Ryan Gosling has been on repeat in my brain for the last few weeks – which is strange because I’m not a big fan of Ryan Gosling or the sad-sack movie that he keeps quoting to me over, and over, and over again.
What do you want? Seems like such a simple question. So why can’t I answer it? I’m a smart, competent and direct person. Still, I have been asked this infuriating question multiple times in the last few weeks by people in my personal life and in my professional life. When you are posed with such an existential question in more than one aspect of your life – that can’t be coincidence. Someone, somewhere is really trying to get your attention.
Admittedly, the last six months have been a struggle for me as I adjust to life as a working mom. And unfortunately for me, I can’t blame my inability to verbalize what I want on mom brain either. Because when I stop and ask that question of myself, the answer is simple; an empty void; a blank stare; an underlying fear that I honestly don’t know what I want.
And here’s the real kicker. Not only do I not have an answer, I recognize that I’m lost here and I don’t have any clue how to right this ship. I don’t make small adjustments. I rarely institute tiny redirects to get me back on the chosen path. I’m a burn it down and start again from scratch kind of person. So even if I could answer the question, I wouldn’t be able to follow my fiery tendencies and rebuild from the ashes. I have a family. I have responsibilities. I can’t just burn down the world because I’m feeling unfulfilled and resentful.
So where is the problem? What do you want? I’ve been doing a fair amount of self-reflection on this for two reasons: to understand what is preventing me from being able to answer the question and to figure out for myself what it is that I want.
Why don’t I know what I want?
I’m a mom now. That’s why. I know that some moms receive clarity with motherhood in that they know exactly what they want out of life. It hits them like a bolt of lightning and they understand their purpose. It seems that the opposite is true for me. I suddenly know with certainty everything I don’t want. Now I have never been the best girlfriend or the perfect wife – but I am a great mom; I was born to do this. And I revel in this new role. I would do anything for my daughter – borrow, beg, steal, sacrifice, fight and kill if it meant doing right by her. Because at the end of the day, she’s the thing that matters most in my world. If I am to spend 10 hours a day away from her, whatever it is that I’m doing better be fucking worth it. I better feel passion, purpose and joy down to my core. If I don’t – why the hell am I bothering. This means my tolerance for bullshit is zero and I can instantly recognize when something doesn’t measure up.
I’m buckling under the Mental load. This concept is flooding my new mommy Facebook news feed courtesy of a French comic artist Emma and her comic “You Should’ve Asked.” I’ve only begun to realize how much it resonates with me. The Mental Load is all about having to remember and manage… everything. Would you like to get a taste of what that feels like?
At 4:30am I wake to a few sighs and the rustle of Mere starting to stir in her crib and this is just a taste of my inner monologue to start the day:
Ugh please stay asleep. I don’t have to get up until 5:30. Wait are her eyes open? Did she find her Nuk? Only 45 minutes until I get up. Not sleeping. Okay then I’ll check my calendar. Did I prep for that meeting? No. So I’ll do that first thing when I get to work. What’s the first 5 things that I need to do when I get into the office. Oh – there she is again. Is Mere up for good this time? I guess I’ll just get her and get in the shower. Is my hair still falling out – it’s all over – such a mess. Really should clean the bathroom. My bangs are so long. They so need to get trimmed. Can I fit it in this week? Will have to leave work early to get there and get home. Remember to make an appointment today. What time is it? 5:35. Will I have time to go to the gym? Better shave my legs. If I do that then I can’t dry my hair. Looks like it’s an up-do kind of day. What am I going to wear today? Something that doesn’t make me feel like a whale. What about that black tank – oh crap I hope it isn’t dirty. I really need to do laundry. Get out of the shower – good 5:52. Still have 8 minutes till Brian needs the bathroom. Towel dry, lotion, vitamins, blow dry hair. Alright Mere time to eat. What can I pack you today? First the bottle so she doesn’t lose her mind. Make four bottles, pack some solid food, measure the purees. Are we running low on food for her? I can make a quick stop at the grocery before I pick her up. What should she be eating – is 7 days straight of sweet potatoes a bad thing? Do I need to grab things for us for dinner too? I haven’t shopped in days. I should eat healthier. Can’t keep eating like I’m pregnant or breastfeeding. Checklist everything in the bag. All set. Did we need to bring new wipes or Puffs? Remember to pick some up to have on hand when they ask. Is Mere done with her bottle? 6:30? Great. Okay, how much effort should I put into my face today? What are my meetings again? Will anyone important be there? Ok so just the basics then. Foundation. What’s Mere doing? Eyeliner. Mere get that out of your mouth. Mascara. Mere please don’t crawl off the bed. Okay get dressed. Should I wear my flat boots so that I might be able to sneak away and see Sebastian during lunch? I haven’t seen him in forever. Bad horse mommy. But I can’t bring barn stuff AND gym stuff. Make a choice. Uhh – the gym. Too cold to hang outside anyway. I’ll try again another day. Pack the gym bag. Make sure to actually go today and not get distracted by stupid to do list. To Do list… what else am I forgetting, send UPS packages, grocery store, hair appointment, schedule bill payments, set up Mere’s 9-month doctor appointment, go to the gym. Ick, these pants feel too tight. Really need that gym time. Staring hopelessly into the mirror… whelp – I guess this is as good as it’s gonna get today. Is my computer bag packed? Where’s my purse? Did Brian get Mere’s lunch bag – did he remember to pack a new set of clothes and sleep sack, probably not, I’ll check. Where’s Mere’s hat? Okay – they have everything. Off they go to day care. Now where was I? Coffee, lunch, purse, keys.
The subsequent car ride consists of more to dos, reminders and wish lists all the while I drown in the guilt I feel for not being able to do all the things that need to get done. By 8am when I get to work I’m exhausted… and on some days, pissed.
In the end… I don’t know what I want because I only see the things that I don’t want, because my mental load outweighs my ability to think critically and because I’m too tired to find the words to express any of this.
So, that blank stare you’ve seen when you ask me “What do you want?”
Turns out the answer is simple… I don’t know. And fuck if I’d even know how to get it.