One of Me

Posted On: 09.12.12

I missed Little Girl’s 18-month pediatrician appointment. It was right there, written in my calendar, but somehow I never saw it. And so I just didn’t show up. When I realized that I screwed up, I felt terrible, and guilty. I’m not sure why, but I think it probably has to do with the fact that I worry sometimes that my baby, my third, doesn’t get enough of me, of my focus, of my time.

Today, Big Girl has an after school picnic that conflicts with Middle Girl’s pickup. I must decide. I have signed my baby up for a sprinkling of classes – music, art, etc – classes that her sisters took once upon a time, but are morning classes and I had planned to sit down and write in the mornings, to finish my book that keeps getting shoved aside. I don’t yet know what I will do. She is my last kid after all. Five years from now, I will not be welcome in My Big Messy Art Class or Free to Be Under Three.

There are three of them. There is only one of me. And I know this is not a tragedy, but a triumph. I know that feeling stretched thin is not a horrendous fate, but a standard-issue fact of life and something I dreamed of, and chose. I know that I am fortunate to have flexibility with respect to my work, and to have wonderful help with my kids so that I can do that work.

But still: I’m having a hard time. And it kind of helps to admit this, to confess to you (and to me) that I am overwhelmed. That I do not have it all together. Far from it.

What matters, I hope, is that I am trying and that I will continue to try.

Okay, now it’s your turn to tell me that I’m not the only one who is struggling to juggle, who is botching things up from time to time.

Any tips on how to keep my nutty three-kiddo schedule straight? Do you keep an electronic or paper calendar? Have you ever felt stretched thin, pulled between multiple kids or interests? Why do you think parenthood and guilt are so inextricably bound?


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Oh, and...

Sister Act? I've chatted with Sister C - who moved to South Carolina in July (sob) - about writing here at ADR from time to time. I think it could be fun and interesting to have another voice, and experience, here, don't you?



34 Comments for: "One of Me"
  1. Whitney

    I don’t have any kids yet, so I can’t really comment on how to juggle the many appointments and commitments they have. But what I did want to comment on is your question regarding parenthood and guilt.

    I think it goes beyond parenthood…guilt, I mean. I think guilt is inextricably bound to adulthood. And, I don’t think we feel guilty because we are bad people, parents, daughters, friends, wives, etc. I think we feel guilty because we are good ones. Because we want to be the best we can at all of these and because we refuse to accept that something’s gotta give. I think this is just something that is engrained in some people…this guilt. And I think it stems from being specially gifted with empathy.

    For me, my guilt ultimately manifests in not being able to please my parents, my husband, and myself all at the same time. I struggle to balance how to make everyone happy, and it often causes me more than a little strife…and usually the thing that has to give is my own happiness. Just last night I was thinking of that scene in The Joy Luck Club, where June takes the bad crab, and how that’s so very me. And I always thought her mother was so very wrong about why she took the bad crab, suggesting that she took it because she thought she deserved less than the others…for me, she took it because she didn’t want anyone else to feel slighted. She didn’t want to feel guilty for leaving it for someone else. I always thought it was nice that she took it so someone else didn’t have to.

    Blegh. Enough rambling. So glad you’re back to give me my daily dose of thought provocation!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      I will write more later as I am racing to get my girl to Kindergarten, but thank you so much for this comment, for pointing out that this is not necessarily about being a parent, but about being an adult, a human, who cares, and deeply, about not letting people down. I think guilt is a really interesting, and instructive thing, and we should all pay attention to when it pops up. Okay, really must jet, but for the record, I adore, and welcome, rambling. To be continued…

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Okay, have a few more minutes before I must race my middle girl to her preschool 🙂 I love the example you give from the Joy Luck Club. And I think you are right that this is not always about sacrifice, or being a martyr, but about guilt and navigating the waters between self and others. I think most of us have goals for ourselves as individuals that sometimes run up against our goals and desires for others, too. I know I feel this. I long for stretches of time to write, for me, for my career, but this conflicts – and often directly – with my desire to spend all the time I can with my kids, and be the best mom possible. I know this is a learning process that will never end.

      Anyway, please know I so appreciate your comment, and perspective! Thanks, Whitney.

  2. I wrote a long rambly comment and erased it since it said nothing. I only want to say I’m right there next to you. The only advice I hve is to make the decision that feels right in your gut, every day. And to make it anew the next day. It’s always changing, that precarious balance (a word I hate) of need and want and desire and heart. They are lucky to have you, all three of them. That I know. xox

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Love long rambly comments, just so you know 🙂 Thank you for reminding me that so much of this is about gut, about instinct, about trust, and also about improvisation. I can’t expect to fashion a rigid schedule for my life that never changes. I can expect to go into each day and figure it out and, again, I am lucky to have this flexibility. I hate the word balance too, and mightily, but I also long for it, whatever it is. Thank you for your sweet words. xo

  3. EmilyPH

    Honestly, outsource whenever you can. Outsource whatever you can, as long as the family unit is not in the end dramatically altered. I had to board my dog at the vet this week because my husband and I are commuting and working from 7am to 7:30pm every night. Poor thing is in a crate in an animal hospital because we’re in our offices earning our pay. You’re not alone. Outsource more if you can!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thanks, you. For these words. For the reminder that “outsourcing” is not a dirty word, or a dirty concept. We all need help to do the things we want to do, and need to do, and it is important to keep this in mind. It is also critical to remember (and I need to work on this) that things can be great even when there is some “outsourcing” as you say… Now the million dollar question is how to eliminate the guilt that so often comes with the outsourcing… Any ideas? xox

      • EmilyPH

        Eliminate the guilt when you feel happier that things are functioning in a more normal way than they would have otherwise. In my case, my dog is healthy b/c she was taken care at a time when she needed it, even if we couldn’t be there every second to tend to her, we know someone we trust had her in good hands.

  4. Katie

    The guilt doesn’t go away – it only gets different. I constantly feel like I am doing everything half-assed because there is so much to do. I feel like I’m never giving 100% to being a mother, partner, worker, friend, daughter, sister, runner, etc… Somehow at the age of 43 I’ve learned to let it go a little and give myself a break but I still beat myself up mentally for not being able to do it all perfectly. When my daughter was little I used to feel guilty for being the mom that sent in store-bought baked goods to the classroom, now she is a senior in high school and I lay awake at night feeling like I’m not doing enough to help her find the right college. And I worry with my kids age 10 and 17 I am not giving one the right attention when I’m doing something with the other. Stop the insanity … at the end of the day we just have to tell ourselves we’re fine, the kids are fine, the work will be there tomororw and we have to take time for ourselves to breathe and disconnect. Think about your own mother … she probably felt the same things, and you probably thought she was great.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Katie. For helping me realize that I am far from alone in feeling the things I am feeling. I know this sense of feeling stretched will not end; it will only, as you point out, evolve. I wish there were a way I could force myself to accept this feeling more, to see it for what it is, namely a symptom of a good and full life. Now you have me thinking of what things will be like when my girls are over – when we add homework and grades and extracurriculars and boys and college to the mix. Yikes. My hope is that by then I will be expert at handling the feeling of “half-assedness,” but I know that’s a pipe dream. I am sure you are right that my mom felt this way too; I want to talk to her about it now.

      Thanks again 🙂

  5. I can’t believe you signed your 3rd up for classes. I joke that if I had 10 kids I would figure this bugaboo out at some point. I did way less structured for my second child. I think resigning to missing appointments or declining invitations or realizing that if kids have siblings they really already have play dates is key. This may be a case of aiming for a B (did you ever get a B?) and realizing that keeping your cool or a smile on your face is the real accomplishment

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      I love your perspective. Really. So much of this is about surrender, about doing what we can, about rolling with it. I signed up Little for classes because I think she will enjoy them and enjoy being around kids her age, but I am sure some of this had to do with guilt too, with a desire to be exactly equal in the opportunities I provide my girls – even though I’m realizing that’s not possible. Thank you for making me realize (what others mention here too), namely that this baby of mine has two big sisters who adore her and teach her and play with her and that far more than makes up for the fact that I am a bit more stretched these days. xox

  6. From a tactical perspective here are my responses: Electronic calendar, all the way. I keep it all in Outlook, which syncs to my phone, so professional and personal appointments are all together. I also store lists of things (blog post ideas, questions I want to as the pediatrician at the next appt, grocery lists, etc.) because that way I know I’ll have them on hand when I need them, since my phone is always with me. Also, for appointments I’m afraid of missing, I set my reminders to go off a day in advance, so I get fair warning on things that were scheduled weeks or months ago. As for logistics, can Nanny do any of the dropoffs and pickups? IEP’s preschool is from 9 to 12, so our nanny does both his dropoff and pickup each day.

    From an emotional perspective my thoughts are: Little Girl may not be getting as much of you, but she’s getting TONS of her sisters. Big Girl didn’t have any sibling buddies to run around with, so she needed more of you. But you don’t have to do as much one-on-one with Little Girl because her life is being enriched by her sisters. While the one-on-one time you crave with her is a wonderful thing, not having the bandwidth to do as much as you did with Big and Middle doesn’t mean she’s getting short shrift. You were also the third, and I’m sure your mom didn’t give as much of herself to you as she did to Sister I. And based on how much I know your life is defined by your relationships with your sisters I imagine you never felt anything was missing. Little Girl is not being neglected. I promise.

    We all struggle. Of course we do. You are certainly not alone here.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thanks, Gale. Yes, I think the e-calendar is the way to go for me, but I think I need to just get better at using it and setting reminders as you note. And I know that the babe is not being neglected. I spend oodles of good quality time with her, and with all of them, but I think I am feeling this anticipatory nostalgia for a time (not far off) when I no longer have babies and want to do it all now even though doing it all is not necessarily possible or desirable. And, yes, Nanny can and will do pickups (drops are too early) and this will be really helpful, but again there is the guilt that if I am able (and I always am able) to be there at the classroom door at the end of the day, I should be. Ah, the shoulds.

      Yes, we all struggle. I do for sure. And I am realizing that it is okay to be honest here and with myself about the times that are tougher. There is a lot of truth and humanity in the hard stuff, no?

      Hope you and your boys are good! xox

  7. Jess

    Honestly, if you don’t feel stretched too thin in early parenthood you probably aren’t doing it right! Do the best you can and realize that children learning they have to wait and can’t always come first is actually a good life lesson for them. That is what I tell myself at least :).

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      I love this, Jess, and I think you are right. Right in the sense that this feeling frazzled is probably ultimately a good sign, that we are digging deep, trying hard, being there for our kids. And also right in the sense that kids need to learn that we parents are people with needs and goals of our own. I really appreciate your outlook and it makes me happy that I am privy to it even though we are so many miles away from each other. Cannot believe your little guy is 11 months tomorrow. He is SUCH a cutie! xox

  8. Karin

    You’re not the only one botching things up from time to time. Heart totally in the right place but stuff happens.

    I was in an unhappy marriage many years ago and some of the things about me that bothered my then-husband weren’t my favorite things about me either. I sat down one night and wrote out my list. “If I were perfect…” You know what I realized within a week? There was no way to live up to my own perfect expectations so how on earth is it possible to not disappoint sometimes?

    I learned offering my best has to be good enough. Sometimes, I’m going to bobble it. And that’s wonderful sometimes-sloppy life.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Stuff happens. Yes. Wonderful sometimes-sloppy life. Indeed.

      I love the idea of a list, of making a list of what we would look like if we were perfect, what our lives would look like. And it makes complete sense to me that honoring this list would be downright impossible. An interesting note: I am not even sure what I would put on the list of “If I were perfect…” because I do not know what a perfect version of myself would look like, and I am not even sure I believe in perfection. Then why, you might ask, am I constantly shooting for it? Doing our best must be the goal. Intellectually, I know this, but I need to figure out a way to truly internalize this attitude, to avoid the pitfalls of worry that crop up when I, as you say, “bobble it.”

      So so appreciate your comment, Karin. Thanks.

  9. Jessica Moore

    I think all mothers / fathers / grown ups struggle with not being enough for everyone and everything. I’m a working mom of two girls and everyday it’s a different feeling. Some days I feel like an A+ mom, but deserve a D at work and an F in the wife department and vice versa. Other days I think to myself “Yup, got this, I CAN do this mom / wife / daughter / work thing” only to have the sky fall in the next minute. We’ve all been there, we’ve all had our tough days and feel like we haven’t been enough to everyone in our life. Little Girl will be okay – as a previous poster mentionned she has her sisters which is one of the most sacred things she can have. As the youngest of three I never thought “wow, I got the least of my parents.” Rather I remember the laughter and fun of growing up and playing with my siblings and the last years of high school where I got ALL the attention from Mom & Dad as Big Brother & Sister were off at College and I wouldn’t change it for the world. My sister sent me a quote one time when I ended up in tears on the phone one day telling her I couldn’t do it “all” which I keep on my desk and it reminds me it’s not always easy and sometimes its’ okay not to be your best as long as you try again tomorrow.

    “Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.” -mary anne radmacher

    Also I thank my lucky stars we live in NYC because I can’t imagine trying to “do it all” while pulling your kids in and out of the car and driving from place to place all day – kudos to all of the suburban moms who do it! 🙂

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Oh, how your words resonate on so many levels… First, I love that you speak in terms of grades because this is SO me. I am constantly shooting for the A+ in all that I do even though it simply isn’t achievable. I am just not sure I am going to ever escape this academic thinking though. And I hadn’t even thought of the extra time Little will get with us one day in the future; that really makes me smile. I adore the quote your sister sent you and I think I might have to fashion a whole post around it. Thanks so much for chiming in here, for taking the time to write words and remind me that I am miles from alone in feeling all of this stuff.

      Thanks, Jessica.

      PS – Yes, re: NYC. I wouldn’t survive a day in the burbs. And I’d have to learn to drive 🙂

  10. Oh what to say. I have done Franklin Planner or Electronic Google. I had my kids when I was 20/21 and tubes tied by the time I was 21. I love hearing about your life and children and other stories. I didn’t get to raise my kids because of custody issues, but when my kids WERE with me it was chaos at first. How to integrate children into a home where there normally weren’t any?

    I planned, I organized things with other moms, and then the best thing of all happened…I just let things happen. Yes, I planned but if the plan changed, well that was the new plan.

    I now have my own biz and as well as helping other clients, I do Freelance IT work for large companies, and then try to do my own thing by building websites that earn income so I can live life on my terms.

    Needless to say this makes my schedule CR-A-ZY!

    I sometimes use Outlook to set reminders on my home computer. If I am out and not near my system then I add a reminder on my phone. I also email myself reminders (which my friends laugh it, but often they are late and I am not so NYAH to them). I have a droid phone now.

    Mostly, I carry a covered Composition book ( I creatively covered w scrapbook paper and mod podge to make it more enjoyable: and write or jots down ideas, notes and things in the book. I have post it notes paperclipped to the back and jot little reminders here or there that need to go on my system later.

    In the end as I said early if I miss a meeting. I miss it. I call and apologize and own up to my humanness. Literally. This usually gets a chuckle and they say “I understand”.

    One suggestion to ADD to to your calendar is Brave Girls Club. They helped me see that “I am enough”

    They have great classes, courses and notes to help you accept you for who you are. I am weeping as I write this because they have helped me through so much. I have like a thousand other resources for you, but that is what I have for now.

    I added the website I write my life on like you, but I write in many places in many blogs and I am currently building a new website about how to help others live life outside of tech. (Thus the notebook now that I carry with me)

    Breathe. Be You. Honor the you that you are and when you mess up…honor that girl too. 🙂

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Wow. This is all so wonderful and helpful. Thank you. I will check out your site and Brave Girls Club for sure. Very intriguing!!

      You hit on something here that really struck me – about humanness. Here’s the thing: I like seeing humanness and fallibility in other people; it makes everything that much more rich and real. I think quirks and flaws and even fails can be beautiful. But for some reason, I have a much harder time appreciating, and accepting, the humanness in myself. If someone else gains 5 pounds on vacation, I think there is something wonderful and okay about this because it indicates to me that they are not robotic and obsessed with perfection. But if I gain the same 5 pounds, cue the self-loathing, critical crap. I’m not sure what this is all about.

      Ultimately, I hope to retain – and revere – my own humanness while also feeling like I have things for the most part under control. Ah, control – that thing that eludes us, no?

      Thank you for all of this. So much. It is really generous you know to take the time from your day to share your thoughts like this and your generosity (like that of other commenters) does not go unnoticed.


  11. Lauren

    Sister C must write here!!!!!!! Please, sister C!

    You know I struggle with this, and I only have one babe!
    You’ll figure out the right balance. And remember, Little Girl has something her two older sisters never did when they were babes – two older sisters! So maybe the classes have to go. The writing isn’t everything, but it is something. xx

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      I know; I am SO excited about the prospect of getting C to write here. I am going to make it happen! You reading this, c?

      “Writing isn’t everything, but it is something.” I don’t know why, but I just love this. Love.

      We must really catch up soon. I need to hear all about PARALLEL 🙂

  12. AG

    I don’t have kids but I think you struggle because you care and are a good person. Like a lot of the comments above say, it all rests in guilt. I feel it too because I care and what to be the best I can be. I also think each child has their own version of growing up and even within a family and siblings, no two versions are the exact same. I know my younger sister and I had different experiences considering when I arrived there was only me and when my sister arrived there was both her and me. From the moment she arrived we were already having different versions of growing up and nothing had even happened yet.

    Also would love for Sister C to write here! That’d be really fun to get to hear from her from time to time…and to see the similarities and differences between both of you as sisters!

    • AG

      Oh and one more thought– when you had your oldest you didn’t have this blog. Little girl is going to have her entire life documented throughout this blog and will get to look back on that wonderful post you did just after she was born. She will have her own things too that her sisters didn’t get!

      • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

        You are right!! Forget baby books. This little girl has a baby blog 🙂 Hope she’s cool about reading all about her mom’s insecurities though 🙂

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      You are right; so much of this is about caring. And deeply, too. And caring is a good thing even if it makes everything harder when all does not go according to plan. I aslo really appreciate your reminder that no matter how hard I try I cannot provide my three girls identical childhoods. Things change, circumstances evolve, and each kid is different. And all of these things are good things.

      I am so hoping C starts writing here – and soon. I really think it would add another fun and interesting dimension to this odd little corner of the cyber-cosmos. Stay tuned!

      Thanks, as always, AG.

  13. I only have 2 kids and my oldest just started first grade. He has early dismissal on Wednesdays – 1:45 instead of 3- which I think is GREAT because he gets tired. Well, guess who forgot to pick up her son last week??? That call from the school that I was 20 minutes late and they had my son in the office was MORTIFYING. Poor kid.

    Being a mom ain’t for punks. Neither is being a writer. You are both so give yourself a hug:)

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Oh that is so something I would do (and pretty much have done, and will do again). “Being a mom ain’t for punks.” Oh how I love this. Thanks for the words, and the big smile 🙂

  14. Amy

    So glad you’re back! Catching up on your latest posts. As for juggling 3 (wonderful) daughters and only 1 of you…I have no idea how you manage since I don’t have children. Please tell me how you do it! And you are trying your best and that’s what matters. Your children love each other dearly and will also be there to support each other in times when you are not or cannot be around. 🙂

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Amy. How I do it? I just do it and then come here and whine and say woe is me 🙂 Seriously though, it is an ever-evolving juggling act and some days feel totally okay and some are just hard to handle as evidenced by this post. So happy to see you here; Hope you had a fabulous summer!

  15. C

    I’m such a huge fan of your work (both in books and online!) I follow you religiously but have never before felt compelled to write. Something about this post got to me, though. Have spent some time trying to articulate why it got to me, and I’m afraid that all I’ve been able to come up with is that, while I understand your guilt (and have been there myself), you are way too hard on yourself. It’s not a big deal. This sounds dismissive and horrendous, and I ask you to bear with me because it’s not meant in this way. At all. What I mean is that even if each of your girls only gets a third of you, or a fourth of you (after your husband), or a fifth of you (after your husband and yourself), they are still incredibly fortunate. And if the littlest gets what’s left of your focus, or what’s left of your time, she is, to my mind, the luckiest of them all. She benefits from the foibles and false-starts and anxieties that you’ve worked through with her sisters. And most of all? She benefits from having those sisters! A strong mother figure, a fantastic dad, and two girls to look up to.

    The very fact that you feel guilty shows how much you care, and what a blessing to care so much. Goodness, the very fact that you managed to forget a doctor’s appointment for your littlest girl is a blessing: it means that she’s healthy and thriving, and that you weren’t anxiously awaiting the next diagnosis. So please. Go easy on yourself. Regardless of whether you have it all figured out, or whether you’ve got everything “under control”.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      C (Not to be confused with Sister C) – Thank you. For taking the time to write this, particularly because you do not typically comment. Everything you say here resonates, and makes tremendous intellectual sense. I do know how fortunate my little girls are, that they lead a wonderful life full of joy and opportunity, that they have each other and parents who adore them, and that even if I am scattered, they have so much. That said, there are moments and I was describing one here, where it feels legitimately overwhelming, where I do feel guilt whether or not I should feel guilt.

      And, yes, I am realizing that the guilt is prime evidence of how much I care and that this is ultimately a very good thing – to care so much and so intensely. And I did think when I called the pediatrician’s office and waited on hold for a few minutes, and ultimately rescheduled for a few weeks from now how downright blessed I am that this is all I am talking about – a delayed well-visit. I know that there are so many others who are not in such a fortunate position.

      As for being easier on myself, I hope that I can figure this part out. Historically, I’ve been a wild perfectionist and very hard on myself for any smidge of failure. And the thing is that this has always worked in my favor – it has kept me achieving, “succeeding.” I know that this isn’t necessarily a healthy way to live though and I hope I can determine a way to continue to care without the concomitant guilt and self-loathing…

      Thank you. Thank you. Hope you continue to comment!

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