Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Perfect Day at the Office

I spend a lot of time each day thinking about how much work I'm not getting done. Like now, for example, when I should be wrestling with my washing machine. Or showering. And earlier today, when I was trying to force myself into a relaxed state of 'enjoy them while they're so young and squishy like a pair of puppies' while watching the boys 'garden' in our window box on the balcony, but all I was really thinking of was how much top soil was getting dumped on the tiles. And how Joey will probably suffer his whole life long from a lack of exposure to urban homesteading or something, because I think this was the first time he'd ever dug in real dirt with a real shovel. And John Paul...well his first birthday is Friday. And no one-year-old portraits! So grab the camera. And a broom.

Point being: I have a hard time just enjoying my kids.

I also have a hard time just enjoying being a mom.

Maybe it's a straight-up occupational hazard for one whose occupation is literally defined by multi-tasking. Or maybe it's some latent internalized cultural shame for not being something 'more' than a mom, which may explain why I'm always quick to point out my freelance career and the news site I curate when people ask me what I do for work.

What do I do for work? Everything.

Some days it feels like nothing, though. And even though the house is sparkling and the kids are alive and well in their beds, I lie in my own and wonder why I spent the last 12 precious hours with my head down and my teeth gritted, gutting it out until the finish line where toothbrushes and prayers marked the end of my shift.

I didn't think it was going to be like this. To feel always like a failure and never like I'm finished. But then there are those rare and precious days, days where we might spend hours eating raisins out of the bottom of my purse and lying on the grass in the park, or kicking a soccer ball through the gravel until the sun starts to set...without giving a thought to the unplanned dinner, the unwashed laundry, or the unfinished plans. Those days are so precious. But they are necessarily the exception, because we live in a temporal world where stir fry isn't going to stir or fry itself.

My trouble is in navigating between the two poles, between the moments of 'oh this is bliss, this is what I signed up for' and the moments of 'is somebody going to come and take these kids away, because I am about to scream with the windows open.'

I want to live in the former state, because I know my kids deserve that kind of a mother. But I am not her. I am not the mother my kids deserve. I fail them everyday, in a hundred little ways. Sometimes it's more serious, like letting someone roll off the bed and crack their skull against a marble floor. Sometimes it's less severe, like yelling at Joey for slamming the elevator door after the millionth lecture about not bothering our elderly neighbors with stairwell noise. And then his little face crumbles because honestly, I yelled too loud, and I yelled because I was mad at him, and he's two.

And that's somehow worse than when somebody falls off the bed, you know?

The truth is, I'll never be the mother they deserve. At least not if I spend all my free time planning and executing my endless lists of duties and desires while they nap in the rooms next door. If I spent the same 20 minutes in prayer I spend exercising every day, I wonder what would happen to my heart, and to theirs. If I stopped dwelling exclusively (but not entirely, fear not) on how much I'm screwing up, maybe I'd have some insight into the ways I'm not screwing up today...and maybe that would be encouraging.

Listen, I'm not about to change the tone or title of my e-reign or anything crazy like that, but I do feel a certain urging to expend some effort in elevating the conversation about motherhood, from time to time. Because along with a killer margarita recipe, which of us in the diaper and vomit-lined trenches couldn't benefit from a little of that?

Because if I start seeing my work here with these little people as something more than an endless string of bodily-fluid-related incidents and shouting matches, I think it might change my definition of a 'successful day,' and with it, my sense of accomplishment vs. utter defeat come 10 pm.


I know in my heart that motherhood has an eternal objective. But Lord forgive me, most days I can't see past bedtime.


  1. Beautifully spoken! I so desire to enjoy every moment, though I know not possible as I am but a human.

  2. Jenny,
    I'm crying now cus this hit so close to home. Sigh. Can we Skype soon to chat about this?

  3. So it's not just me? Thank you. I love this.

  4. And therefore are you normal.

    I dont know what kind of friends you have in Italy, but here in Poland, since we have moved, I have completely lost perspective. I feel like the worst mother in the world because I have no one else around to empathize when the tough days mean that I did nothing all day, am completely wiped out and they ate cereal for all three meals. That's a day of failure, right? And now I feel like I'm the only mother out there who has ever done it because there is no support from other women who have been there.

    And I certainly can't seem like some American flake who can't take care of small people, so I don't spill my guts about any of this to the random, lovely women I meet here. It will take some time before someone here knows any of of my failings. ;)

  5. I think every mother can relate with this post Jenny. I know I did. Motherhood is the toughest job. Its so, thankless. And for someone who's love language is words of affirmation, I feel so unappreciated all the time. It can lead to some really negative thinking and pity parties. I too am trying to have more an attitude of gratitude, plain and simple. Love you dear friend!

    I'm also having this problem lately where I keep wanting to text you, then remind myself I can't, and my heart is sad. Miss you!

    Ps: I started a blog not long ago, one of the many things I've been wanting to share with you, not that's its super amzing, but I would be honored if you read :)

  6. You sound like you need a hug...and a glass of wine and good chocolate and peace and quiet. We all have days like that...even weeks like that or months like that.

    I think I needed this post today to remind me that I'm not the only one who feels like that. Thanks!

    One thing that helps me, is to go back and look at everything I DID accomplish that day, and take pride in that....even if the only thing I can say is that "everyone is still alive". Some days I feel like just keep everyone alive is an accomplisment..and that's okay. Because other days, I do manage to get more done.

  7. I feel like a mom failure every single day. Sometimes it is because the house is a wreck, or I yelled way too many times at toddlers, or I never once got on the floor to play with them, or even because I have a seriously sick baby which clearly means I did something wrong.

    Those times I try to remind myself that God intentionally picked ME to mother these particular kids because I am what they need and they are what I need. Yes, I fail at that- a million times over I fail at that. But the beauty of it is that I can start again tomorrow (and fail again tomorrow while taking shots of some strong liquid goodness to get me through until nap time...)

    By the way, I want to slap someone anytime that they say "enjoy them while they are young" because clearly they don't know or remember what it is like to be in the trenches with little ones ALL DAY EVERY DAY!

    1. Ditto to wanting to slap people... really, I'm supposed to "enjoy" being spit up on, pooped on, and not sleeping?

      It reminds me of something I read on another blog a while back--"The years go by quickly, but the days sure are long." I think that captures it pretty accurately!

  8. Jenny, just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your frankness. Thanks for 'elevating' the conversation, too. It is so good to accept the momentary failures but to keep the bar set high. Sometimes I can barely get through dinnertime. It's easy to feel like I'm barely scraping by most days with lack of patience or whatever other major epidemic is running through our household. These days its just trying to get my contractions to calm the FREAK DOWN while taking care of my other 2!! But in general, I need to constantly remind myself of the wonder and joy these little people I'm forming give to the world. Screaming vomit and diapers included. Mamas unite, it is a beautiful messy trying vocation.

  9. Oh, my goodness...AMEN to all the above! Thank you for putting into words what so many of us feel. I feel like every mom I know feels like a total failure most of the time. It's good to know we're not alone!

  10. dear Jenny let me assure you that for your children you are the best mum in the world. I feel exactly like you do at least 5 times a week but it does get better as they grow up. The house is still trashed but we get to have conversations at table, or at night in bed before they fall asleep and that's when you start feeling that maybe you're doing something right. My son was 11 today and he's called John too. Happy birthday to your little John Paul. (i have a cold, post office trip postponed. sorry sorry sorry)

  11. Thanks Jenny for sharing! I feel you sista. I am in the "trenches" of motherhood right there with you. :)

  12. Not being a mother, I still really enjoyed reading this. I'd only add, you may not think you are the mother your sons deserve, but you most certainly are the mother they need, but I think fabricsandfun already beat me to it!

  13. Our kiddos are 9,11,13,&15 and the biggest, most vulnerable spot in my heart...the one with a HUGE bullseye on it is where satan loves to smack....the spot where I beat myself up about what a loser-screamer-impatient-unkind-lacking mother I am. Over time I am some days better at fending off the attacks, some days I am better at living in the moment, some days I am kinder and gentler and fun, but EVERY day I hug my kids. I tell them I love them. I pray for them. I do my best. And some days, when I fall back into that pit of human-ness and fail, I get back up, apologize and try again. Even 9,11,13 and 15, bed time is still my favorite. Hang in there, you are a wonderful mom and just perfect for the children God blessed you with!!

  14. Much needed! Thanks.

  15. Just.... Thank you. Thanks for putting this into words much better than I ever could.

  16. Oh, Jenny, thank you for posting this. I cannot count the number of times I've thought, "I'm done!" as I'm putting Evie down, or regretted another day of many missed opportunities to love. Your words are much needed!

  17. Oh my goodness...I feel like I could have written this post. Thank you for your honesty.

  18. Having littles is THE HARDEST thing you will do. But each age has it's postives and negative, and every season is just that, as season. As parents, all we can do is keep trying out hardest to do the right things by these little souls that God has entrusted to us, and pray that in our humanness, we don't do too much damage. And then save money for their therapy when they get older.....!! My youngest is 8, and while I don't miss the baby stage at all, I do feel a pang every now and then as I watch my "last" baby get bigger and more independent. My oldest is grown and out of the house and my next will be off to college in a year. And having them grow up doesn't get you out of dealing with issues, or anger, or frustration - it just brings different challenges. So, in all this rambling, I guess what I'm trying to say is that you are far from alone - we ALL feel this way. And any mother is lying if she says she doesn't have those days. Even my friends who seem BORN to be a mother and genuinely take joy in having lots of little ones around have those days. Hang in there!

  19. Ouch. That was the sound of me being convicted. Thank you for this, God spoke to me through you today :)

  20. I just have so much compassion and love for you right now. I think every mom goes through this stage, once or twice...or five or six or more times!!

    You ARE doing eternal work, even though it doesn't feel like it. Just like Mother Teresa had a dark night of the soul, I think mothers too have stretches of time where they look around and say "God, this doesn't feel like I'm working out my salvation." This is how saints are made - by doing the daily works of love and mercy, even though it's really REALLY hard. You're doing it!! Even on days where it feels like you're failing, you are doing what you are supposed to - you are learning and growing in love, along with your kiddos. God knew what he was doing when he asked you to be their mother...!

    Mary was 'just' a mother. You are following in holy footsteps. No saint could be who they are without their mothers...'the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.' Your work is so worthwhile. Thank you for raising saints, for working towards sainthood, and for writing about it all - you are so talented.

  21. I couldn't have written this so beautifully, but I could have said the exact same thing. I'm going to have my husband read this so he knows I'm not the only one!

    Thank you!


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