Community//

I See You.

an offering of compassion and acknowledgment of your worth

I see you.

I see you hunting for a parking space near the daycare center, one eye on the time as you hurriedly bundle your babies into their new stroller and roll them into the mid-sized room overflowing with infants. As you absorb all of the smells and sounds, you silently count to three as your eyes alight on each of the ladies who will be your daughters’ mothers for this day, the virtual strangers to whom you will entrust the most precious part of your life, so tiny, so innocent, and only 6 weeks old. 

I see you gently plucking your darlings one by one from the carriage, whispering with a kiss ‘I love you,’ holding back tears as the caretaker scoops each baby from your embrace. You savor the third baby, nestling her on your chest, collapsing into a nearby rocker, telling yourself a few extra minutes won’t hurt. Rocking, rocking, tears now streaming down your face as you scour your mind for some way out of this unbearable situation. 

I see you.

I see you and your husband procuring the ‘best’ day care, paid for by his entire salary. Still alternately missing work each week given the near constant state of your daughters’ illnesses, an inevitable consequence of daily nursery life. Jointly realizing that one of you will soon be unemployed, and then making one of the most consequential decisions of your lives: he will stay home. He resigns himself to a role as sole caregiver, and you resign yourself to a role as sole breadwinner.

I see you gently plucking your darlings one by one from the carriage, whispering with a kiss ‘I love you,’ holding back tears as the caretaker scoops each baby from your embrace.

I see you. 

I see you nesting at work, decorating your cubicle with homemade birthday cards created by children who love you, familial photographs of critical milestones and cherished vacations. Plants to sweeten the air. Awards proudly hung as public acknowledgement of your capabilities, reminding you that at one point in time, somebody thought enough of what you did to name you in honor. 

I see you.

I see you shuffling the hours in the day, juggling your schedule to ensure you can attend the rugby game while still providing proof of your presence in the office during mandatory hours. Skipping formal lunch breaks because that would eat into your clocked time, mindlessly consuming another frozen meal at your desk so nobody can accuse you of shirking. 

I see you cruising the internet looking for studies to comfort you with assurances that good mothering isn’t about the quantity but the quality of time, and then finding competing, louder voices that proclaim no, it’s really all about the quantity, and what’s wrong with you anyway?

I see you. 

I see you, unbeknownst to all, emotionally checking out as you anticipate another work trip and separation from your family, moving in and getting cozy with your ‘travel persona,’ shedding your ‘mom’ and ‘wife’ roles to create a mental distance between yourself and those you love in the hopes it will dull the heartache. Weighing the best time to let your children know that yes, Mommy has to leave again. I know I just left, please don’t cry, it’s important (lie to yourself). Dabbing your daughter’s tears, stroking her hair, feeling the entirety of her slight body shaking in your arms as she sobs why do you have to go again? Why Mommy?  

You are a polite guest who provides the financial backing for their lives, but is not to be counted on in the everyday ways that matter. You don’t sign permission slips. You aren’t their emergency contact. You don’t give rides. 

I see you.

I see you excusing yourself (to raised eyebrows) from meetings to call your family because this is the one time during the day that you can actually catch them. I see your heart break as you realize they have disengaged, switching back to their ‘real’ lives with practiced ease because they too have learned to emotionally separate from you. You are a polite guest who provides the financial backing for their lives, but is not to be counted on in the everyday ways that matter. You don’t sign permission slips. You aren’t their emergency contact. You don’t give rides. 

I see you. 

I see you frantically compensating for missed time by creating one-of-a-kind experiences for birthdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Yearning to establish an imprint, a family tradition that you will be known for when they look back on their childhood. On weekends you prostrate yourself at your family’s feet, offering your time up like a special gift each Friday afternoon, to be concluded Sunday evening, when you realize you’ve sacrificed enough, you can now take some me-time. Recognition dawns that you have only an hour or so to tuck into your never ending to-do list; by then you’re too tired to care, opting for a Netflix episode with wine glass in hand, falling asleep 20 minutes in. 

I see you. 

On weekends you prostrate yourself at your family’s feet, offering your time up like a special gift each Friday afternoon, to be concluded Sunday evening, when you realize you’ve sacrificed enough, you can now take some me-time.

I see you wake up one day, twenty-five years into your career, realizing that you’re done pounding on locked doors where nobody answers because your experience of near death has brought into stark clarity your priorities and you have finally made a decisive commitment to yourself and your family. You no longer care about playing the game; you know in your heart you never really did. You aren’t any good at office politics because you believe your performance speaks for itself. You skipped the dinners (didn’t want to take time away from family), you skipped the in-office networking (too much time away from being productive), and you didn’t chase recognition (because isn’t the work you do of high enough quality someone will notice?). 

Years of keeping your feet in both camps has left you everywhere and nowhere, neither fulfilling the role as Mom of the Year nor Top Management at your company. 

You thought you could do it all, split yourself among different roles and satisfy everyone. And maybe you made everyone somewhat happy, but you lost yourself along the way, and the older you got the more invisible you became as work stopped caring and your kids grew up, with no more permission slips to sign, no rides needed to school, and no more birthday experiences wanted. Suddenly there were no more trade-offs to make. You had run out of time. And you wish you had made a decision and fully committed to something. Because your life happened to you, rather than being guided by you. 

I see you. I’m so sorry I didn’t see you before. But I see you now. 

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