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….