that her clothes match, and fit, and are not dusted with crumbs from someone else’s snack. No matter that she’s navigating a store with six children in tow, while my two are melting down in the entryway. I realize that comparisons favor no one. No parent is perfect; there are days in which we all struggle. No parent has it all together, all the time. I accept this–for others. Not so much on my own behalf. This year, I need to try.
For every time I glanced around my house and cringed, I’m sorry. Yes, my house a disaster. It is perpetually cluttered with the debris left behind by my two little tornados: shoes, toys, school projects, and crushed cheese crackers. I sweep up the crumbs and straighten the shelves, but it never lasts long. There was a time, in the not-so-distant past, when my house was consistently clean. But there also wasn’t a pair of tiny people that giggled as they trashed it. I’ve come to realize that that’s a fair trade. And I know it gets better or at least, it will continue to change. There will be a point, in the not-so-distant future, when my living room will not look like my house was pillaged. I wonder if I’ll miss the mess.
For every time I postponed seeing my friends, I’m sorry. I crave the warm circle that we once made. My friendships are not expendable. But I rarely see my friends from college, women who were honorary sisters. I never call the women from my book club, even though they can always make me laugh. I’ve thought of them, missed them, but my days always ran out of hours. Dishes filled the sink, lunches needed to be made, and the laundry was piled high. The time I thought I had completely slipped away. As working mothers, my friends understand, but I cannot set friendship aside any more.
For every time I struggled with a work-life balance, I’m sorry. In my world before children, I let my job absorb me. The nature of my roles commanded a constant presence. But this year, it had to change. Now, most days I have to go home on time, and I need to stop feeling guilty for leaving. My children need me, and the work will still be there tomorrow.
For every skipped lunch, or “meal” purchased from the school vending machine; for every breakfast eaten in my car, sitting in traffic; for every dinner choked down like I was participating in a speed-eating contest, I’m sorry. I need to take better care of my body. I only get one of them, and health is not to be taken for granted. I know my daughters will take their cues from watching me. While our dinnertime routine might not change much, there are other habits I can modify.
Dear Self: I am sorry. Blame it on Mommy Brain, but I forgot you were important, too. In this New Year, I hope to remember.