The Guilty Conscience: I Work Therefore I Am Neglectful

“It’s fine. You have to work…again. Maybe we’ll snuggle tomorrow.”

My daughter said it in a way that let me know it most certainly was not fine. For being only nine years old, she sure has mastered how to lay on the guilt in a flawlessly passive-aggressive way, without knowing what passive-aggressive even means.

In my defense, it was 9:30 on a Sunday night, a half hour past her bedtime, when she wanted me to snuggle with her. But I really needed to get a jump-start on the week. I had two freelance deadlines, an author visit to prepare for, a blog to write, Lulu & Milo coloring pages to illustrate, contacts to touch base with, pieces of prose to submit, letters to compose, a sales tax report to file, networking to do, excel spreadsheets to create, two days of substitute teaching, a basketball practice to plan, Girl Scout cookie-selling to oversee, snack supplies to buy and send to school, a birthday present to find, laundry to catch up on…

You get the idea. My life looks like that of millions of other mothers. But some of this is new to me. After being a stay-at-home mom for the last nine years, I’m back working full-time. The last time I did that, I was responsible for zero children. Just a dog. And the only time she made me feel guilty was when I was eating a spoonful of peanut butter in front of her.

I am not the only one who has felt the adjustments that have come with me financially contributing to the family again. My kids have noticed that, even though I am physically home when I work, I’m not as present as I used to be. I know it is partly because I’m still trying to find this little elusive thing called balance, which is exceptionally slippery when you never actually leave your office. My six-year-old son only seems to be bothered if I ask him to be quiet while I work or if I don’t make his chocolate milk as quickly as he would like. But my daughter is extremely sensitive to it.

And it’s hard.

It’s hard because, despite having a seemingly never-ending schedule, I am finally doing what I love. And…here’s the sweet, syrup-soaked cherry…I’m getting paid for it. While I really did enjoy being an English teacher prior to becoming a parent, it wasn’t my dream job. It was my most favorite attainable job. My if-I’m-really-honest-with-myself-I-want-to-be-a-writer-but-I’m-afraid-of-failure-and-I-think-I-could-make-a-damn-good-teacher job. And I wouldn’t trade being home with my kids these last nine years for anything, not even Sandra Boynton’s career. Because I adored it and all its clichéd glory. But now…now I am a writer. An author even. Guys, sometimes I just can’t even. I can’t.

renaissance baby
Now I feel guilt and creeped out all at once.

But then I see my daughter’s mopey face when I tell her maybe I can paint her nails tomorrow. She looks like one of those damn sad babies in Renaissance paintings. And that just makes me feel accosted by every blog post I’ve ever read about making time for your kids. Next thing you know, my kids will start spending all their time at Lucy’s house. And when Lucy’s mom says they should check with me to see if it’s okay to stay for dinner, Grace will get all quiet and sulky and say, “Mom’s not around very much. She won’t even notice we’re not home.” And then Lucy’s mom will mentally adopt my kids right then and there and tell them they can eat as many homemade oatmeal butterscotch cookies they want, since they obviously haven’t had a decent meal in months. And they can come over whenever they want. She even has extra pajamas for them. Oh my, God! Just back off, Lucy’s mom! I’m right here! I only told her I couldn’t snuggle tonight! Ease up on the Angelina Jolie complex.

Um, where was I? Oh yeah…

But I DID make time for them…for nine years. And frankly, I’m still making time for them. I’m still the coach and the Girl Scout leader and the classroom volunteer and the chauffeur and the Full House watching buddy and the snuggler and the problem solver and the laundry do-er. Okay, maybe not that last one. I sucked at laundry before. Now I’m just abysmal.

Yet, those times don’t seem to matter when it’s the one time I am refusing to be there.

Working mothers are lauded for showing our children it’s not just men who can successfully handle a career and family.

Working mothers should be seen as examples of possibility. Then why does my child just see me as neglectful?Tweet: Working mothers should be seen as examples of possibility. Then why does my child just see me as neglectful? http://ctt.ec/lX3kc+

working motherI know part of this simply stems from things being different from how they were before. Had I always been a working parent, she wouldn’t feel as if something was being stolen from her. Because she would never have had it in the first place. And this isn’t like when her little brother was born and I explained that my heart would simply expand to hold my love for him. He wasn’t going to take away any that already belonged to her. Me going back to work is going to take away time that once belonged to her. Because try as I might, Time is pretty much that pair of pre-baby jeans that just.won’t.zip, no matter how badly we want it. Something’s gotta give. And it ain’t gonna be the jeans.

What I’m hoping is that this is a case of the sting still being too fresh for her. I’m hoping she will come around. I’m hoping she will be proud of me. I take that back. I know she is proud of me. And she is extremely proud of my book.

But maybe one day she will realize that I wanted to be her mom AND a writer not because being her mom alone wasn’t enough…but because being her mom made me enough, so I could finally become a writer.Tweet: I wanted to be her mom & a writer, not because being her mom alone wasn't enough. Being her mom made me enough so I could become a writer.

I guess I owe her a pretty big snuggle for that.

•••

Don’t want to miss a post? Want to stay updated on my author events and news? Subscribe to my Weekly Mayhem Newletter HERE!

Customers who like this blog also follow me on Facebook, Twitter (@RYouFinishedYet), Instagram (ryoufinishedyet), and Pinterest.

Halloween Without the Trick-or-Treating

Halloween bit the big one this year. And considering how I feel about the spooky holiday (I love it like a third child), this was enough to put me in a mini depression that could only be lifted by bite-sized Snickers and a package of pumpkin Peeps. (Yes, I said Peeps. Don’t pollute my comment section with your disparaging Peep hate speeches. All candy has worth. Even Good & Plenty.)

It started when our brilliant Trunk or Treat Continue reading “Halloween Without the Trick-or-Treating”

Remember the Time…A Stranger Called? (Halloween Edition)

The topic for this week’s Remember the Time Blog Hop (Halloween edition) is that time we were flippin’ freakin’ scared out of our minds…or anything else Halloween related. Unlike the last time we focused our nostalgia on fear, feel free to unleash your tales of ghosts, goblins, ax murderers, and real life horror. Now go find your security blanket and join me for my own trip down Nightmare on Elm Street. Continue reading “Remember the Time…A Stranger Called? (Halloween Edition)”

What’s the Dispatch Code for Stealing a Wagon Wheel?

Somewhere in a Kirksville, Missouri police station there sits a file bearing the names of me and my husband, all thanks to the Great Wagon Wheel Caper of ’99.

It wasn’t premeditated; but I don’t know that it could be called a crime of passion either. It was more an incident à la alcohol, if you will. But what did you expect? We were just college kids after all.

It started as a fairly typical Saturday Continue reading “What’s the Dispatch Code for Stealing a Wagon Wheel?”

A Suburban Horror Story: The Return Chuck E.

When most people hear the name Chucky, two things come to mind: a demonic doll who terrorizes mankind and a mouse who pushes pizza and skee ball. Or maybe they are actually one in the same! GASP!

chucky and chuck e cheese
Look away…it’s terrifying

Think about it. Have you ever seen them in the same place at the same time? And they have the exact same M.O. They both worm their way into our lives through our kids as if they are harmless byproducts of childhood fun, only to later strangle the life out of us and our well-meaning desire to make our young ones happy.

A disgust for Chucky from the Child’s Play horror movie franchise is normal; but what do I have against Chuck E. Cheese, you say? Many of you already know my seedy background with this over-sized cartoon mascot. But if you don’t, I suggest you first read my post, “Chuck E. Cheese Could Have Been Your Father,” before proceeding. Everything will become crystal clear after that…I promise. Don’t worry. I will wait for you…

…I know, right? What can I say? I’m blessed. Anyhoo…

So here is the next chapter in the ongoing horrific saga of me and Chuck E. He’s stalking me. I am completely convinced of it. I thought I had managed to escape from his clutches oh so many years ago, but I didn’t count on having children…children he would end up using as pawns enabling him to come back into my life and terrorize me.

It is true that since becoming a mother, we have visited Chuck E. Cheese restaurants on numerous occasions, mostly for school fundraiser nights and a few birthday parties. But I honestly thought that Chuck E never noticed me, that the wear and tear of motherhood and almost two decades had rendered me unrecognizable to him. But I should have known he wouldn’t show his cards that early in the game. Silently, and unbeknownst to me, he patiently endeared himself to my two kids with each passing visit. A high-five here. A free extra token there. How were they to know they were playing right into his grubby, freakishly large paws?

And it worked. About a month or so ago, these words oozed from my daughter’s lips: “I want to have my birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese this year.”

Despite the many, many, many other options I offered to her, she was staunch in her desire. It’s all I’ve ever wanted, she begged. Fine. I am not a victim. If this is the game you’re playing you sick bastard, I’m in. I’m not scared of you anymore. Me OR my 6 foot 6 enormously giant husband who once ripped a life-sized wrought iron wagon wheel lawn ornament straight from the ground. We will see who is going to be squeaking in their boots.

After trepidatiously making the reservation for the party, I tried to calm my nerves by being rational about the situation. That was a long time ago, Kelly. He has probably changed. Certainly a nationwide franchise wouldn’t risk their reputation or the threat of lawsuits by keeping a sleazebag of a mouse around for so many years. Would they? So I decided to do some research of my own. What I found wasn’t pretty. I should warn you; the following pictures may be disturbing. Please make sure your children aren’t present, and I apologize in advance for scarring for life the child that resides in your heart. But the truth must be known…

Are you really surprised? I mean, the guy has spent over 35 years unfazed by the background noise of arcade games and corny song parodies. This also explains why you feel hungover after leaving the place. I bet he circulates it through the vents.
Are you really surprised? I mean, the guy has spent over 35 years unfazed by the background noise of arcade games and corny song parodies. This also explains why you feel hung over after leaving the place. I bet he circulates it through the vents.
chuck e cheese tickets
I swear I’ve heard him whisper “Make it rain” when he throws out those free tickets.
See? SEEEEEE??!! I TOLD you he was a creep! I wish I didn’t feel so justified.
chuck e cheese hug
From the looks of the fashions in this picture, the harassment has been happening for decades.

On the day of the party, my guard was up. I secretly took vengeful satisfaction when Chuck E. emerged to greet our party and my daughter’s friends ran up, encircled him, and started poking and prodding his mouse parts. My mouth mumbled a dutiful but half-hearted, “Girls, don’t assault Chuck E.” However, my mind was screaming, “NOT SO FUN TO BE GROPED, IS IT, YOU ANTHROPOMORPHIC CREEP?”

Payback
Payback

But Chuck E. knew where to hit back where it hurt: my kids wanted a picture with him. Now he would forever be a part of our sacred family memories on film. I could feel a panic attack begin raging through my body as my finger pressed down on the shutter release.

Wipe that grin off your face, you dirty rodent.
Wipe that grin off your face, you dirty rodent.

And he wouldn’t just leave us be after that. He insisted on being part of that special moment, when we sang happy birthday to my daughter and watched her blow out her candle. I felt violated by his blatant photo-bombing.

Look at him, staring right at me. He knows what he is doing. He is trying to see the fear in my eyes.
Look at him, staring right at me. He knows what he is doing. He is trying to see the fear in my eyes.

But it was almost over. The party was nearing the end. At one point, my daughter came over to me, looked at Chuck E. and said, “Don’t worry, mom. I’m sure it’s a totally different guy in that costume than the time he creeped you out.” Those were her exact words. My keenly perceptive, incredibly astute daughter said that during her birthday party. Listen to the children, they say. She was right. I finally felt like I could breathe again. I was being silly. Here I was giving the stink eye to someone who was probably not even born when that long ago Chuck E. made a pass at me. I needed to let it go. Besides, it was time for my daughter to take her turn in the ticket blaster machine, and for Chuck E. to make his exit back to the break room.

The sun came out again, and in its glowing rays, Chuck E. Cheese didn’t seem like such a menacing place after all. Everyone was smiling. We had made it. We had survived a birthday party at the place where a kid can be a kid. We made it out alive.

I stood among the group of 8 year olds crowded around the ticket blaster, watching my daughter try to ineptly grab tiny tickets flying around her. At first, I thought some of the air had escaped the machine, until I recognized the familiar stench of Limburger breath linger on the back of my neck for just a moment before it disappeared into a purple door adorned with the sign “Employees Only.”

My son, gluttonous for his own turn in the ticket blaster, turned to me and said, “I want to have my birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese, too!” 

My nightmare continues…

* Disclaimer: While based on true events, this post is entirely for entertainment purposes only. At no time did anyone employed by or associated with Chuck E. Cheese restaurants harass or behave inappropriately toward me, my family, or our party guests. In fact, I would actually recommend having a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese (did I just say that?????). Despite it not being MY favorite place to go as an adult, it was a very easy and relatively inexpensive experience. In fact, we ended up having to cancel our party at the last-minute due to an incredibly ridiculous and unexpected snowstorm (at the END of MARCH?), and the manager was extremely understanding and did not penalize us at all. Everything, including our bonus tokens for originally scheduling on a Sunday, were transferred to our rescheduled date (which was not a Sunday) with no hassle. Our party attendant was attentive, easy to work with, and she even ended up giving my kids bonus tickets for no reason. It was literally the easiest birthday party I have ever thrown (see my Birthday Party Planning Junkie post to understand what I mean). All in all, happy kid and happy mom. As for the mouse…he was completely harmless.

Photo Sources (in order of appearance): gamingbolt.com/chuckecheese.com; fark.com; outpost81.com; nursethehateblogspot.com; dulutheast86.com; fanpop.com. The last three photos are mine.

•••

Don’t want to miss a post? Want to stay updated on my author events and news? Subscribe to my Weekly Mayhem Newletter HERE!

Chuck E. Cheese Could Have Been Your Father

This is a post I wrote about a year ago, but I felt the driving need to re-blog it today as I will be heading to Chuck E. Cheese’s with my children for our preschool’s fundraiser night. Please pray that tonight I don’t encounter another reason to ever write another post like this…

Chuck E. Cheese’s.

That is all you have to say to hear a collective, audible grunt from every parent within earshot. It may very well be the place “where a kid can be a kid,” but it is most certainly the place where a parent can get a preview of one of the circles of Hell. Okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration. But a place where your money gets you a mediocre pizza, a temporary tattoo and fun size Airhead candy for a mere 100 tickets, and a lingering sticky film over your entire body is not what I envision Heaven to be. Maybe Purgatory.

But I can deal with all of that. And I understand that in the eyes of my children, Chuck E. Cheese’s is the ultimate restaurant. After all, as a kid I felt the same way about its predecessor, Showbiz Pizza. So when faced with having to take my own kids to this pizza funland for a birthday party or fundraiser night (because those are pretty much the only circumstances under which we set foot in there), my audible grunt is not rooted in my disdain for the place. My distaste for Chuck E. Cheese’s comes from the mouse himself.

Yes, Chuck E. has scarred me for life. Let me take you back in time to the day it all happened…

The year was 1993. I was a sophomore in high school. For some reason completely incomprehensible to me now, but which clearly made sense to the idiot teenage brain, I went to Chuck E. Cheese’s with a few friends. Maybe we really wanted a neon pillow shaped liked an alien head and figured the best way to get one was to earn tickets playing Whack-A-Mole for an entire afternoon. Anyway, I remember it clearly. I was in the middle of one of my personal best rounds of skee ball when I felt a large, cartoonish presence next to me. There stood Chuck E., mimicking my skee ball maneuvers. Ha ha. Funny Chuck E. Now move along and go high-five some six-year-old. But he did not move on. He stood there for a little while, looking at me. I tried to ignore him and continued playing until he left. To my dismay, he did not stay away for long. He followed me, silently, creepilyfrom one game to the next. Don’t you have to go perform “Disco Chuck” or “Rockin’ Robin” with your band right about now? It was incredibly disturbing.

Finally, it must have been Chuck E.’s break time, because he scampered away behind a door, and I started breathing easy again. That is, until I turned around and found myself standing face to face with a Chuck E. Cheese employee – a human one this time. I thought maybe he was coming over to apologize for Chuck E.’s annoying behavior and to treat me to five free tokens for my inconvenience. I was mistaken. Here is how the conversation went down:

Employee: “Chuck E. wanted me to come out here and tell you that he thinks you’re cute.”

Me: <crickets chirping>

Employee: He’s a really nice guy. He wanted to know what you thought of his tail.

Me: <crickets chirping>

Employee: So when he comes back, you wanna hang out?

Me: I don’t date mice.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. I WAS HIT ON BY CHUCK E. CHEESE. Of all the celebrities whose eye I could have caught, that was my one shining moment. Pathetic. Disgusting. And down right Creepy with a capital C.

Chuck E. Cheese
“Is that your tail or are you just happy to see me?” photo from arcadeheroes.com

And THAT is why I hate Chuck E. Cheese’s. Since that very unfortunate day, I shudder a little whenever I hear Chuck E.’s nasaly voice on a commercial. When we are at the restaurant, I get weirded out and have the urge to hide whenever Chuck E. starts walking the floor. But I grin and bear it, all so my kids can have their fun.

And that is exactly what I did this past Thursday when Michael’s preschool had their fundraising night at Chuck E. Cheese’s. I bought my pizza and tokens like a dutiful mother. I helped Grace score extra points on the basketball game so she could earn more tickets toward junk I don’t want in my house. And I even alerted Michael when I saw Chuck E. sauntering among the customers (no doubt scanning the crowd for some unsuspecting female on whom he could work his “playa” moves). Michael loves Chuck E. Cheese, and when he saw the mouse, he ran up and gave him a hug. As I watched, a bit horrified, I had the thought, “Oh Michael. You have no idea. Chuck E. Cheese could have been your father.”

Then I threw up a little in my mouth.

(The Chuck E. Saga continued a few years later. For the next chapter, click here.)

•••

Don’t want to miss a post? Want to stay updated on my author events and news? Subscribe to my Weekly Mayhem Newletter HERE!

A Ruined Target Shopping Trip and Other Things That Annoy Parents

Target LogoIt should be illegal for the Icee machine at Target to ever, ever be broken.

I usually like to make my trips to “the mecca” solo, but when I do have to bring a kid or two along, $1.69 + tax is a small price to pay to insure I can give Target my full shopping attention, as it rightfully deserves.

So you can imagine my terror when I arrived at the snack counter today, with Michael in tow, and ordered a medium ICEE (a medium is a nice compromise between the completely unnecessary sugar spaz that comes with a large, and the decreased browsing time that a small buys), only to have my request met with the words, “The ICEE machine is brrrrooooookeeeeeennnn.” (I write it that way to denote how the word sounded to me at the moment…like in the movies when everything happens in slow-mo, and you hear something in that deep, drawn-out voice that signals catastrophe.)

Well, crap.

“We have popcorn.” Thanks, but that doesn’t help me whatsoever. What good is popcorn when all it will do is make Michael thirsty, prompting him to ask for an ICEE? Does Mr. Snack Counter Man not foresee this vicious cycle?

I simply tell him, “Thanks anyway,” as I walk away. I break the news to Michael, which of course results in a pitiful, whimpering cry. And I realize there will be no moments of self-actualization or nirvana on this particular Target trip.

So while we are on the subject, here are a few other things that I think should be illegal in order to make parents’ lives a lot easier:

1. Other parents announcing in public that they are taking their kids to McDonald’s. Every parenting handbook should warn against committing this act of terrorism on fellow parents. It’s just not a nice thing to do to those who have children within earshot of that announcement. Any parent who breaks this rule should be subject to a punishment that lasts as long as the endless whining that results from my children overhearing that OTHER kids get to go to McDonald’s, but THEIR mom hates them and gives them peanut butter for the fourth time this week.

misbehaving in churce
You may need to pray, but this pew is just begging to have my cars driven all over it.

2. Churches with no cry rooms. It may be the House of the Lord, but surely having no cry room is the Devil’s doing. It’s hard enough to receive God’s Word when you have a two-year-old asking for Cheerios and pointing out that there are no pictures in the hymnals, but it’s near impossible when you have the added stares of people wondering why you can’t control your children. Yes, you are justified in your indignation Ms. Judgey McJudgepants…it is completely acceptable to expect a toddler to sit quietly still for forty-five minutes to an hour. I’m sure all of YOUR children did in the good old days. Thankfully, our church does have a cry room, but I have been to my fair share of ones that didn’t. And it is just not fun. In the worst cases, I honestly wondered what was the point of me even being there. In fact, do you want to know how important I think cry rooms are? One of the reasons we actually chose to join the parish we did was because it had a more welcoming cry room than the other nearby parish. It may sound a little shallow, but I can tell you I have had mostly pleasant church experiences. Nothing frees you up to get closer to God than not having to worry when your kid decides to sing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle song instead of “On Eagle’s Wings.”  

fuse beads
I’d like to give whoever invented these a swift kick in the pants

3. Giving Fuse Beads as a birthday present. If you don’t know what Fuse Beads are, consider yourself lucky. While in theory they are a mild-mannered craft project, in reality they are minuscule menaces that are impossible for children without fully developed dexterity to handle, which inevitably end up all over your floor. Or in our case, the entire bucket is found during a Halloween party and the contents dumped all throughout the basement. However, I am ashamed to admit, I just broke this rule. But in my defense, I didn’t do it on purpose. My husband likes to find toys on sale and buy up a couple to have on hand for whenever one of the kids is invited to a birthday party. Grace had a party to go to today, and I didn’t worry about finding a gift because I knew we had our stockpile. Well, when I went to get the gift (of course, right before we had to leave for the party) I found that all I had to choose from was one lonely box of Fuse Beads. When Kurt saw what I had, he said, “I thought you liked Abby’s mom.” I replied that I did. “Then WHY are you giving Abby Fuse Beads?” I did apologize to Abby’s mom when I dropped off Grace…luckily she’s a laid-back lady and is used to having Fuse Beads dotting her floors. But I know my parental karmic payback is coming.

Now let’s commiserate…feel free to comment about other things you feel should be made illegal. I know this list can be much, much longer…

Osmosis Boy’s Trip to the Grocery Store

At my recent conference with Michael’s preschool teacher, she told me something interesting. She said that she and his other teacher refer to him as “Osmosis Boy,” meaning that he never looks like he’s paying any attention, but somehow, everything seems to sink in. At first I thought this was probably a pretty accurate description of him. But the more I thought of it, I was not so sure.

Sometimes I think he is just NOT paying attention…at all. If indeed the osmosis process was occurring, I surely wouldn’t be beating my head against the wall multiple times a day over his behavior. You would think that saying, “Please don’t color on things that aren’t paper,” five million times would sink in. Or that setting parameters for behavior before we go someplace would take just ONE of these times. I remember when Grace was little, my husband and I took a Love and Logic parenting course that all but promised us that if we were consistent in our expectations, our kids would catch on. I guess they never said how long we needed to be consistent for. Apparently three-and-a-half years isn’t quite long enough.

Case in point: a recent visit to the grocery store.

Michael and I ran up to the grocery store the other day to pick up some flowers for my mom. She recently had a pretty bad accident where she passed out, fell, and fractured her neck, resulting in a contusion on her spinal cord. After fear that she was paralyzed, she thankfully began regaining feeling in her limbs. However, she still has a long road ahead of her to a full recovery. After having neck surgery last week, she is now focusing on intensive rehab to get her back on her feet. It has been a scary situation for my family, but we are counting our blessings as things could have been a lot worse.

So right after the accident occurred, we ran in to get some flowers on the way to the hospital. That is all we had a to get…flowers. A five-minute endeavor. I even explained to Michael that this would be a quick little trip, and that he could help me pick out which flowers to get for “Mimi.” He asked if he could get a cookie (our grocery store lets kids pick out one from the bakery for free), and I told him if he was a good helper, he could get one. Sounds good. Parameters set. Let’s get some flowers.

We were doomed from the moment we entered the store. Of course, like any red-blooded child, Michael wanted to ride in one of the baskets with the car attached to the front. I explained that we didn’t need a basket since we were only getting flowers, but we would use one next time. I really did not want to push that giant, awkward, impossibe-to-maneuver cart around if I didn’t have to. So that STARTED the tantrum. I almost gave in but told myself I needed to stick to my guns. Love and logic, Kelly…love and logic.

The tantrum continued into the florist section, where Michael refused to help me pick out flowers and instead began punching the mylar balloons that were attached to various arrangements. Awesome. Keep your cool, Kelly. The florist kindly asked me if I needed any help, to which I replied, “Yeah, you want to take my son?” She quickly and wisely said no, saying she has already been there, done that. At least I was getting some sympathy.

Then Michael had the audacity to demand we go and get that free cookie. Oh really?

“Only good helpers get cookies. I’m sorry to say you can’t get a cookie today.”

Well that did it. It was the three-and-a-half year old apocalypse. There was screaming. There was thrashing. And there was storming off…in the direction of the bakery. “That little…”

I grabbed some flowers and took off after my now sprinting son. I managed to head him off at the bakery, but not before he grabbed onto my legs and almost unintentionally tackled me to the ground. I’m pretty sure this was the most embarrassed I have ever been in public. I picked him up and carried him through the store, with him screaming at the top of his lungs. Unfortunately, it seemed to be “senior citizens who either never had children or forgot what it was like to have children” day at the grocery store, because the number of horrified stares and wrinkly, furrowed brows I caught a glimpse of was too many to count. Where were all the other moms who could at least give me that look of defeated solidarity so I didn’t feel like such a complete and utter failure? I probably should have abandoned the flowers altogether and just left, but by then I was determined that this child was not going to put me through this for nothing. So I fumbled through the self-checkout and walked out, with a wailing, angry shadow behind me.

So much for osmosis. My child just does NOT get it.

But then I think of the reason we were getting flowers in the first place. The night before, I told both my kids about my mom’s accident. As I was putting Michael to bed, we said a prayer for her, and I told him we would go visit her at the hospital the next day. He looked at me and asked, “Is Mimi sick?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Can we go get Mimi some flowers? I think she’ll like pink.”

“I think that would be a great idea, Buddy. We’ll go get her some flowers.”

Oh, the irony. But I guess maybe some things do sink in.

Denying My True Self Through Pinterest

I finally know what it must be like to be a drug addict. And I have Pinterest to thank for it.

Last month I thought I would just check out this thing that has become quite the little craze. I was curious, looking for something new to put a little pizzaz into what can be a sometimes hum-drum life of a stay-at-home mom. At first, I really did have control over it. I was just an occassional user, mostly because I hadn’t figured out how to bring up the page that shows you what all your friends have been pinning. I was simply using it as a glorified “favorites bar.” But then my friend Angie opened up the Pinterest world to me, and now it’s not pretty.

Sure, the site has been a virtually endless trove of ideas for organization, DIY crafts, party ideas, and the like. But if there has ever been something that has made me feel such an unnerving combination of hope and self-loathing, I have yet to come across it. As my eyes flutter among the hundreds of ways I can improve my life, be a better mother, have a nicer home, and make more satisfying dinners,  I am at first exhilarated by the promise of what we all secretly desire, but few admit: to move one step closer to Martha Stewart status, one of the most highly prized components of the ever-elusive SuperMom. But here is where that double-edge sword does its handy work. The only thing that promise ever really seems to do is remind me of all the areas I am supposedly falling short in. Becoming panicky at the idea that I totally suck at life, I almost mindlessly grab a pen and start making a list of materials I need to buy at Michael’s to make this nifty little menu planning board that will surely revolutionize my family’s dinners. Yes, the menu planning board. If I just make this menu board, I will eradicate all those inferiorities I feel as the nourisher of my loved ones. But chances are, after I end up spending $35 on supplies and hours of time I don’t really have creating this board, I will still end up staring into my refrigerator at 5:15 pm wondering for the first time all day what I can throw together for dinner. Here comes the self-loathing again…and here comes Pinterest with my next fix.

I have to face reality. Pinterest is not going to change me. There are four laundry baskets of clean clothes sitting in my front hallway as I write, and at least some of them will likely be there again tomorrow. The day I put away all the laundry the same day I do it will be the day you need to suspect the pod people have finally made it to earth. My car has smelled like Wendy’s for three days now, probably because there is a wrapper or stray french fry in some crevice, and finding it just really is not on my “to do” list at the moment. I will continue to be the kind of person who one day decides she needs to clean the house like a freak until you can eat off of every surface, but on a regular basis is too lazy to throw her dirty clothes down the laundry chute and instead tosses them on the floor right in front of it. I will forever be someone who craves organization, but can never stay organized. All the DIY crafts in the world can not save me from myself. If my Pinterest boards reflected reality, they would have titles like Television Shows I Watch While My Kid Naps, Things I Always Meant to Scrapbook and Never Did, Things I Convince My Kids to Do So I Don’t Have to Do Arts & Crafts With Them, and of course Favorite Recipes, with only two pins, “Spaghetti with canned pasta sauce” and “Imo’s Pizza.”

Fortunately, I read something today that made me feel okay about that. I am sure many of you by now have heard of the blog “People I Want to Punch in the Throat,” home of the now infamous post, “Over Achieving Elf on the Shelf Mommies.” I am a fan. The author, Jen, cracks my cookies up. Check her out if you haven’t already. Anyway, today she posted an interview that DC Metro Mom had done with her, and she said something that really resonated with me: “There’s a real movement out there to manufacture memories for your children and I just don’t buy it. Every day is not a party and kids don’t need it to be.” Pin that, Pinterest. Jen is my guru for the day.

My kids aren’t going to fondly remember that mom had this kick-arse menu planning board and 25 different ways to make zucchini. They are going to remember the time I was too tired to cook and let them have cereal right out of the box for dinner. Or maybe they won’t. But they will remember that when they were hungry, I had food for them (well, except for maybe today…the cuppards are pretty bare because I am bound and determined to wait until $10 off Thursday at Shop ‘n’ Save).

Don’t get me wrong, fellow pinners; I will not be entering Pinterest rehab anytime soon. I doubt my enthusiasm will even be curbed. I may have just uncovered it as a harbor of the manufactured mother myth, but a girl can still have dreams. I may be smart enough to realize Pinterest will not change my inferiorities, but I am also smart enough to realize that if I stop striving to be better, I am not really living at all.

And to prove it, I just went and moved those four laundry baskets out of the front hallway and into my bedroom so that the pizza delivery guy wouldn’t see them and judge me as the housekeeping slug that I am.

By the way, you can pin this is you want to. Pin It