There I am, four years ago. I was crazy in love with my baby daughter, and crushed by the weight of a job that didn’t allow me to be the kind of parent I desperately wanted to be.
I pride myself on being strong, resourceful and determined. When something is wrong, I can almost always figure out how to push past it, or work around it, or at least patch it up so it’s a lot prettier.
But sometimes, there are situations that even we Wonder Women have to admit, we cannot repair. You could call it a “broken scenario” or a “lost cause.”
Doctors use a different phrase: “incompatible with life.”
Four years ago, that’s exactly what I discovered had happened with the television news career I once loved. It had become a nightmare. My work was incompatible with life. It didn’t feel fulfilling any more but much worse, the schedule simply didn’t work for my family. I had a baby, two kids in grade school, and a husband who worked nights and weekends, with lots of travel. There was no way around the fact that no matter how hard I tried to make everything fit in, it just COULDN’T fit. But coming to grips with that fact was a slow, painful struggle.
I kept the “news lady” smile on my face that I assumed everyone expected and covered up the dark circles under my eyes with TV-grade concealer, but underneath it all I was coming apart. I knew I wasn’t the only one facing this kind of work-life crisis. I spent a very tough year writing every day, mostly to stay sane.
By the end of that year, an unexpected door opened to a whole new life.
I have just finished turning that diary (and some life lessons gleaned in hindsight) into a book, “Know When to Run: Lessons from the Diary of a Gen X Mom.” I am expecting to publish it in August. I will share the date and link here when I have it!
Tonight, I’ll share this small book excerpt with you – a chapter capturing one of the many days when I was carrying an impossible load. (This day happened very soon after I returned from maternity leave. Day by day, things grew even tougher, and my body and mind paid an ever-growing price.)
I can’t grant my wish of teaching my past “Wonder Woman” self what I know now about recognizing when it is time to run from an unhealthy situation. But I can only hope that maybe my story will help someone else see what I couldn’t back then.
“Wonder Woman” (An excerpt from “Know When to Run: Lessons from the Diary of a Gen X Mom”)
I am Wonder Woman today. I muscled our trio through the grocery store this morning with Daisy in the Baby Bjorn, Clara “driving” the giant cart with a car on the front and Calvin pushing his own mini-cart. I wanted a strong sedative by the time we got done, but at least I managed to remember the most critical item on the list: diapers.
I got the dishes done, laundry started, myself showered and baby nursed, kids lunched. Then I headed in for a grueling day at work. Before I even got on the interstate I got a phone call from the newsroom. “There’s been a mass shooting today. Get ready to hustle.”
I got sent out to a rough neighborhood in sauna-like heat to cover an emotional gathering of grieving family members and enraged community leaders. I raced against the deadline to get my story into the 5 p.m. news, returned to the TV station and ran upstairs to pump Daisy some milk for tomorrow, anchored the newscasts at 6 and 7, then stayed late to shoot a bunch of fancy promos with New Todd telling viewers to watch us. I ate a burrito in the car as I jetted home for my late “dinner break,” nursed crying Daisy until she was happy again, read Clara a book about Barbie and read Cal a book about poisonous snakes.
I left them with the sitter and hurried back to the station, put together a new story on the shooting victims for the 11 p.m. news, and checked in with my stressed-out hubby by phone as he drove home from his own wild day at work. I rallied every last drop of energy left to prop myself up on the anchor desk for one last show.
I am daydreaming right now that I will go to bed tonight and magically wake up in a cabin in the mountains—a cool, crisp morning with a field of wildflowers and a creek bubbling over rocks right next to my window (my favorite sound in the world). No clocks, no responsibilities. I sit on the porch, sip my coffee slowly, stare at the flowers and the water and the sky, and breathe.
And then, I turn my head and look at the handsome guy sitting next to me. I grab his hand, put my head on his shoulder, and just sit. Together. Peaceful. Whole. Free.
Lesson: When things get tough, you may find yourself tempted to overcompensate by trying to be a superhero. Listen to the fantasies that pull you toward a quieter, more serene version of yourself.