I looked in the mirror as I got ready for bed, annoyed and slightly surprised to see physical evidence of stress oozing from my face in the form of angry, itchy hives. You see, it’s scan week – a week when tempers run shorter, and anxiety runs higher – but that’s not the surprising part. The surprising part is that this blog isn’t about scan week. Or cancer. It’s about the fact that the hives are probably less about scans and more about my new(ish) job: stay-at-home-mom.
You see, I’m not, by nature, a Susie Homemaker. And I’m not sure I’m actually naturally maternal either. Or maybe that’s just the hives talking.
I thought I knew what it meant to stay home all day with my kids. I thought I understood it from summers or weekends, from the times I was with them before I went back to my job, before I sat in my car alone or in the quiet of my classroom for minutes at a time. I’ve never questioned my mom skills more than now. And this isn’t a boo-hoo, woe is me, end of times, someone tell me I’m great kind of blog, because I know I’m doing okay. I know I’m not a bad mom. I’m simply just an over-anxious, impatient, high-maintenance one.
To give you an idea, this is my brain on stay-at-home-momming: I hate stains of any kind because do you know how much clothes cost? And oh, dear Lord child! You looked so cute before you slid across the floor on your knees straight into the blueberries your sister dropped for the dogs on the floor I haven’t had the time or energy to clean. And wait! What are you thinking!? Why in the world would you clean off the ice pop you dropped on your WHITE shirt? Come to think of it, why do you even have a white shirt? What was I thinking when I bought that? Was I thinking? Oh. No. Probably not. You probably tricked me into buying it with your sweet smile and good listening ears that you left on because I bribed you with Chick-fil-A so you’d be good while I shopped for new clothes for you because you grow like a freaking weed. And wow! I’m really good at these parenting idioms.
No wonder I’m so exhausted.
Sometimes, at the end of a long day, I sit on the couch eating a (keto) cookie, and wonder what my kids think of me when I’m mad. What do they think of me when my teeth are clenched, and my fists are balled, and I’m trying not to lose it? What do I look like to them? Do I look scary or just ridiculous – a spitting, angry caricature of the woman who makes them breakfast and tucks them into bed and whispers I love you as they close their eyes.
How will those moments shape them? When they look back on their childhood will they remember that I never wanted to play Dream House or Ice Cream Shop or will they hold tight to the hours upon hours I spent reading them stories and lying next to them as they slept, curling my arm over them just so they’d know I was there? Will yelling and timeouts and “losing privileges” color their memories or will they think of the bike rides and park visits and Uptown Funk dance parties?
And then, while I’m working myself up, in between episodes of Suits or The Office, the baby starts to cry or Z stands at the top of the stairs because she’s scared, and I feel my brain implode, annoyed at the interruption and myself for feeling the way I do. I make some comment about how “I never get a chance to rest” and I walk my tired body up the stairs and into one child or the other’s room. And while I’ll pick that kid up, or wrap my arm around her so she’ll know I’m there, the truth is that I don’t always want to. I’m tired and I’m raw and every nerve in my body is buzzing with the need to rest on its own. Nighttime is supposed to be MY time.
Then when they’re finally calm, I come back downstairs and read some beautiful mommy blog that’s sunshine and rainbows and tied up in ribbons of being a mom is the best, most rewarding job and I learn so much from these babies and I wonder what it is I’m doing wrong.
And I feel guilty.
And the hives itch like hell.
And there’s no neat ribbon to tie up this story.
Because it’s scan week and I’m a stay-at-home-mom and I have to go feed the kids breakfast before one of them dies of starvation.