Am I Doing This Thing Right?


Some days feel overwhelming. Some days threaten to drown me, leaving me dazed on the couch at their end, wondering how I am to survive, to continue in this life I’ve chosen.

“I don’t think I’m cut out to be a stay-at-home parent,” I say to Jonathan one evening after a particularly trying day.

“If you really think that, we can explore how to change things,” he says. “But are you sure this isn’t just a few hard days talking?”

He’s right. At least, I think he is. Maybe.

Hard days – days full of boundary testing and skipped naps, days of housework piling up and writing going undone and that voice in the back of my head telling me I’m falling behind, days of wondering whether I handled that tantrum, that moment, that behavior correctly – hard days spark doubt.

Am I doing this thing right?

In October, I write. I write and I write and I write and I write until I have thirty-one days of posts, until I have a habit (or so I think), one I can maintain even on those (frequent) days when I have nothing of value to say.

The month ends and, spent from the daily effort, my reserve of excess words exhausted, I take a break. A short one, I think. One in which I will attend to those things I’ve been ignoring before coming back to writing with renewed vigor.

But the days pass, and my well of words remains dry. Katie enters a phase of boundary-testing at about the same time Abby decides she really wants less snuggling and more interacting, and I struggle to find the time and the energy and the brainspace to put my thoughts into coherent sentences. This everyday life of mine seems so mundane, so ordinary.

Surely, I think, I should be able to write. Surely I should, when so many others balance so much more, accomplish so much more in this time of life.

Am I doing this thing right?

November plods on, and the holidays loom, and suddenly it is two days before Thanksgiving and I wonder where the time has gone. What have I done with these precious days, with these skills, with these words and this voice I’ve been given? Have I squandered them?

Am I doing this thing right?

But then, we take a walk, Katie and Abby and Euclid and me, down the road and among the fields. The sun shines overhead, providing a brief respite from a series of cold autumn storms, and, despite the chill in the air, I push my sleeves up to my elbows and I tilt my head back and I enjoy the feeling of light on my face. I’ve lived here, in this part of the county, for five and a half years, and still, the way the houses nestle in among the fields and the trees makes me stop to snap a photo, to try to capture the beauty of it all.

We talk as we go, Katie chattering about the cows and the horses and the geese, about the cars on the road and the house being built and any other thing that catches her eye. On the way home, she falls silent and I tease her, asking where she went, wondering if, perhaps, I left her behind, and she smiles up at me through the back of the stroller, her eyes wide and shining.

Later, I crawl up next to her in the twin bed and I sing to her, hoping to ease her toward a much-needed nap. She reaches one small hand up to touch my cheek. “I lub you, Mama,” she says, unprompted, and I want to bottle this moment, to tuck it safely into my pocket as a reserve, a reminder when the hard moments come.

I leave her room and rescue Abby, who is becoming agitated on her play mat on the floor. As I scoop her up into my arms, her mouth opens in a toothless grin. Her eyes meet mine and she squirms in delight, her entire body smiling up at me, every bit of her overjoyed to see me.

Am I doing this thing right? Not always. Sometimes I flounder. Sometimes I lose my patience. Sometimes I get too caught up in things I cannot change, expending energy on online debates and arguments in a way that isn’t healthy.

Am I doing this thing right? Not by a long shot. I succumb to my selfishness, to my pride. Some days I am too indulgent, others, too strict. I squander my time.

Am I doing this thing right?

No, I’m not. Not perfectly, anyway. I blow it, all the time.

But I love these girls, this man, this life with everything in me, and in the midst of the overwhem, in the middle of the hard every day, I’m given these glimpses of beauty, of grace – the sun on my face, the sweet words of a two-year-old, the contagious smile of an infant. Flowers in a vase. Kisses on my cheek. Arms around my neck.

Am I doing this thing right? I don’t always know.

But, most days, I’m glad I’m doing it.

6 response to "Am I Doing This Thing Right?"

  1. By: Sandy Posted: November 23, 2016

    What you are doing is incredibly difficult. There is no annual review, no pay raise, no feedback along the way. I remember realizing that I wouldn’t really know if I’d done it right for about 25 years, or more! That’s a really long wait! But speaking as an observer from the sidelines: Yes! You are doing this right! Yes! You are doing this well! Oh, so well! Keep going!

    • By: Jenn Posted: November 23, 2016

      Thank you, Sandy. I hope you’re right. 🙂

      (And yes. You did it right. Very right. :))

  2. By: jywatkins Posted: November 23, 2016

    Beautiful, Jenn. You’re doing a great job. Happy Thanksgiving!

    • By: Jenn Posted: November 23, 2016

      Thank you, Jamie. Happy Thanksgiving to you and Chad, too!

  3. By: Marion Parker Posted: November 23, 2016

    Of course you’re doing it right! Your job right now is so, so much more important than all the other jobs you’re capable of and even gifted at! Your little ones will need your attention less and less with every year as you give them what they need now. They will be your and Jonathan’s living contribution to the world and they will make a mark like none other. And you’ll still have years to share your personal talents with the world too.

    • By: Jenn Posted: December 1, 2016

      Thank you for your encouragement, Marion. I’m so grateful to have you and Jim in our lives.

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