being a working mom involves a lot of schlepping. while i’ve got more than a few cute purses in cool shapes with fancy hardware, for the every day grind, you need girth—a bag big enough for the 13-inch mac, moleskin, munchies and assortment of random crap you cart around “just in case”: pens, printouts, receipts, lip balm, umbrella, kleenex, kitchen sink.
because the term “mom” is generally synonymous with pack mule, you get used to the weight—on your mind and on your shoulders. taking care of messy noses, raspy voices, dirty hands, making plans. carrying it all around because hey, that’s your job.
and speaking of work, sprinkle on some deadlines and the general cadence of meeting and juggling and spinning, and each day brings with it the pressing weight of life’s responsibilities.
recently i have been traveling a lot for work, and while i’ve pretty much got my rituals down to a science (the travel baggie full of pint-sized products, one carry-on, shoes and all, backpack for laptop, and swivel wheels for shuffling through the long airport lines), i had a curious feeling on a cross-country trip late last year that something felt unusual.
i was headed to costa rica for a team summit. my backpack was stuffed with the typical travel gear: computer, power cord, phone charger, moleskin and snacks. the only thing missing was my usual stash of trashy, in-flight gossip mags—no time for distractions as i had a date with a powerpoint deck for the long trip down to the tropics.
it wasn’t an excessively long trek: one layover in houston, a sprint to catch a connection, and finally to our destination…but when i finally got to my hotel that night, my shoulders and back were sore.
“what the hec is in this bag?”
as i mentioned earlier, random items in my bags and purses are not an uncommon occurrence, but i started pulling out the contents to figure out why it felt so heavy.
a pile of change, yup. a brush, ok….wait whu??
i dug deep into the bottom and felt a smooth, cold object. and then another. and then a few smaller ones. i grabbed hold of the big one and pulled it out. it was a rock that my boys had collected on a summer trip to michigan. “it’s a heart for you mommy! it means love.” over the course of our vacation, the boys had picked a random assortment of heart-shaped rocks, plucked from the beach, and lovingly bestowed on me.
when we got back to reality, they proudly set them out on the table, and every morning hounded me to take them to work and put them on my desk as a reminder of our happy place and of them. and every morning, i’d scurry around, getting ready, searching for outfits, barking about being late, and telling them they’d be too heavy to carry in my backpack that day.
apparently they decided, on this particular trip, to take matters into their own hands. i schlepped these rocks four thousand miles down to costa rica and back. and though the burden was heavy, my heart was light.
a couple months later, i went to new york for another work trip. backpack was clean and only the essentials packed. yet again, when i got to my hotel room, a rock had found its way into my bag. only one this time. but one was more than enough.
as a parent, it can sometimes feel like you’re buried under the weight of all that you carry. but it’s also grounding, purpose. it’s bedrock—tangible reminders of love so pure and real that you can’t fathom what life was like without them. when you’re busy carrying on with dinner and homework and activities and obligations, never lose sight of the fact that those smiles and squeezes and random little gifts—and yes, even rocks— are the little things that can carry you through.