I don’t know about you, but I am hitting the summer slump, and despite the sunny, beautiful days, I feel the blues tugging at my soul. Lucky for me and anyone else feeling not-so-chipper, we have a phenomenal post today on the subject of being good enough at the work we do in our homes and the elusive quest for an affirmation or two. Please help me welcome Karen Bannister to the pages of Outlaw Mama for the Kiss My (Gl)Ass ceiling series on work in all its many facets.
* * *
By Karen Bannister
My kids asked to watch television this morning, while they waited for me to prepare their lunch. I allowed it; I don’t mind television in our house. As I flipped it on to find their favourite channel, a show I never watch filled the screen. It was a talk show, one that really wouldn’t ever interest me, but the day’s topic caught my eye and drew my attention: “When mom goes on strike” or something to that effect. A quick Google search confirmed what I saw, but only watched briefly while my children waited patiently for Franklin the Turtle.
A “Crazy Working Mom” decided enough was enough and she was going on strike, in the home. Her three pre-teen daughters would have to clean up after themselves. It was an experiment, of sorts, because she didn’t tell them about what she was doing. She just waited to see how long it took them to break down, and cave in on cleaning. She blogged about it, of course.
It went viral. Because isn’t it every hardworking mom’s fantasy – to just one day give up and see what happens? Remember that joke about the man who says his wife doesn’t do anything during the day and then he comes home and the kids are naked, or something, and there is no dinner and the house is a mess? And she says “I did nothing today”? A fantasy, right?
I long for affirmation, congratulations and spoken acknowledgement of the blood, sweat and tears I pour into my household. I am so bold to point it out to anyone who will listen: how under-appreciated I sometimes feel. I sneak it into fights with my husband; always this generates the same response: but I do appreciate you. I do say it. All the time. To other people. And I am left wondering, is that true?
One day my sister-in-law said “I don’t know how you do it.” It left me reeling; better than being told “You look beautiful” more gratifying then the mark on my master’s thesis, that one simple sentence made me beam (and stutter over some kind of verbiage that only diminished the whole thing, cause that’s my self-abusive way). How do I do it? I want to shout that from my bedroom window each night as I roll into bed, exhausted. I want to tell the neighbours I pass on my evening run: How do I do it, she asked. Well I do it and I do it damn well.
Cause I do it “good enough”. My baby is crawling around me right now. I am not playing Peek-a-boo with him or asking him to map the geography of Africa or even drum me a song on the tupperware bowl. I am typing a blog entry and letting him find his feet.
I didn’t make supper tonight, or much of one. I boiled up a few eggs threw in some french toast and called it a night. But I am capable of three course meals and I do often make them, when the spirit hits me. When time allows. I like cooking, when I can find my feet.
I am easily distracted and often think about my future goals and how and when I will achieve them. I suffer from “the grass is always greener”; as a stay-at-home mom I long for break-room talks and coffee breaks, a deadline or important memo. I can become preoccupied, easily, with the next big thing and occasionally, OK all the time, forget to live here and now.
But I have to remind myself, I am good enough. My kids are happy, well-adjusted and (mostly) clean. They have a home, a bed to sleep in and clothes to wear. I try to teach them to be polite, to always say please and thank you, to mind the physical and emotional needs of others, to use their words and not their hands, to say nice things and express gratitude and exude respect. I try to show them I am not a maid or a short order cook and hope that in the long run the rules I attempt to situate in our lives pay off in future situations. I give them hugs. I hope I say “I love you” enough. But I am not perfect, not even amazing. (Just my mom thinks so – thanks mom.) I constantly compare myself to other women, second guess my attempts at authority, apologize to my husband for the woman he married, bemoan my desire for a “break” and of course my persistent need for affirmation can be tiresome. And maybe I should be playing with my baby this second.
I used to attend a support group of women with Postpartum Depression; I have had this beast, many times. Our mantra was “You care and that makes you a good mom.”
This poor woman I saw on television was, of course, blasted with negative comments. “Shouldn’t she have kids who knew to clean up after themselves?” It is so easy to throw stones. When I think a woman is amazing, I hope I always tell her. This is the harder part. (And there are so many women I think are amazing.) Because we are all so damn good (enough).
* * *
Karen Bannister is a West Coast mom of three. She is the managing editor of The Momoir Project, a community of women writers, as well as the online parenting resource WeeWelcome.ca. She is currently reinvigorating her own blog mymommyreads.wordpress.com
If you want to feature your musings on work here, send me an email at Christie.firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll get you in the line-up.