For the past three weeks, I have been on the road for work and the mommy guilt has been strong. That got kicked up a notch last week when I got a note from Diana's school with instructions for this week's "end of year program". When I put it on the calendar at the beginning of the year, I thought it was some sort of classroom party, so it didn't register that it was, for all intents and purposes, a mini-graduation. I was scheduled to be at a conference all week (and had even told some of my colleagues that I would cover a big meeting at the conference so they could go to their own children's graduations). I figured Steven could bring the snacks or whatever we signed up to bring and that would be that.
Then, when the note came, I knew that I couldn't miss it. Flights were changed, plans were scrapped, meetings reassigned - but it was all going to work out, after a little scrambling. I got up before the crack of dawn to make my flight in order to be home in time, and everything seemed to be coming together until my flight from Phoenix landed in Atlanta.
I knew the connection time was going to be a little tight, but my heart sunk when the announcement came on that we weren't able to pull up to the gate right away. I was in the back of the plane and there were hundreds of people that were going to need to get off before I did. I looked at my phone for the gate for my connecting flight and it was in another terminal. My heart sunk again. I watched the status on my phone change to "Boarding" for my next flight and watched the clock tick forward over and over as I waited for the plane to pull up and the other passengers to get OUT OF MY WAY! (Side note: I didn't actually yell that, which is a testament to some major spiritual progress...)
When I was finally able to deplane, I took off running. Literally. It was not a graceful run, since I was lugging a heavy purse and pushing/pulling a rolling suitcase. Between my huffs and puffs, I muttered "Excuse me!" and "I'm sorry!" to everyone I passed or bumped, but I didn't look back because I was only focused on getting on that next plane. I hobbled down the escalator as far as I could hoping that shaving a few extra seconds off of my time would get me on the next tram to the right terminal, and just in the nick of time, jumped on the tram. When the tram stopped, I shoved my way off and started running again. First, up the escalator, and then, through the terminal, again muttering to everyone I passed.
All I could think was "please don't let me miss this flight, please don't let me miss this flight..." My mommy guilt kept my legs moving, faster than they have in a long time. In my head, I could hear my daughter saying "Mommy, why do you keep working all the days? When are you coming home?" I didn't want to let my girl down.
Finally, I arrived at the gate, right as they were making their last call. There was one woman in line ahead of me, and one person at the gate. Something was wrong with his ticket, so the flight attendant starting working on the computer trying to get it sorted out. I let out a huge sigh of relief and slumped over the handle of my suitcase. The woman in front of me turned around, placed her hands on top of mine, looked me in the eyes and said, "Breathe, baby, you made it." I just nodded and complied. "Take another one, baby. You're okay. I don't want you to fall out and miss your plane after all that running."
I apologized and told her that I didn't mean to be such a mess. I started to explain about my crazy three weeks of travel and having to change everything around to make this flight because I didn't pay close enough attention, and she stopped me and said, "Honey, it's always going to be something. You made it. That's all she's going to even remember. Don't pile on guilt that doesn't need to be there."
The ticket agent figured out the person's issue in front of us and we all made our way down the gangway. My new friend chatted as we walked down the aisle about her travels to see all of her grandbabies that were graduating and how proud she was of them. Her voice was so soothing that I felt my angst just fall away. Right before we got on the plane, she turned around and said, "I mean it, now. No more piling on guilt that doesn't need to be there. Remember to breathe, baby, and you'll be fine." She covered my hands with hers one more time, smiled, and took her seat.
I am so grateful for that woman. She recognized my angst and chose to reach out, instead of ignore. Her kind words of reassurance and the reminders to breathe helped more than she could probably imagine. It was a powerful example for me of the need to pay attention to those around us and look for a chance to connect and offer assurances. She could have been playing on a phone and not noticed or chosen to ignore the panting, hot mess of a mom behind her in line. Instead, she reached out, extended some grace and mercy and it made all the difference.