I got home late from work after a cluster fuck of a day.
Sorry I said the eff word, but there was no other way around it.
My last client had some complex and very dangerous stuff going on, and it would not have been ethical even in the best of times to say, “Gee I’m sorry but I need to get home to my own family now. Good luck with everything you are going through.”
Like, I could have been sued for that shit. And people could have been in serious danger. Like life or death kind of stuff.
Sometimes it is really hard to have to put other families before my own.
It is especially hard at 5:25 pm when I was supposed to be home already and am stuck at work trying to convince someone that they actually want to make a safe choice. And because of the nature of my work, I can’t really tell you any more than that.
So that stresses me out too.
Because I then get home and can’t really talk to anyone about what just happened and why I’m late. Because ethics. Always with these ethics.
I thought I had planned a super sweet dinner for the family with a rotisserie chicken and potatoes and stuffing and all that shit.
Sorry I said the ess word. But there was even a vegetable, even though it was smothered in a cheese sauce. And I had visions of eating ice cream on the porch after.
One big happy family.
All I really wanted was to sit down and have dinner together as a family, but apparently this is an unrealistic expectation.
My son refused to come out of his room because he just learned he has five weeks where he will be attending summer camp this summer instead of being on an eternal weekend for 10 weeks.
And my daughter has pronounced what a “bad mama” I am because I am already making three different meals tonight (leftover mac and cheese for the boy, leftover spaghetti for her, chicken dinner for me and the hubs) and I wouldn’t make fresh mac and cheese for her too.
My husband was quiet and sullen, trying to cajole the kids and me into all being nice on a path of least resistance. I’ve tried and tried to tell him that the Path of Least Resistance is not the best way to raise children or “be” in a family, but he don’t care.
And deep down, I am still stressing about if someone else’s family will be safe tonight and if I did enough before leaving work.
Fuck. It. All.
Again, my apologies for the eff word.
Did I mention I am also in the throes of rampant and savage PMS?
So I’m unhappy. And I’m disappointed, a little angry, and pretty frustrated that I can never fucking “nail” anything as a working mom.
Really, my feelings are just hurt.
So, no one else in the family is happy, because I’m not happy.
I’ve taken away TV. And dessert. No ice cream on the porch.
And as I stomp off to walk the dog and then change out of my work clothes, it strikes me what a monumental responsibility it is being a mom and trying to keep everyone happy while simultaneously implementing appropriate rules and consequences, and also balancing my career and setting up the coffee for the next morning.
Whatever I am feeling seems to trickle down, one way or another, onto the rest of the family. Sometimes it feels like if I am not if super-chipper-robot-mode, then we are all fucked.
It seems really hard to have an authentic feeling without either going over the top and ruining everyone’s day, or retreating to a cave of solitude and ruining everyone’s day.
And happiness? WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?
Most of the time I am an anxious mess trying to keep all the balls in the air, and the genuinely good moments I share with the family are few and far between and savored dearly.
In my office, I would preach emotional regulation and self care.
In my reality, if I can find the 25 minutes to write this post before I pass out in front of Netflix, then I can chalk it up to self care for the week.
Look, I realize my experience is not unique.
This is the life for which we sign up as working moms. I don’t really think any of us could have possibly predicted what a gut busting marathon working motherhood, or just plain motherhood, truly is. People try to tell us. Very well-meaning people try to tell us how difficult it is, how tired we will be, and how quickly it goes by. But no matter if we listen to them or not, we can never truly predict the reality.
It begs the question, if we had known, would we have done it?
Furthermore, what the hell are we supposed to do with this complex blend of exhaustion, frustration, anger, and confusion? How are we supposed to express it– how are we allowed to express it– without upsetting the family apple cart.
Because anything we feel, the rest of the house is going to feel.
We didn’t know that either, but that’s just the way it works.
We are the emotional barometers in the home. We set the tone and temperature for how it will be.
If we had known, would we have been crazy enough to reproduce?
It is also the path I chose when I became a clinical social worker. And little optimist that I was, I had no fucking clue what all that meant. It is the same path any working mom choses when they become a doctor or lawyer or supervisor or whatever where you have to put the needs of others front and center. This was all well and good before I had kids… but now? It is almost unbearable.
Things fall apart. Tantrums happen. Doors slam and you are told what a poo poo head you are because you only have two hands. Work spills over into home just as home spills into work. Balls drop. Some nights you don’t sleep.
In the end, I sort of stomped off to my corner of my room to implement a time out for myself. It was all I could do. I started writing this post.
And both of my kids came up to check on me. They couched their concern in questions about other stuff, or random fun facts about their day, but I could tell that they were checking in with me, making sure I was okay, much as I check in on them and make sure they are okay. They weren’t nervous or upset. Their anger with me was all over and done. They were allowing me to have my feeling, but offering me a little connection, a peace offering of sorts.
I didn’t totally grasp this at the time, but later it hit me. I’ve modeled enough emotional regulation for them– maybe just enough— that they get it. They respected that I needed space, and they gave it to me, but also let me know that they were okay and present. They knew I was upset and were modeling back for me what I have tried to model for them.
That’s kind of cool.
It sort of tempers the responsibility of keeping my shit together– maybe just enough — to see it reflected back to me in my kids.
So maybe I nailed that. And maybe we can all have ice cream together on the porch and be a perfect family on another night.