Must… not… succumb…

By Mir
October 27, 2005

There are certain changes that happen to a woman when she becomes a mother. If she gives birth, her body changes; it will likely never be the same again, whether from stretch marks or breast changes or surgical traces. Whether the child comes from her body or not, the mother is transformed. She now has eyes in the back of her head. She has bionic hearing. She has an innate lie detector and an Achilles heel.

And of course, every mother has the highly developed ability to become a martyr at a moment’s notice.

(Admittedly, some of the Mommy Powers are more useful than others.)

I’ve yet to find a useful application for the martyr role, but that doesn’t stop me from fluttering my eyelashes at it, buying it a drink, and leaning in close to it, sometimes. I can’t seem to help myself. Its pull is sometimes irresistible.

And I know, I know, that simmering in my own self-righteousness does nothing but eat a fresh hole in the lining of my stomach. What is amusing in the abstract…

Q: How many Jewish mothers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: Nevermind! I’ll just sit here in the dark!

… is often torturous in reality.

So here’s the deal: Today is one of those days where I am resenting my kids, and I am ashamed of that resentment, and I am also worried that if I’m able to squelch what caused that resentment I will be simultaneously squelching the needs I have apart from being a mother. I need only to ponder that tapestry of conflicting feelings for about five seconds before my head explodes and then my attention turns towards wondering if Magic Erasers will get brain matter off the walls without damaging the paint, and if so, who will actually attend to that seeing as how I am now headless and probably dead?

I engage a babysitter for my children exactly once a week. She comes over on Thursday nights so that I can get all wild and crazy… at church choir practice. This is the extent of my extracurricular activities. And now that I am working from home? It’s one of the few times I see other adults during the week.

My sitter cancelled at the last minute. It happens sometimes. She’s a wonderful girl, but she’s only 15, and although she’s been sitting for me for… ummm… three years now, every Thursday night, all school-year long, sometimes she completely forgets this engagement until the night before or the day of. Then I get a breathless, apologetic phone call and I find myself up the proverbial creek.

I called the emergency back-up sitter, who was unavailable. Her mother (a neighbor) offered to keep the kids at her house during practice, if I liked. It would keep them up past their bedtime (and probably wire them to the gills, as they’d be playing with three other kids), but I missed choir last week because Chickadee was sick. I hate to miss twice in a row. I thanked my neighbor for the offer and told her I’d let her know.

I checked with my ex, and he had plans for the evening. Of course. Must be nice. No, don’t worry about it, I’ll use the neighbor and make do.

Except that the kids came home from school in rare form, fighting and screaming and pitching fits and generally behaving like they were rabid animals I was poking at with a taser. Two things became immediately clear. One, these were not children who needed to be staying up an extra hour. Two, I could not inflict this upon my neighbor and her kids unless I was hoping to have my house TPed and egged next week.

You know the ending to this story, right? I missed choir. It’s not such a big deal.

Except that I’m angry with my sitter, a perfectly lovely teenager who is more responsible than most, for flaking on me at the last minute.

Except that I’m angry with my kids, for acting up on the one day it might’ve been handy for them to behave.

Except that I’m furious with my ex, for having the freedom to go and do pretty much whatever he wants to do, whenever he wants to do it. He plays in several sports leagues, goes out with friends, and is almost wholly unfettered by our kids.

Except that I’m annoyed that I am the one who cancels my plans to stay home when the kids are sick, and that I am the one who cancels plans whenever there’s a snag.

Except that I’m pissed that my ex acted like he would’ve been perfectly happy to help out–and probably, you know, he was sincere–if I had only given him a bit more notice. Well yeah, Einstein, a little more notice would be great. Oh wait, let me check… in the event of no notice… oh, that’s RIGHT! It’s right here in the mother’s handbook! In the event of unforseen difficulty, Mom takes the hit. Of course.

Except that I am aggravated that I don’t feel like I can have anything more than a single night per week for something to myself, and doubly aggravated than when it is taken from me it feels like such a huge loss, because really, when did I become the sort of person who treasures an hour and a half with a bunch of people twice my age and a drill sargent of a music director in a room where the temperature is often around 55 degrees?

My sitter is being a teenager, my kids are being kids, my ex is entitled to have a life (I suppose), and I…


… am being a brat.

So. I gave myself permission to vent and be angry and resentful for the evening. Already my crankiness has already been somewhat tempered by a dizzying romp round and round the kitchen island, earlier. Do you have any idea how funny I am? When you start to chase me and I run and then you switch directions and then I SWITCH DIRECTION, TOO… why, I am a COMEDIC GENIUS. I’m an innovator, what can I say. Also, feral children are easily entertained.

I’m trying to shake off the martyr thing. I am.

Lord knows that if I combust, no one else even knows where the Magic Erasers are, much less would feel compelled to clean up the mess….


  1. Chookooloonks

    Dude … I have the voodoo doll almost finished, all I need is a face. Just tell me which one you want this baby to resemble, and they’ll have a hatpin up their hoozit in no time …

    …I mean, seriously, what good is it to be from the islands if I don’t get to use my mad skillz every once in a while?

    Talk to me, Goose: who’s it gonna be?

  2. Scarlett LeAnn

    Sorry to hear you missed choir and that you are having a horrible Thursday night.Have faith, maybe tomorrow will be better. I mean, after all, tomorrow is another day. Take care and Bless Be..

  3. Karen

    I’m thinking Mr. Ex needs to be retained as the permanent Thursday night sitter. All problems solved — and you’ll have $10 extra in your pocket each week!

  4. Jules

    I’m sorry you had to miss choir. I know I have my days that I fight the martyr demons – they’re not usually pretty. Karen’s idea seems like a good one, maybe?

  5. Laura GF

    Mir, the first sentences of this entry were so beautiful that I wanted to share them over at my site. I admire your writing so much and read it every day, though I rarely comment. Please let me know if it is not okay to include some of your writing over at my blog. This is a one time thing, but I will take it down right away if it seems inappropriate to you. Thanks for sharing your wonderful stories about your wonderful life.

  6. buffi

    I think that you are perfectly justified in your anger and resentment. My husband is HERE and I still get the shaft if something comes up. I’m always the one who has to cancel if circumstances change.

    And, this is why we blog, right? To have a place to vent those feelings so that our brains don’t explode all over the walls? Thus averting any Magic Eraser crises.

    BTW, did you know that with enough scrubbing, Magic Erasers will get magic marker out of carpet? I’m assumng that goes for brains as well.

  7. Sheryl

    Oh yeah, I hear ya. Is it so much to ask that we get an hour or two among adults every now and then?!(Yeah, my back is killing me from carrying this cross around.)

  8. susan

    I feel your pain. I don’t know you or your children but sometimes kids are way more well behaved for others than they are for family. So maybe next time you could go ahead and leave them with the neighbor and they’d be angels. If not, just send brownies.

  9. barbex

    The “mother always will…” part, how I hate that! Why me, why is it only me all the time?
    I feel for you, Mir. Looks like we just have to do this because nobody else will.

  10. For Joke!

    Ow. Ow. Ow. My heart hurts reading this post! You totally and utterly and completely have the right to be annoyed when your night a week to yourself doesn’t happen.

  11. KimberlyDi

    This is a phase in life that will all-too-soon be over. Kids will be grown and you will have plenty of time on your hands. No one will need you and you’ll look back longingly at the good old days.

    Frustration is normal. God bless the internet. If I didn’t have that outlet back then when I was stuck at home, I would have gone insane. (Back then was when AOL charged by the hour and I maxed out my first credit card.)

  12. TheAdoptShopMama

    I am SO feeling you on this one! I’m a single adoptive mom, so I should’ve seen my martyr days coming, but I still become enraged at my own selfishness and unpreparedness when the #$%^ hits the fan. Wallow, wallow and wallow some more. Then it’ll all be better. (Or at least the alcohol with have made you forget!)

  13. Theresa

    This is tough. You are managing it all, well too, I might add, and you deserve some ‘you’ time. Our kids are generally our first priority, but Mir has to put Mir first sometimes. We can’t become lost in our roles as moms…because when that happens, we aren’t doing them or us any favors.

    Karen had a great idea. Make arrangements with the ex to take the kids on Thursday, and one other night, even if it’s only every other week. Bully the man if you have to – he made the kids too!

    I have nothing to offer other than that…I’ve got my husband right here, but when push comes to shove, those kids are my responsibility in his eyes, because I am the mom.

    Your blog, you blog what you want to blog. Blow off steam when you need to. We all understand.

  14. stephanie

    You deserve that time…reschedule that sitter and do something else FUN!

  15. Bob

    It probably doesn’t help right at the moment (EVERYONE deserves a good self-indulgent wallow every so often) but, along with the frustrations, you are reaping the benefits of being Mom. Your kid’s dad will NEVER have the indescribably rich, life changing experience of having raised these wonderful children. He’s the looser here, not you.

    I agree with the above comments, you need to take care of your needs too. Give yourself more than a few (uncertain) hours a week. If nothing else, make sure that you schedule something fun for yourself on the weekends/nights he has the kids. Don’t just look at that time as prime house cleaning time. Let the dust bunnies live one more day and get out and do something for YOU. You’re the most important human being in Monkey and Chickadee’s lives and you owe it to them to take care of yourself.

  16. divinecalm

    Whew! Feel better now? Hang in there…thank goodness your kids have such a responsible mom. Go you!

  17. ben

    Okay, this may seem strange (and please, put down the frying pan until I’m finished) but I can kinda relate.

    *checks to make sure penis still there. Yup.*

    Okay, the “it always falls in my lap” part. It doesn’t, with me, my kids ALWAYS want their momma. But when things pop up on short notice, especially during the work week? It’s me. Because my wife teaches at a college and they are not allowed off unless they are really sick and/or dead, not to mention that finding a substitute is a real bitch, so when the school nurse calls about a fever? I’m on call. When we need that third dentist appointment in as many weeks? Me again.

    My wife, of course, in addition to working more than full time also cooks 92 meals a week and does the baby’s hair and helps administer band-aids to young Jedi and supervises Einstein’s spelling homework. So it’s far from ‘all me, all the time’ but, um, okay, never mind. It’s not even close.

    So, um, what am I saying? I guess I feel your pain. And I’m laughing very hard about “feral children are easily entertained.” And you need to find a sitter and go out and whoop it up and maybe, I dunno, treat yourself to a trip to the bookstore or coffee shop or something non-feral.

  18. Liz

    When it comes to mothering, it’s hard not to succumb — and you know you’re easily pleased when a night out means choir practice or, in my case, food shopping and any one of the four parent/teacher conferences scheduled between this week and next.

    So, do something pleasant for a change! And while you’re at it, do it for…blog about it…and let us…ahem…me…live vicariously through you…’cause you’re so pretty.

    A little penis chopping (Hey Ben, look, something cast irony) perhaps ;o)

  19. Liz

    I meant, “do something for you!”

    Sorry, but Mini-me wants the computer and is tugging at the keyboard and won’t let me fini

  20. Jenny

    I feel your pain, sister.

  21. Nothing But Bonfires

    For future reference, I find Shout Wipes much better for cleaning my exploded head-matter from the walls. Just so you know. And I do it a lot.

  22. David

    What? Mir, I’m surprised at you. Two kids and you’ve not yet mastered the time-honored, motherly art of guilt-tripping? Tsk, tsk. *ducks quickly*

  23. Amy-GO

    Babylove, you deserve a life as much as your ex does. Put Karen’s idea into effect immediately and then reschedule that sitter for another night. Then you can have “All About MIR” time every week. Cuts WAY down on the resentment, and that will keep those pesky brains off the ceiling.

    Wish you were here…tonight is “All About GO” night and I’m headed for a date with a roller coaster…nothing like screaming your head off to decrease stress. Although I suppose you don’t HAVE to be on a roller coaster for that…;)

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