My 18-year-old niece and her friend are staying at my house for six days. They're here from Albuquerque, N.M., for a Lollapalooza-infused last hurrah before they head to college in a few weeks.
Naturally, I'm tied in knots.
They're delightful and whip smart — my niece is attending McGill University in Montreal, Canada; her friend will study mathematics and computing at Notre Dame — and they appear wholly unencumbered by the angst and self-doubt that plagued me at the same age. Or this age, for that matter.
I'm tied in knots because I want to be a proper role model to these lovely young women who are watching me Have It All — who are living temporarily in the home that is a direct reflection of me Having It All.
Which is to say it's a disorganized mess.
I'm afraid I don't have the right snacks. I wish I made time to buy a new shower curtain liner. I wish my linen closet wasn't such a precarious place from which to retrieve clean towels. I wish they didn't see me letting my son have ice cream for breakfast because he kept begging and, I mean, it's dairy (like yogurt!) and what's a little sugar in the morning (hello, maple syrup) and, also, it's Friday and we're out of fresh fruit and, to be honest, most groceries on Fridays.
I want them to see my husband cooking and cleaning and folding laundry and reading to our kids because he does, in fact, do those things. A lot. I want them to know that good men dive in — all in — at home so they'll find partners who do the same.
I want them to see me cook and clean and fold laundry and read to our kids because I do, in fact, do those things. A lot. I want them to know that working moms dive in — all in — at home so they don't think they have to choose one life — professional or domestic — at which to excel.
Funny word, excel. I mean, if I were really knocking this having-it-all thing out of the park, would I be serving my son ice cream at 8 a.m.? Would I be scrambling to find matching sheets to cover the futon they're crashing on? My mother-in-law ironed our pillowcases in advance of our last visit.
Or is it enough that our house is happy and my kids are laughing and our meals are shared and everyone gets where they need to be every morning, more or less on time?
I don't know the answer to that. I don't think my niece and her friend expect me to.
I don't think they're giving me nearly the thought I'm giving myself. They don't appear in dire need of role models, and I'm not sure they'd choose me if they were.
What this week is really about, of course, is whether I feel worthy of being a role model. It's a question I don't grapple with much, until I've got an audience of young women about to embark on adulthood and all of its iterations.
I suppose my hope is that some part of their giant, beautiful brains registers and remembers this visit as evidence that you can embrace and enjoy it all — even when it's all a mess.