A 3 Year Old’s Goodbye

I’m currently sitting in the airport which is a place I haven’t been in quite some time. I’m traveling for work, making my way to a 6 day training which will end with some new certifications and knowledge about how to better support my team.

6 days. With an additional day devoted to travel. It’s the longest time I’ve ever been away from my daughter and I’ve been having a hard time with it. 6 days without bedtime stories and her little feet climbing up the side of my bed in the morning. 6 days without our car ride conversations about sunrises and sunsets, about which friends we like and which friends we don’t like this week. 6 days where I choose the seemingly selfish path of self-improvement over my family.

It is hard to get a three and a half year old through daily routines with a partner, let alone without. I’ve signed my husband up for a 6 day solo-struggle knowing exactly what I ask of him. I’m fortunate. He is the most gracious supporter, willingly signing up for the task and focusing our time together leading up to the flight pouring into me with words of confidence, truth, love, and encouragement. But what does a trip like this look like to a child?

A pre-preschooler doesn’t understand self-improvement or work trips. Time doesn’t quite make sense (“Is it tomorrow today?”). Mom is supposed to be home. I think about our FaceTime calls throughout the coming week and I get that tight pit in my stomach anticipating the inevitable questions from her.

We started talking about this trip about a week ago, trying to prepare her. When we first introduced the idea, she lifted her big doe eyes and squeaked, “But who will stay with me?”

I wasn’t prepared for what my little carbon copy told me this morning as I was packing up my bags. She looked at me with the sweetest demeanor standing next to her father and said,

“You’re not pretty today.”

Hahaha, aren’t kids are the worst?  They have this incredible knack for knocking you down. Are you feeling like a needed member of the family and that things may fall apart without you? Fat chance. Your kid is already planning her daddy daughter movie nights and is primarily concerned with how many pieces of gum she can consume before the day is over. Little shit.

But dang, do I love her. I already miss her. All of her sweetness and all of her sour.

Life has been a little hectic lately.

Life has been a little hectic lately. In the last 7 weeks or so, I have worked in inordinate amount of overtime. Do you still call it overtime when you’re a salaried employee? Not just a few late nights here and there or a few early meetings but multiple days’ worth of time. Leading up to our project launch, I was in the office for a 14 hour Saturday backed up to a 17 hour Sunday and back in by 7:30am on Monday (but only because I slept through the 6:00am scheduled start).

I have never before and hope to never again experience the kind of exhausted, not-enough-eye-drops-in-the-world, mental/physical/emotion strain of that kind of timeline for a project launch. Take it from me, you should never attempt to launch before you’ve completed your mock launch activities.

But my project team and I did it. We’d been preparing for an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software implementation. We were already using a previous version of the same software but instead of looking at this change as an upgrade, we pulled out all of the data that had been erroneously entered over the past several years and sifted it out. We remapped table keys. Restructured business processes. Rewrote code and reports and work instructions. And despite a few misses that we’ve worked to clean up over the last two weeks, this project has been considered an overall organizational success!

But can we zoom out a little?

I’m exhausted. Still, almost two weeks later. My husband, who pulled all of the weight of family life during this period, is now fighting off his first illness of Autumn. My house is full of tiny fruit flies from a misplaced can that wasn’t properly recycled during my usual cleaning routine because, well, there was no routine. I worked out this past Saturday (taking it slow) and it nearly killed me. Fast forward half a week and I pulled a muscle playing with my daughter; my body is wrecked. And my beautiful little girl wants “Momma, Mom, Mommy, Mom, Momma. Did you hear me calling you, Mom?”

We’re all a little drained from the chaos. And to be honest, there’s no way we all would’ve made it without these things right here:

  • My Tribe
    • Friends who continue to pour into me when I go dark. Friends who continue to text or Snap without a response. Friends who send flowers to work for encouragement.
  • My Husband
    • Who allowed our roles not just to flip flop, but to completely shift onto him. Who put his career behind mine for a period. Who bit his tongue – a lot. And who continued to encourage me even if he felt like I should be waving the white flag.
  • God
    • For putting those people in my life. For continually tapping me on the shoulder with scripture or songs about being a light or a door for others to experience his goodness. For keeping me from completely morphing into a troll at the workplace.
  • Whole30
    • For categorically denying my desire to stress eat. For minimizing the impact of skipped meals, small meals, or late meals on my system. For giving me the energy that I needed to make it through a 17 hour shift at all, let alone without getting sick immediately following. For giving me something else to commit to when the project felt all consuming. For teaching me ways to cope without food.

So really, this post is a gratitude post for those things that kept me going. At work, we passed the project launch, cleaned up the few misses, and we’ve already started sliding back to normal. But me? I’m changed. I’m exhausted and more experienced and more filled with gratitude. It took overtime and high stress and looming deadlines to remind me that my focus is really on people, and that includes me.

Thank you, tribe and Freddy, and God, and Whole30, for shaping me during this time. For showing me grace. And for teaching me about my priorities and the balance that leads me to my best me.

Without you, I am a lesser me.

#TBT

Tonight I arrived home from a two-day work trip in Massachusetts after this sweet baby had already gone to bed.

I’m exhausted but I find myself craving her sleepy dead weight on my chest. So much so that I will tiptoe into her room, slide around the creaky spots in the floor, and peer over her crib rail to imagine it a little better.

That steady, slow breathing. The unconscious shifting of weight.

Until tomorrow morning, I’ll let the sleeping beauty be and appreciate her from her afar but not without a sneak and a peek and a #TBT.