“MOM!” I hear it again, so I leave my office and run upstairs to find out what’s got my son riled up. He’s standing in the hallway outside of his bathroom. He points to the skylight and I see it–a wasp the size of a hummingbird. I could swear that I heard it cackling.
It’s up too high to reach even with the vacuum attachment, the ladder is hard to get up the stairs, and I have no idea where to find the bug spray. On top of it all, I’m allergic to wasps, and I just don’t have the time to deal with it at the moment.
So I close the bathroom door. I tell my son to use mine for now, and when his Dad gets home to let him know that “tag, he’s it.” I start back downstairs and my son says, “Really? That’s all you’re going to do. Close the door? I could have done that myself.”
It happens every day. I go to my office, sit down, start to type… and I’m interrupted. It’s like my keyboard emits a signal that only my son or husband can hear, that says, now would be a good time to discuss why the Patriots should have won the Superbowl.
Poof. The idea is gone. Sure, I can strike the flint again and set the tinder aflame. But it’s not the same spark. I can’t help but wonder what might have been.
So why do I let it happen? Why does my family think that it’s okay to interrupt when I’m working? It’s not that they aren’t supportive. They are. And I don’t underestimate the value of that support, especially when, in business terms, I’m a non-performing asset.
The blame goes to the very top of the org chart. It’s my own fault for setting the expectation that I’m available. I have always worried about making everyone happy, twisted myself into a pretzel to be sure everyone had what they needed. I’ve shown through my actions, time and time again, that I valued their needs over my own. I can’t blame them for taking me at my word. I’m very convincing.
But things have changed. I’ve changed. I’ve put dynamite to the dam, and now that the water is flowing, it will go where it wants.
So what do I have to do to show them otherwise? That I’m not available at the moment, but I still love them as always. I’m still the same wife, the same mother. I still see them as irreplaceable and invaluable, but not right now.
And in one of those moments of clarity while pondering the terrifically complicated, the simple answer emerges.
All I have to do is close the door. They know it will open again soon enough.
Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about my son’s bathroom. My husband’s in charge of that one.
Photograph by Wim Vandenbussche