Motherhood and missing out

keeping the home fires burning...while you'd rather be away having fun?

As a little girl, there was nothing I hated more than missing a sleepover. As a teen, I was the girl who showed up at the party early and closed it down at the end of the night. (I would still be that girl, except that I am apparently too old to stay up past midnight anymore.) I hate to feel like I’m missing out.

Isn’t it funny how motherhood forces us to work through the things that are hardest for us? In 13 1/2 years of parenting I have missed countless events, small and large: concerts, nights out, weekend getaways, and yes, conferences (I’ve many times been the person at home feeling bad when the conference tweets start flying.) And not just events, either: I’ve had to decline opportunities and activities that just wouldn’t fit in my life. And I haven’t always done it happily or even gracefully. Sometimes I’ve pitched a fit and stamped my feet. And other times I’ve simply felt sorry for myself.

One of the hardest things about being a mom has been tempering my desire to do everything I want to, when I want to, which is pretty much always right now. I wrote a post last spring about a musical production I had been considering auditioning for. Theater was once a huge part of my life, and I miss it; and yet, every time I considered auditioning I just felt tired. Ultimately I realized that yes, it’s something I want in my life, but that wasn’t the right show at the right time or the right season of my life. In the post I said:

I’m not a patient person. It’s one of the hardest things for me about motherhood. I watch weeks, months, and years passing by and think about all the things I never did in my 20s, that I may also not do in my 30s. I sometimes feel panicky about the time that’s going by, all that is still undone.

and

I like to keep my options open. But opting for this—all these kids, this family life, time with my growing-so-fast baby girl—means I can’t have all of that. The thing I have to remember is that I wouldn’t even want that if it meant I couldn’t have this.

Right now I’m at the Blissdom conference in Nashville (it’s my first time, ya’ll–I was one of the ones grudgingly sitting at home watching the tweets fly last year, and the year before that and the year before that.) This is the city where my son Jacob was born over 13 years ago. We moved when he was a baby and I haven’t been back since. It’s very strange and cool to be back in the place where I became a mother; where my life changed so dramatically. And it is incredible–almost impossible to believe, really–that it happened 13 years ago. Some of those moments and weeks crawled by, to be sure; but a decade and a third of parenthood? Whoosh. Jacob went from a fuzzy-headed baby to a toddling little boy to a toothless second-grader to a teenager…in a breath.

Gretchen Rubin is right. The days are long, but the years? They are so, so short.

I’m having fun right now at the conference, yes; but there aren’t enough days or dollars in my life for me to do them all. There are going to be many opportunities that I have to say “no” to this year. Maybe even this month. And what I’m going to try to keep in mind next time I’m feeling sad, impatient, or resentful about missing out on something–whether it’s a blog conference, a party, a wedding, a retreat or even just a girl’s night out that I can’t make because someone’s throwing up or I can’t get a sitter–is that when I make that choice, it’s a waste of time to feel bad about it. Instead, I need to celebrate and make the most of the impossibly brief window of time that I have to spend with my small children, and the enough-ness of the ordinary, messy, lovely life I lead.

How about you?

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