Today I yelled at my kids on the way to school. And I mean, YELLED at them. Raised voice, nasty tone, just let 'em have it. Why? I'd had it - the little one had picked her nose and wiped it on the wall, the older one was reading (yes, reading - that's why she got in trouble. We should all have such problems, I know.) instead of brushing her teeth and getting dressed, and no one made their beds or fed the cat or put their dishes in the dishwasher. Including my husband. So I was fighting mad because...because why, exactly?
Because no one listens to me.
Yep, that's it. That's the whole reason I ruined everyone's day at 7:30 in the morning, because no one listens to me. And then I cried all the way home, hating myself, hating that I got so worked up and shouted at two small children, all because they didn't listen to me, because the morning "routine" wasn't smooth and routine, and no one cared what I said or what I wanted.
So, as usual, I started (over)thinking: why is this such an issue for me? Why do I get so upset when my kids and my husband (and let's be honest, it's also my husband - who asked me FOUR times what time we were due at the neighborhood party even though it was on the calendar) don't listen to me, don't hear what I have to say? Is it because I don't work? If I had a job, some feedback from a boss, some underlings to scurry around doing my bidding, would that help? Or is it because my family is my little corporation, and my entire identity is wrapped up in the labels of "wife" and "mother"? And if so, whose fault is that?
I mean, really, is it THAT big of a deal that my third grader was reading a book instead of putting on her shoes, or that she forgot to put socks on before she came downstairs and then had to run back up? She's pretty fast, after all, and at only 7, shouldn't I be glad that she reads on a high school level? Is it really a big deal that my 5-year-old wanted to put out a cereal bowl for her stuffed doggie when she ate her breakfast? No, it's not. At least, it shouldn't be. And most days, that stuff rolls right off me, like the proverbial water off a duck's back. And besides, isn't it fairly normal for the kids to pretty much ignore what I tell them? Granted, I didn't think it would happen until they were teenagers, but I'm pretty sure if you asked my mom, she'd tell you that's what WE did when we were kids, virtually ignored most of what she said unless there was food or money involved. So why did I freak out and get so annoyed with everyone on this particular morning?
I think it has something to do with being heard, and not necessarily in a literal sense. I get so wrapped up in meeting the needs of my family, taking care of my house, creating a home for us all, and then one day, SNAP! There I go. Who's taking care of ME? Who's putting MY needs first? And suddenly I'm yelling at the kids for getting toothpaste on the bathroom counter that I just finished cleaning. It's a bathroom counter! It's there for that exact reason, to hold the damn toothpaste, but I can't see past my own anger: I cleaned it, you messed it up, I'm not the maid around here, clean up after yourself, no one cares about how hard I work, I'm sick of cleaning up after all of you, wipe off your own spit, stop being so inconsiderate, and on it goes. (And I'm pretty sure after the first sentence or two, all they're hearing is the teacher's voice from Charlie Brown - you know the one, wah wah wah, wah wah, wah. They've tuned me out. Hell, I'd like to tune me out.)
And the thing is, my kids are good kids, by all accounts. They make good grades, they are polite and respectful, they are well-socialized. Teachers, parents, and coaches like them. They are kind, considerate, responsible girls who thank me for making dinner and driving them to ballet class. But sometimes, now and then, they act like, well, like ungrateful kids. And then I get mad and everyone hears about it. And it's worse when I feel like my husband doesn't see the effort that goes into keeping the house clean, the laundry done, the kids fed and clothed, the homework and projects and recitals and practices and games handled on time. He gets up, goes to work, comes home again after the kids are in bed, and never sees the actual labor that is involved in running my little business here. Like a stockholder who merely reaps the benefits, he never thinks about what the janitor does or how hard the mail clerk works.
If I went to work every day and saw the results of my labor and my efforts, would I care so much about a little mud on the floor or a bowl left on the counter? I don't really know, because I quit working when I had my first child. But I suspect that if I had a little outside feedback, a little praise for a job well-done, some gratitude and appreciation for my work, I might be more able to let these little things go. Because they ARE little things. After all, how awful would it be to NOT have little muddy cleats in my garage? to NOT have little handprints all over the windows that I just cleaned? to NOT find purple grape juice all over my counters? What a sad, lonely life I'd have without my kids "messing" things up all the time.
Slacker Mom Says...it's time to give ourselves some positive feedback. I'm going to remind my husband to thank me for doing laundry, and I'm going to thank him for working hard to provide for us financially. I'm going to remind my kids to thank me for clean bathrooms and new shoes and playdates, and I'm going to thank them for sticky kisses and tidy playrooms and good manners. I'm going to remind myself that I'm a damn good mother and wife, and that in their own way, they DO appreciate me, even if they don't say it out loud. As my husband says, I'm the glue that holds this family together. I'm the heart and soul of it. I'm the one who knows how to make the monsters under the bed go away; I'm the one they want when they are hurt, tired, sad. I'm the MOMMY, after all. And one day, maybe not until they have kids of their own, but one day, they will call me and say, "Thanks, Mom. You were right. About everything."
And if they don't, I'll feed their kids chocolate ice cream and send them home with extra candy and some of those loud, noisy, talking books. That'll teach them. Payback's a bitch.