This series, The Unexpected, explores the dark and the light of motherhood - the surprising and unexpected parts of becoming a parent - in order to reflect the complexities of motherhood as it really is. We hope this series helps you feel less alone, because ultimately our goal is to reflect what it means to be a thinking mother, for better or worse, and how we navigate it all.
Everyone I know seems to be in a time of flux right now. I don’t know if it’s because we’ve all reached that (middle) age or because our kids are growing older or because the country feels so unstable, but things just seem to be shifting more than usual. It’s not always bad shifting, but it’s uncomfortable. Unfamiliar.
Our little family of four is shifting, too. Everything is slipping in and out of comfortable and terrible places, everything feeling just on the edge of something big. Our jobs, our living situation, our ages, our lives—all of it is in transition.
I realize that, in part, this is just a fact of living. Life is constantly in flux; everything is always changing. Some of those changes feel small and natural, moving so instinctively in rhythm, right on beat with the passing of time. And some of those changes lurch into existence, a sudden insistence that everything be different NOW.
There seems to be more lurching than usual right now.
To be honest, I’m not great with change. I like predictability and stability. I prefer the clarity of knowing what lies ahead. I like a plan. But of course, that’s not how life works and, in great part, having kids has forced me to adjust to the unknown because there is nothing more unpredictable than your own kids.
What I didn’t anticipate was how unpredictable I could be. In spite of being an absolute creature of habit, I’m having a hard time figuring myself out. This is just a life thing, too, I think, but I expected to have myself more figured out by now. With 40 peeking at me through the crack in the door, I guess I thought I’d feel more… stable? But again… everything is shifting. Even my body is shifting. Just when I think I’ve figured something out, it changes and throws me off kilter again.
My kids are older now and, with 2nd and 4th grade ahead this year, they’re becoming delightfully independent. They can do so much on their own now, and I find myself looking forward to time with them in a way I haven’t before. I can take them to the park to ride bikes and off they go, while I can sit in the shade and read a magazine. But they’re also emotional and often challenging, and I am (stupidly) shocked whenever they’re combative. Which is frequently.
My Smartner’s new job is wonderful and fulfilling, but the adjustment back to his full time schedule and my working-while-momming has been tiring and still requires some tweaking. We’re doing it pretty well most days, I think, but it’s a shift nonetheless. A lurch.
And then there’s preparing to move. We don’t know where we’ll end up, and that’s unnerving. The cost of living is Seattle has been skyrocketing for what feels like forever, and even as we find job stability and what should be breathing room, a regular old life and home still elude us. And I don’t know how long it will. I don’t know how long we’ll have to bounce around until we can find a place to dig in and stay a while. We’ll find a place to live and it will be fine. We’ve been profoundly lucky so far to have been helped along when we desperately needed it.
But then even when I think I’ve got our little life all balanced and well managed—even when things are moving along swimmingly—our wackadoodle president and his administration of mayhem commit to laying waste to our human rights and our planet and our very sense of decency and humanity. And I think about all the uncertainty we’re experiencing and it is NOTHING compared to what thousands of immigrants are going through right now.
It’s humbling and frightening and confusing. A contant emotional yo-yo-ing. I haven’t been able to write anything decent for months because what do I have to offer in the face of so much awful? Even when things are hard for us, what do I REALLY have to whine about? Nothing.
And that’s where I get truly stuck. What do I have to say that makes any difference? I’m just a middle aged white lady who passes for straight and doesn’t have enough money to make any real difference in the world. What do I have to have to offer that matters?
I recently made a piddly little my-budget-sized donation to help detained kids as part of a donation drive put on by an amazing group of authors. As a thank you, I received an inscribed copy of Erica Garza’s book, Getting Off (which you HAVE TO READ – it’s incredible and beautifully written). In the inscription, she said wonderful, generous things, and she complimented me for writing honestly. SHE complimented ME for writing honestly—something she excels at. It choked me up.
That one kind, generous sentence changed everything for me in the moment in the smallest, biggest way. I haven't felt like much of a writer lately because I've been struggling to write at all. But I forget sometimes that I’m not writing because I think I can change the world—I’m just me. I'm not going to change the world. I don’t even know that any of my words will reach anyone. I’m writing because this world is big and scary and it is so easy to feel lost and alone within the constant shifting. I’m writing because maybe it helps someone feel less alone. I’m writing because it makes me feel less alone.
So. In flux, too, is my perspective. I’m not going to change the world by myself. Very few of us do. But what I can do—and what all of us can do—is connect. Change one mind. Change one day for someone. Change one experience. Change one perspective. It’s these tiny, incremental changes and connections that can change the course of everything. On the hardest days, I have to believe that.
We don’t have to have everything figured out. Because let’s be real—we’re never really going to have everything figured out anyway. I don’t need to be stable and predictable and perfectly well planned to connect. I can connect while lurching around in my little world. Sometimes it’s the fluctuations and the lurching that makes the connection possible.
If I reach out with my piddly little my-budget-sized donation, it does make a difference. If I teach my kids to stand up for each other, it does make a difference. If I speak up when someone makes a racist or sexist or other ableist comment, it does make it difference. If I touch someone on the shoulder and ask, “Hey. Are you okay?” It does make a difference. If I write a card to a neighbor going through her own terrible changes, it does make a difference. It all matters.
With everything in flux, I’m going to stop trying to write the perfect thing. I don’t have the perfect thing to say right now. What I do have to say is this: Everything is bullshit right now, but I see you. I know you’re trudging through, too. Things are hard and when there’s joy lately, it feels strange to enjoy it. But you don’t have to try to change the world all by yourself. You don’t have to slam the breaks on your life to change someone else’s. You don’t have to say the perfect thing. You’re just one person. But one person, one sentence, one kindness, one offering, one perspective can make a world of difference. It can. You don’t have to have all the answers. You just have to be willing to learn them. To listen. To connect. Let’s use all these fluctuations to make our changes, even when they feel piddly. Let’s take this time of transitions and lurch toward each other instead of away. You’ll lose your balance sometimes. Someone else will hold you up. Maybe it will be me.