Only So Much

“What can I do for energy?” I asked my obstetrician at my last visit. She belted out a good, long belly laugh.

“There’s really nothing you can do when you’re pregnant,” she said, and went on to explain that women usually have less energy during a second pregnancy because by that time, they’re already running after a little kid.

Normally I wouldn’t ask such a ridiculous question, but after losing so much time to morning sickness, I held out hope that I’d be able to catch up with everything I wanted to do in my first trimester, but couldn’t. Right now, there aren’t enough hours in the day for me. There are plenty for everyone else, but I need to nap in the afternoon most days, it takes 2 hours to get 20 minutes sleep and I have go to bed by 9:30 at night. And I don’t get just a little tired – I suddenly lose the ability to function and I’m lucky if I can muster the energy to brush my teeth.

But I have so much stuff I need to do. Every afternoon, my Outlook sends me a reminder of what I’m supposed to be doing during nap time. “Freelance: Monday 1:30-3:30,” comes up as I sign off of work. Or “Tuesday: Book 1:30-3:30.” Or “Blog: Friday 1:30-3:30.” I read the reminders, dismiss all, sigh, and go to bed.

Sometimes I awaken from my nap while Rose is still asleep. On those days I fire up the computer and try to crank out a few tiny tasks before the inevitable “Mommy! I’m all done sleeping!” And I feel good about those days, but I still have this overwhelming sense that I’m behind, all the time.

And that’s just stuff I want to do. I don’t have energy for anything else, either. The other day, I finished work; dropped the car off for brake work; took Rose to the dentist in a cab; stopped for a few groceries; walked us home on the bike trail; got the call that the car was ready; played the pregnancy card so they’d pick us up; got the car; watched a chick flick to de-stress for an hour; considered cooking onion soup and dessert; decided against it; went to drop off food for a new mom; picked up my husband at class; stopped for food and bathroom and to switch drivers because I was an exhausted menace on the road; and finally made it home and straight to bed at 8:40 p.m. I was just grateful I got through that whole day.

The next day we had a friend visiting for the weekend. I had to work and then pick her up at the airport. As I made breakfast, I surveyed the kitchen. One counter was covered with dishes. I knew the dishwasher was full and clean and considered unloading and reloading, but I typically don’t, because dishes are Matt’s job or Eric’s, not mine. Eric was out of town so the dishes fell to Matt, who’d rushed out and left them that morning. While I didn’t want my guest to see the kitchen like that, I still had to pick up Rose’s mess in the living room, straighten the office, finish work, get Rose at the babysitter’s, then go to the airport. I gave up. It was a messy kitchen, not the end of the world. And five minutes of Rose would destroy the living room. We don’t spend any time in the office, either. You know what? I thought. There’s only so much I can do. I finished my work and headed out. By that time I was late, but I felt better.

That’s when “There’s only so much I can do” became my mantra. I just have to accept it. There’s so much more I want to do, but right now I just don’t have the energy for everything. And it’s ok, because things change. When I have the baby, I’ll have less time to fit everything in, but I can manage time. I can’t manage exhaustion.

I can’t remember a time when I’ve been satisfied with what I’ve accomplished. When I moved out of my parents’ house, I’d talk to them once a week. Once we hung up, I’d experience a “parental hangover” – the aftereffects of our conversation. I’d ruminate over something they’d said or I’d feel bad about myself in general and I’d try to fix that feeling by launching myself into projects or cleaning or other chores – anything to regain a sense of self-worth.

Although I got over the “hangovers,” that feeling of inadequacy never left me. I’ve got a wonderful home and family, great friends, a steady paycheck, a freelance writing business, a growing blog readership, and lots of experiences to draw upon, but I consistently berate myself because I should have accomplished more sooner. I expected to publish my first book in my twenties; get married and have children in my thirties; and sit back and collect royalties from my third book, at least, in my forties. Instead I married, divorced and began to pursue a writing career in my twenties, married again in my thirties and had my first child at 38 (came close there but I really meant mid-thirties), and am still writing that first book and gestating the second kid at 41.

Did I fail to live up to my expectations? Yes. Did my expectations fail me? Yes. But I’m beginning to look at the whole process differently. I once read that no one should use lack of time as an excuse because Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison had the same 24 hours in a day that we do. It’s a nice sentiment, but Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison were men back when men didn’t care for their homes or their children. I am a modern-day woman and my responsibilities are a little bit different. I may have a cushy government job like Einstein but in my “off” time, I care for a 2 ½-year-old, write a blog, magazine articles and a book, and run a household. And let’s not forget that I’m gestating a baby boy every day and night. As for Edison, he had two wives. I can only begin to imagine what I could accomplish if I had two wives. So maybe it’s ok to blame a lack of time for my lack of accomplishments. At the very least, I can blame my current lack of energy. And I can allow myself some amnesty, because my ambition always exceeds my time and/or energy.

Things change. Maybe someday I’ll have the time and energy to do everything I want to do. I bet if that happened, though, I’d just set my sights higher and want more. But right now I’ve got to accept that there’s only so much I can do. Maybe I can learn to forgive myself for my “shortcomings.” Maybe I can accept that sometimes good enough is good enough. And now is a good enough time to do that.