Friday, January 28, 2011

A Mishap

Today we had a rough afternoon. The kids had no school today so everyone was home and in each other's hair all day. Jackson woke up way too early this morning, so by about 4 p.m. every single thing that happened to him was a tragedy of inestimable proportions. Jared seemed to take particular delight in finding "innocent" ways to set him off. After many vain attempts to distract Jackson, get milk down him or otherwise limit the screaming, I pulled out the big guns: we made cookies. In almost no time Jackson was happily eating Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate-Chip Cookie dough while Jared scooped cookies onto the baking sheet.

By 5:35 p.m. peace was finally restored in our house and we had put the first tray of cookies in the oven. We we were waiting for it to bake when the phone rang. It was the mother of Jared's friend on his basketball team, the one that I pick up for practice which-- oh crap! There is practice today and it started at 5:30 and I completely spaced it. I yelled at the child who picked up the phone to tell her that we are on our way and started frantically herding children into the car. I drove as fast as I could to his house, internally kicking myself. So far I had been really reliable in our carpool. I take the boys to practice and they bring them home but I- who frequently struggle with being late-- have made a point to always pick up early and get the boys to practice on time. How could I be so stupid and blow it today?

When I reached Jared's teammate's house, he was waiting out front with his mother. She said, "Can we switch who drops off and who picks up? The boys are supposed to be to practice ten minutes early and you never get them there 10 minutes early." I was stunned. I knew they were supposed to be there 10 minutes early for the first practice of the season, but I assumed for the rest of the practices that there were just supposed to be there at the appointed time. Was the building even open earlier than the time practice started? On one of the days it definitely wasn't and often I usually wait in the parking lot until the person who has the key to the building arrives. I started to reply something about how picking the boys up wouldn't work very well for me and she interrupted and said, "You know what, I'm just going to take him myself. This carpool isn't really working out and I need to make sure he gets there on time," and then she got in her car.

Maybe it was just a bad day for me already, but I drove Jared to practice almost in tears. I felt completely humiliated. If she was so upset about them not arriving ten minutes early to practice each time then why had she not called me and told me as much? It's not like I couldn't have left earlier if I had known that was important to her. I guess I just foolishly assumed that getting them to practice on time was "on time." I recognize that she had every right to be angry with me for forgetting about practice today but the fact that she had actually been upset with me all along for not getting the boys to practice ten minutes early just threw me for a loop.

I think part of why it upset me so much is that I frequently fall into deriving my self-esteem from being "competent and capable." So the thought that some person out there would think that I am anything less than competent and capable is humiliating to me. But even more, I have this picture in my head that people who aren't familiar with Mormon mommy-hood must look at me like I'm a crazy woman from a different planet. I picture them looking at me and thinking, "What is her problem? She is, like, 31 and has four kids. Doesn't she know about birth control? She drives a dumpy car filled with children dressed however they chose to dress themselves with their hair still sticking in multiple directions from when they woke up this morning. She is always late, her house is a mess and her life is complete chaos. If you can't do simple, adult things-- like, say, picking someone up and arriving on time where you need to be-- then maybe you shouldn't have had so many kids in the first place. Maybe then your life would be a little more manageable." (I have a really bad habit of inserting hypothetical words into people's mouths and hypothetical thoughts into their heads.)

I guess I still struggle with feeling like I have to justify myself somehow. Like I need to jump up and wave my hands and say, "Wait a minute!! Actually, I'm not a total incompetent. I have a Master's degree and once had a lucrative job in technical writing and business process analysis (back in what seems like a former life). I have the life I do because I love and value family and I chose this-- not because I accidentally got pregnant and kept repeating the accident. I know I look like a nothing, but there's a lot of brain and talent and a person worth knowing hiding behind these 'mom jeans' and vomit-stained shirt."

So what is it about our culture that makes mommy-hood feel like being a nothing? What is it that makes me feel like being a stay-at-home mom is something that I need to apologize for? Or that the only way I can justify being a stay-at-home mom is if I am a perfect, always prompt, perfectly groomed, tidy-house mom? I know this is my own issue and I just need to come to terms with it myself. I need to be able to say, "I know that I am a person that is worth knowing, even if I'm late sometimes or forget things or have baby boogers on my shirt sleeve. My job is a tough job and deserves respect."

So, yes, this is about me and not about the carpool. I'm doing my best. God knows that and hopefully that's enough.

13 comments:

ped crossing said...

The whole time I read this all I could think was that you left the cookies in the oven and came home to find them smoking up the house! So glad you didn't burn the house down. :)

You are amazing. I think you are nuts, but then again we all in our own way. Myself included. Hugs. :)

ped crossing said...

We all are, gosh, can't type, think or speak these days!

Emily said...

Oh Karen! I'm so sorry that happened. You're a better person than I am because I totally would have said something rude back. It's always okay to stand up for yourself. It was definitely rude for her to do that to you though! :( I hope you start to feel better about everything. :) You are admired!

K kid said...

@ped: I did have the brainpower to pull the half-baked cookies out of the oven before we ran out the door. They never did come out quite right when I tried to finish baking them.

@Emily: I did eventually call the neighbor and talk to her about it. She offered to keep taking Jared home from practice still (since it's not out of her way)-- so she's not a bad person-- just really picky about being on time.:) And I respect that she really values being on time. I just wish she had said something because I really can be ten minutes early if I need to.

Emily Laing said...

I'm giving you a hug right now and telling you that you are an amazing woman and an amazing mother!!! If only we could walk in behind closed doors and see why people are the way they are, then we would never judge. Accolades of the world are nothing. It just shows that you don't need a pat on the back to know that your are a capable, intelligent person who is going to change the world....you already have even if your kid is late to basketball....

Ranell said...

Does the neighbor read your blog? Maybe you should send her link ... how's that for passive aggressive?(which is exactly what she is!)

At least from me, you can tell when I'm a little annoyed about you being late, or forgetting something. I'll let you know, we'll discuss it, and then I'll get over it really quickly. That's me AFTER therapy, by the way.

Ranell said...

Oh, yeah, and I'm late a lot too. I get the whole Mormon-mommy thing.

Rebecca said...

I agree. Mommyhood is waaay harder than being a working professional. It deserves all the respect in the world. Maybe we should go to the zoo together sometime, then our kids would fit right in!

Lynnette said...

When I read your post, my mouth dropped to the floor and I let out an audible gasp!! Unbelievable. This obviously was something that had been festering for some time in order for her to unleash on you like that. You have a lot of courage to call her later to talk about it. I never could've done that. It would have thrown me for such a loop that the friendship (however convenient or superficial it may be) would be over. I admire you for that! And kudos for finding something to instill peace back into your home, if only for a few hours. That deserves a medal in, and of itself!

Kelly(M&M) said...

This post pulls at my heart strings because it resonates so well with me. It is tough being blindsided like that. I am sure she just thought she was being nice by not mentioning you being "late" to pick him up, but wow, what a low blow. I am sorry you had to go through this and I am impressed with how you handled it. I think you are pretty amazing Karen and a fantastic mother.

brittanimae said...

Thanks for saying what we all feel sometimes! It's frustrating that choosing to have more than one or two children today can make us pariahs--kids are so fun (if also difficult, obnoxious, and sometimes incredible poorly behaved) and so worth the work we put into them. I often feel the eyes of judgement saying "well, if you decided to have four, it must have been because you were capable of combing four heads of hair everyday, right? right???" And actually, no. Kids really only need nice hair on Sundays, don't they?

Okay, I'm getting kind of rambly here, but just wanted to tell you that the work you do is good! And your kids learn from not having everything taken care of by someone else all the time. Go you!

Lisa said...

The more I get to know you the more I admire and respect you, even if, or perhaps especially because some times you are not 10 minutes early for everything!

One thing I have learned in this life is that we never know everyone's story, and we should cut people a little more slack sometimes. You Deserved some slack for forgetting practice that day. and maybe your neighbor deserves some for being a total hag. (maybe...or she might just be a hag) but good for you for not blasting her!

Lisa

Jared and Allyson said...

I don't know where I've been all this time - how did I miss this post?

Anyway, I just have to say THANK YOU for expressing so well what so many of us feel. Or at how I often feel. Even though the little particulars are slightly different, the underlying feelings/struggles that I have seem to be the same.

I love reading your blog because of your honesty and openness. Thank you for sharing - I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who periodically forgets things, struggles with crazy kids, bases self-esteem on my capabilities (or lack thereof in my case), etc.

For what it's worth, I think you're doing a great job with your kids. You really are awesome!