Prioritizing My Loved Ones? Not on Mama Time Watch.
“The kitchen is the heart of a home,” I once heard. A lot happens in mine for sure.
In my head, anyway.
Like the other day, when I was cleaning up after breakfast and dwelling on my former husband’s comment about Mama Time in reference to my timeliness. I ended up in a completely different place with my thoughts than I would have expected. And it was a lot to take in.
The exchange happened when school was still in session. Just before breakfast, my teen daughter called her dad to confirm he was swinging by with an assignment she had forgotten at his place over the weekend.
“Would you like to drop her off at school?” I suggested, clued in by the conversation openly happening over the speakerphone.
“She wants to leave by 7:45 AM,” I added. She had a perfect attendance record and was on a mission to finish the school year without a single tardy ticket.
“No problem,” he responded, just having to swing by Starbucks first.
I carried on preparing her school lunch while she had breakfast at the kitchen counter, one of the few together-moments I can still treasure with my thirteen-year-old. The phone rang back shortly before 7:45 AM. It’s him, I thought.
“You’re on speaker!” my daughter said, picking up the phone while getting ready as I sliced the last of her cucumbers for lunch.
He was calling to double-check on my request to be here by 7:45 AM.
“Sweetie,” I heard him ask her, detecting a familiar smirk in his voice, “is that Mama Time or regular time?”
“It’s Mama Time,” she said, eyeing me while beaming in alliance with her daddy.
“Ok, I’m not far and will be there soon,” he said, as if aware of a different departure window. She was fine with it.
I quickly put together what was happening: my daughter was likely giving me an earlier exit time because I tend to leave at the last minute, pushing it so close that we sometimes end up late. Sharing this with her dad concocted a giggle at my expense.
While I could appreciate the moment these two were having right then (I was close to my dad and could relate), I couldn’t help my budding irritation at the thought of being mocked, within the haven I expect from my family no less.
Resting my daughter’s lunchbox next to her backpack by the door, I took a mental note: Request not to be ridiculed next time I talk with my ex. Meanwhile I held my tongue, gave him a friendly wave when he pulled in and wished them both a happy day when they left.
Heading back to the heart of our home to clean up after breakfast, I wondered: What was really bothering me about that morning’s plot?
Searching within, I realized that this choppy tardiness with my immediate circle was something I actually don’t like about myself. And I didn’t appreciate having it shoved in my face. Why? I pondered. Probably because it forced me to look at it, this part of myself I’d rather not see. It seemed I’d rather sweep it under the rug and deal with it later. Or not at all.
What was I doing? Was I hoping that if I didn’t look at this tendency of mine, people wouldn’t see it?
Yes, I was being an ostrich. I was hiding this trait from myself while it was obvious for the world around me to see like a big ostrich butt. While I wasn’t dealing with it, they still had to.
Why wouldn’t I want to look at it? I further asked myself, going deeper. Maybe because it would be a pain in that butt to change? Perhaps it was a habit long engrained, going as far back as my childhood when I’d want to carry on having fun until I had no choice but to go.
Interestingly, I’m very conscientious about time. As a former executive assistant, an important part of my job was to handle calendars and keep both myself and others on schedule. Over the years, I’ve learned to maneuver datebooks with finesse and make minutes count.
What was I not applying in my personal life? I’d like to paint a rosy picture here and pile on excuses like I might have a lot on my mind (true) or want to squeeze every minute of productivity out of a full schedule (also true). Frankly, I may be pushing it because I’m either happier or more productive at the moment and want a few more minutes for me, a scarce resource. Would that be a (butt) cheeky attitude? Regardless I cut it close and risk being hurried or late, which happens. As evidenced by the aforementioned Mama Time intervention, it may happen more often than I thought.
Sadly, it seems I’m less concerned about punctuality with those closest to me. What’s up with that? To the psychologists out there, I welcome your empathetic comments in getting to that (other kind of) bottom.
What’s clear is that under Mama Time, I’m being inconsiderate and undervaluing my loved ones’ time. And that, really, is what I didn’t want to see.
Looking at this now, I must ask, how much am I stressing my daughter and what model am I showing her in running a tight schedule? More importantly, what message am I sending her and other beloveds? I may be unwittingly communicating that your time, your life is less important than mine. Ouch.
I will not address Mama Time next time I meet with my former husband. This is neither about him nor my daughter. One could argue that they are the considerate ones, accepting and adjusting to this quirkiness of mine as best they can by giving me a head start.
As uncomfortable as it is to face this less shiny (back) side of mine in this moment, I’m seeing it’s a better alternative than continuing to turn a blind eye. It’s not a pretty bent and that’s ok: We’re all a work in progress and I can do something about it.
First, I can join my daughter and her dad in laughing about Mama Time. I can also let them know I’m working on it and ask for their cooperation and understanding. Second, I can require myself to arrive ten minutes early and enjoy it as either a delightful moment for me (if alone) or quality time for us (if with a loved one). Third? Maybe you have an additional tip to share.
Today I’ll be thankful for the ostrich and her fantastic butt. May it serve as both a symbol of time affluence and a reminder of the course correction to come toward improved relationships and quality of life. Here’s to prioritizing my loved ones: So long, Mama Time.