Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bad Mother

There is no way around it but to simply admit that I fall short on many fronts. 

Take Hallowe'en for example.  No home-made costumes for my kids.  Nope.  I consider it victory that a) I remembered in time to find and purchase a dinosaur costume for Topher, and b) that I could actually put my hands on a hand-me-down costume of Topher's for Winston.  Ah yes, and that 48 hours before the actual event I remembered to pick up the necessary Hallowe'en candy for the neighborhood children (who will no doubt be appropriately costumed in home-made creations that would boggle the mind) along with the much-needed milk, oranges and tylenol.

Or dinner tonight.....Cambridge is of course, yet again, gone on business and I was left to fend for myself with the boys.  So, after the-ever-capable nanny whom I love, adore and wish lived here with us forever and ever and ever and ever left for the day I changed into mommy clothes and managed to organize a dinner of barely warm left-over spaghetti, corn on the cob (don't even start with me about the 100 mile rule, this is war in my house to get any vegetable from any continent into the mouths of my boys) and oranges.  And this from someone who loves to cook. 

Then there was the small matter of my professional appearance today.  Luckily, I am currently on language training so am not expected to show up in some natty suit with heels, but still the best I could manage from the oh-so-too small pile of clean laundry (as opposed to the mountain of washing waiting to be done) was torn jeans and a long-sleeve t-shirt that was grease stained.  At least I managed to find a colourful shawl to artfully cover the grease spots....until I noticed the glob of peanut butter smashed into the cashmire.

But worst of all - and by far the worst of all is that I still have not managed to find the time to hump the boys to one of the many flu shot clinics where we would wait in line for hours and hours and hours in hopes of getting them vaccinated against H1N1.  There.  I have admitted the worst of the worst.  What with being gone from home all day long, with Cambridge gone on business, with the most mundane demands of keeping the house going, the dog water and fed (although admitedly she has taken to relying on the post-shower water in the bath for a source of water), and getting boys fed, dressed, bathed, teeth brushed, and school bag packed, keeping essential food groups in stock, bills paid, nanny happy (and believe me, a good nanny you HAVE to keep happy) I still have not found the 18 hours necessary to line up, wait and then receive the vaccination that would help ensure we by-pass the dreaded H1N1.

So this is what I will face:  a beyond believable crush of humanity on Saturday - people just like me who have not had time to pee, let alone go to one of the clinics during the working week -  with two small boys who hate crowds, just want to go home and are excited beyond belief about Hallowe'en, all waiting for 18 hours to get a sharp needle stuck into our children's arms. 

I honestly don't remember this being mentioned in any of the baby books.


  1. Well, Kate. First things first. My kids wore costumes that they have been wearing all year long -- costumes from a plastic tub that reek of dried urine and are covered in soup and chocolate stains. Costumes that were purchased eons ago at a post-Halloween sale at Walmart.

    Did you carve a pumpkin? We did not. We had a rotten pumpkin seeping into our driveway between two potted plants. And I did not heed my children's last minute request to purchase a new pumpkin for carving precisely because it was a last-minute request, and in my mothering book, last-minute requests are subject to arbitrary treatment. As far as I'm concerned, it was up to them to put that item on my radar earlier, but they were too busy asking for and getting other things.

    And finally, last night's post-Halloween party that my son had been looking forward to for weeks we did not attend because he was naughty, and I did not feel like dressing up as a ghoul guide, which I had previously committed to doing.

    I pat myself on the back for having taken them trick or treating, something I probably would not have done if the rain had come, as predicted. (And all their candy has been either thrown out or removed from sight). Halloween is over.

    So there are worse mothers out there, if you define bad mothering as not being crafty and holiday-oriented. That is me, for sure!

    Oh, and also, in my book, you have not admitted the worst re: the H1N1 vaccine. I have not had my kids vaccinated and do not plan to do so.

  2. Hey Kate -- after sending that last comment, I had the unpleasant feeling of having tried to one-up you in the bad mother department. We all have different expectations of ourselves as mothers. We know what our strengths and weaknesses are. And to the extent we want to and believe that we can do more for our kids, it's important to listen to that voice in ourselves.

    I just have to come to believe that a kid's perspective and expectations are SO different from those of the parent; we can set the standard. Your kids will never know that you fell short on Hallowe'en unless and until you let them know that, either through tension, guilt, and frustration or by showering them with fanfare that you subsequently can't keep maintain. At least as far as small kids go, they wouldn't know the difference if you didn't bother to celebrate Hallowe'en. They are not going to be better or worse off for your neglecting its finer possibilities, and they aren't going to care if things are otherwise going well in their life. I think the important thing is to choose what you want to do well for your kids and focus on that. Don't try to be everything for them.

    Of course, all this is easier for me to say and believe than it is for you because you carry around a certain amount of guilt for not being more present in your little ones' lives (is that right? Not that you should, but it tends to be the curse of working moms . . . . I know I felt, when I was working, that if I was only going to be around my kids for a short time, it better be a damn perfect time).

    BUt the truth is that as a working mom you really are always going to do less than the mom who stays at home with her kids all day. That doesn't mean AT ALL that you are a lesser mother. But you have more demands on you -- on your time and on your physical and mental and emotional resources. Realize that and choose just one thing to be or give to your kids when you are with them. They don't want you to do everything for them: they just want YOU when you're there.

    And here's the thing, too. You are giving them a gift by being a mother who has other things going on besides them. Know that. It is true, true, true.

  3. Thanks for your support...and I didn't take your first reply as any sort of one-up bad mothership at all.

    "Want me when I am there"...that is the rub. Like tonight. I'm trying to get ready for an interview early tomorrow a.m., have nothing to wear as my wardrobe has not caught up to the current not-pregnant, not nursing, not on maternity leave, and the "my lord but it is already cold as hell" weather situation that is NOW. I'm not even sure that I can find suitable nylons, skip a presentable skirt and jacket ensemble. Add to this, I have to learn about enough about a whole new government department, its programs, challenges, major policy overhauls, etc if I am going to sound at least halfway competent. Spouse is gone, Topher has been suffering from inexplicable "anal leaking" since 4:30 this morning - which is a polite way of saying he has lost control of his bowels for god only knows why reason; the baby is needy as any just-weaned baby is; and we are out of dishwasher detergent. And I am the sole parent here trying to get them both off to sleep happy, secure and content. And get the dishes washed. Sheesh.

    Truth is, there isn't very much of ME here when I am here....not on nights like tonight. There are just far too many pressures pulling me in all directions. And on all fronts, I inevitably come up short. But it isn't exactly guilt that I feel - more that I just wish that I could do it all successfully by an impossible to achieve standard that I have set for myself, yet continue to try to attain.

    However, my boys have gotten their first of two H1N1 vaccinations - and given Winston spent a week last year at the Children's Hospital due to a respitory infection that stopped his heart several times, I am less panicked than before. I know you have decided against that in Canada, it is a situation where almost all parents are fighting to get their kids vaccinated and honestly, after watching how fast my little one became critical, was put on a ventilator and heart monitor last year from a diffent flu strain, I am not eager to ever, ever, ever, take a chance of having to experience that again. And they did go out for Hallowe'en and had a grand old time, thanks to all the neighbors who had secreted away special bags of treats for my two terrors...and I feel no guilt at all about the 4 pumpkins on our front porch that did not get carved...although time will only tell as to whether or not I get all the Hallowe'en decorations (and the pumpkins) put away before Christmas!

    And I will no doubt pull something out of my hat to do my best tomorrow a.m even if the only pair of runless nylons I can find are maternity panty hose.

    But honestly, while I would not do without any of my boys for an instant, I just wish I could find away to be all things to all people - with grace, competence and a smile. Sounds simple. Wish it was.

  4. To have your attitude -- no guilt and an unflagging effort to be more and do better in addition to all you are already doing -- that is grace and competence. Who needs the smile?

    Oh, but your situation sounds tough. Hang in there. hubby will be back, tomorrow morning will pass. So great you can fly by the seat of your pants a little! I was never very good at that in my lawyering days. But it's a critical skill when you've got a busy overbooked life.

    Yikes about your past experience with Winston and the flu. That is a very good reason to get vaccinated. I should be more educated about it, but I'm not, and since I think my kids already had the oink oink, I'm loathe to do the vaccine for the same reasons one wouldn't get a regular flu shot.
    Good luck, dear.