Somewhere in between, or floating above, the layers of responsibility of each day is the thin but taut layer of emotion. Some days it’s stable, at a comfortable distance, and not intrusive. Other days it is constantly changing positions; we hit our heads on it, then suddenly we’re bouncing up and down on it. And on really bad days it’s full of rips and tears that throw off the delicate balance of all the other layers, letting air through, totally useless, deflating the nicely constructed tension, disrupting the polite relationships between the layers.
It’s hard work to keep your emotions in check most of the day. Not that I’m gunning to scream like a banshee all day (or am I?…), but I’ve got a delicate job to do – raise three toddlers – so I don’t have that liberty. Or, I don’t allow myself that liberty. Meet layer of responsibility number one: Putting yourself second and all others first, especially your children. So rarely, in those split second situational assessments that are required of me all day, do I opt for the choice that’s in my interest first. Sometimes I do, and I should do it more often, because it’s ultimately harmless and very rewarding! Plus it’s modeling good decision making for my kids. Ugh, the modeling argument – it’s so strong. You can’t beat it. Everything I do in their presence is modeling behavior for them. There you have layer of responsibility number two. But how did I do it yesterday? Last time I was so stern, but today I feel so much more laissez-faire. He had to finish his red pepper before getting another strawberry, but she got one right away. Am I being consistent in my actions, not to mention consistent between children? Hello there, number three: Consistency. So this interplay of responsibilities is getting more complex, but I still strive to remain 100% engaged with my kids at all times. Structured meals together, floor time, outings, projects. It is both disconcerting and endearing to hear my kids’ first question upon waking up be, “where we going?”, or “what are we going to do today? can we go somewhere?” Lately, my answer has increasingly been, “we’re just gonna hang out and be together.” One on hand I’m proud of going that route, on the other hand I dread it, because I’ll be closely entangled with that fourth layer, engagement. Just to clarify, I’m not doing floor time all the time. I check my email, glance at a magazine, buzz around them doing related activities – like I’m participating in parallel play. But I’m always aware, hovering, listening, available, on top of it.
Ok, so, I have no idea how many layers there are. I just started numbering them. I could go on, but I could also let you take over and go on in your own mind, based on your own day. What role do emotions play in your motherhood? What relationship do you have to that particular layer in the complex interplay of your day? As a final image to send you on your way… Many days, for me, it resides at neck level, and I can barely keep my head above it.