We are smack in the middle of Demetri’s busiest time at work. He’s been staying late and sometimes bringing work home. The other night he brought home a stack of index cards with names on them. The cards needed to be sorted into 4 groups according to a list and then alphabetized. Demetri sighed, threw the cards and list on the table, and said, “I’ll have to do this later . . .”. I literally jumped out of my chair, leaving my dinner unfinished. “I’ll do it! I’ll do it! Pick me!” I said, waving my hand in the air. No one else was clamoring for the job so my kind husband gave it to me. And yes, he did have a you-are-a-crazy-wackadoo look on his face.
I didn’t even clear the table or wait for Demetri to finish his dinner. I started on my task. I had a system and everything. I planned to set the cards for each list under that list and then alphabetize once the lists were sorted out. Brilliant, no? FINALLY I was using all the valuable knowledge I got (and am still in debt for) from my ‘advanced degree’! Well, maybe more like my 3rd grade education. What-ever. The point is, I did the job and I did it well. I even cross checked all the names without being asked to and found several names that did not have cards. When I was done I made Demetri tell me that I was a model employee: efficient, thorough, someone who takes initiative. True, I did shush Demetri when he tried to talk to me saying, Shhhh! I’m working here! but that just proves I have the ability to focus. Demetri said he would hire me. Well, until I insinuated that I would expect certain perks for being both an employee and the boss’s wife. You know, like occasional make-out sessions over lunch. My offer of employment was quickly rescinded.
But here’s the thing: I got a level of satisfaction and accomplishment from organizing those cards that I normally don’t get in my daily life as a mom. The task was specific. There were no variables. There was a clear end to the task. It allowed me to use my brain (albeit on a 3rd grade level). It was clear if I had succeeded or failed. The cards allowed me to feel competent. I was told I did a good job and I was told I was valuable.
Most of this stuff doesn’t happen in my job as a mom. Sure, there are specific tasks: feed, clothe, keep baby alive. Most with multiple variables: will she eat peas today? will she try and climb the baby gate or the dog first?. And an end to my tasks as mom? (pause for hysterical laughing). I will feed and clothe and keep my daughter safe FOREVER. Just try and stop me. I am hopeful that there will be an end to diaper changing, but the end is no where in sight so it might as well be for-evaaaaaaah. Many of the tasks I do everyday don’t require that much brain power. But raising a toddler is still exhaustingly hard work. The constant neediness. The ‘more mobility than brains’ (on the part of Zoey) factor.
Sometimes I do have to make split seconds decisions that require some intelligent thought: Is it worse for her to stick her hands in the toilet or to potentially reach the outlet next to the toilet? Personally, I think it would be worse for her to get to the outlet so, well, the hands go in the toilet. That’s a choice no one is really happy about. It does not leave one feeling competent and accomplished. It actually leaves me cursing my substandard parenting skills. Why wasn’t the bathroom door closed? Why wasn’t the toilet lid down? Where are the outlet covers?
I do get support and compliments as a parent. Mostly from Demetri and my parents. Sometimes it’s just so hard for me to believe them. I mean, Demetri has a vested interest in me sticking around as The Mom. And my parents? Well, they’ve been giving me undeserved compliments since birth. Except for the one Christmas where ‘Santa’ wrote me a letter saying I hadn’t been “good enough” that year to get the Barbie dream mansion. And it’s hard for me to compliment myself. Especially when I’m around for all the stuff I do wrong: Zoey falls off a chair when my back is turned for 2 seconds. I forget to brush her teeth. I don’t serve her vegetables at every dinner. I can’t possibly read “Are You My Mommy?” one more time so I hide it. I don’t put oil in her hair. She eats dog food. The list could go on. And on. And Zoey isn’t even 18 months yet.
Why is it so hard to be an accomplished parent? A competent parent? What do those terms even mean in the parenting world? Maybe what’s hard it to feel those things. I know I do some good things. I play with Zoey. I read to her. We color. Those things make me feel happy. But accomplished? Not so much. Maybe the real question is: would Zoey hire me as The Mom again? Since she can’t talk yet, I think I am going to take the way she throws her arms around my neck and the way she kisses me with her little open-mouth ‘O’ as a yes.